finished reading the letter. He swivelled in his
chair to put it down on top of the others and as he did, the framed picture on
the desk caught his eye. He stopped and stared at it, sadness growing on his
face. The knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.
"Corey," Stuart said, acknowledging him.
Is it ready?"
"It's ready," Corey answered as he walked towards
Stuart, taking a chair across from him.
"The two circles are marked," Corey said.
"Get them inside the outer circle and
press the button.
The net will fall
down on them and then the canvas will come down over the net.
Five seconds later, the jets in the outer
circle will ignite.†After another five
seconds the jets in the inner circle will ignite also."
Stuart was silent for a moment. "I hope it works,
"It'll work - you did the research yourself,"
Corey said. "There isn't any record of a single one surviving. Not one of
them could stop the fire. Their power can't affect it.
"All you have to do is get her to come here."
"Oh she'll come," Stuart said confidently.
"She knows I'm hunting her, following her moves. She'll come all right.
I'll get all of them to come."
Stuart was quiet again, his fingers thumping the desk.
"Nervous?" Corey asked.
"Anxious," Stuart answered. "I'll feel a lot
better when this is all over. When evil Prue Halliwell and her sister witches
are all burned to death."
Prue's mind was working on a spell she needed as she walked
down the block when the scream interrupted her thoughts. Ahead of her, a man
was trying to grab a pocketbook from a woman. Unable to wrest it away from her,
he pushed her out into the street. She fell down hard on her wrist and began
screaming in pain. The man grabbed the pocketbook, went back up onto the
sidewalk and started to run away.
Prue waved her hand at him and sent him flying back into the
street.† A car was coming down the
street and, swerving to avoid hitting the woman, hit the thief as he started to
Prue ran over to the woman who was screaming from the
pain.† "My wrist!† My wrist!†
"That man will never break another person's wrist and
never steal again," Prue said to her, satisfaction evident in her
voice.† "I'm going to call an
ambulance for you."
As Prue took out her cell phone, she saw someone holding a
camera and taping everything that had happened.
"Stuart!" she said with loathing in her
voice.† But before she could do anything
to him he lowered the camera and hurriedly walked away.† She wanted to go after him but she couldn't
leave the woman alone.
"That does it!" she said to herself as she called
for the ambulance.
Stuart removed the tape from the camera.† He wrote the time, date and location on the
label, then handed it across the desk to Corey.
Corey opened a cabinet to his left and placed the tape in
one of its drawers. As he turned back, he saw Stuart staring at the picture on
"From three hundred years ago in Salem to San Francisco
today," Stuart said, resolve in his voice. "We're going to continue what they
failed to finish."
"Updated for these times," Corey added.
"I'd feel better if we could tie them to stakes,"
"We'd never be able to do it against their
powers," Corey said. "But the net will have the same effect. And the
canvas will cover them so that they won't be able to use their powers on
anything outside of it.
"You know...what will be left of them won't be very
"What Prue Halliwell did to Teri wasn't very
pretty," Stuart said. He picked up the picture and held it in both hands,
tears coming to his eyes.
Corey got up, walked around the desk and put his hand on
Stuart's shoulder.† "We can't bring
Teri back," he said to him gently.
"I know...I know," Stuart said, trying
unsuccessfully to hold back the tears.†
"But at least...when we're done...no other good and decent girl
will be killed by these evil witches. And no one else...who loves a girl so
much...will have to put up with the loss."
He took out his handkerchief, wiped away the tears and tried
to pull himself together.
"You know Corey, this is not just vengeance,"
Stuart said.† This is really what the
Council to Save Society from Witchcraft is all about. After we burn them
they'll be three less evil witches in the world to hurt people."
"I have really had it with this Stuart Weston,"
Prue said to Phoebe as she marched into the living room. "This morning I
saw a man shove a woman into the street, break her wrist and grab her pocket
book. So I sent him flying into the street where he got hit by a car.
"Then I turn around and see Stuart with his camera
taping what I did.† I couldn't get to
him. But I will."
"Look at this!" Piper said as she came into The
Manor.† "This was hanging on a
lamppost on the next block.† And he had
the nerve to hang another one on the lampost in front of The Manor.† I took them both down."
Prue took one of the flyers from her and read it aloud.† "The Council to Save Society from
Witchcraft invites you to the revelation of the names of three dangerous sister
witches in your midst.† Taped proof of
their witchcraft will be presented.†
Tonight at the Council's headquarters at eight o'clock."
"We're going to take care of him tonight," Prue
"Let's be there at seven before anyone comes,"
†Prue saw a confused
look on Phoebe's face.
"Phoebe, what's the matter?" Prue asked.
"Something here...isn't right," Phoebe answered,
slowly shaking her head.
"What isn't right?" Piper asked.
"I don't know," she replied.
They opened the door under the Council's sign, walked inside
and found themselves in a very large room. Chairs were stacked along one wall
and two circles were outlined on the floor.†
But otherwise the room was empty.†
A door on the far side opened and Stuart walked in.
"Come for your un-masking?" he said. "You're
a bit early."
"We've come to take care of you," Prue
said. "You've gotten in our way too much."
"The same way you took care of Teri," he said.
"We protect the innocent by destroying evil, by
punishing those who would hurt them," Prue said.
"Teri never hurt anyone," Stuart said. "She
was so good,† so kind, so un-selfish. I
loved her so much."
"She had evil inside of her," Prue said.† "My spells hurt only those that have
evil in them.† It finds that evil and
uses it to destroy them."
"Finds evil?" he asked. "No. It's you who
just decides that someone is evil. And then you decide to punish
that person. Teri wasn't evil, she wasn't bad, she-"
"Wasn't real," Phoebe said.
"What?" Piper said.
"She wasn't real...she didn't exist," Phoebe said.
"There...wasn't any Teri."
"Phoebe, what are you talking about," Prue said.
"I used a spell on her."
"I told you that something wasn't right," Phoebe
said, shaking her head. "None of this is right.
"You know that I can see things with my power that no
one else can.† All of this...isn't
real.† We protect the innocent but...we
don't punish the guilty.† That's not for
us to do.† The one time we
did...I almost died...being burnt at the stake.
you, Stuart, you...didn't love Teri. You...love me." ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
"Are you crazy, you evil witch," he said.
"Love you? You're trying to distract me so that you can destroy
me." Stuart saw that they were inside of the circle. "But I'm going
to destroy you first."
He turned and hurried to the gas jets switch on the wall.
"No!" Phoebe shouted and ran at him. She grabbed
his hand as he was reaching for the switch, scraping her hand against a sharp
corner of the switch plate as she did.
"Feel me against your heart," she said as she
pressed him against the wall. "Then listen to what your heart tells you."
Stuart tried to push her off but then stopped. His
expression changed from anger to confusion.
"I...I don't...understand," he said.
"Phoebe - get away from him so I can cast the
spell," Prue said.
"No!" she answered. "Feel your heart,"
she said to Stuart.
He was all confused.†
He was getting flashes of feelings as she pressed against him.† A brief feeling of happiness.† Then one of no longer feeling alone.
Then bits of memory.†
Of feeling excited holding her hand as they walked down a street together.
Of the happiness of a kiss.† And of a
"Phoebe?" he said, trying to make sense of
it. "Phoebe." He paused.
"PHOEBE!!" he shouted.
"EEYYY!" Phoebe's heart was racing, her breathing
fast and heavy. She was sitting upright in her bed. She looked around her,
trying to understand what was happening.
She jumped up and walked slowly around the room, touching
and feeling her familiar surroundings to calm herself.† She walked over to the window and looked
outside.† Everything is normal, she
thought, as she saw the street.
She turned around and saw Stuart sitting on the edge of the
"Phoebe. Oh, Phoebe," he said, shaken, his face
white. "I just had...a...nightmare. I dreamed that I was...trying to hurt
you. That I was...part of...some...council..."
"To...Save...Society from Witchcraft," Phoebe
said, finishing his sentence.
"And...I tried to kill you...and Prue and Piper,"
"And Prue tried to kill you," Phoebe said.
"What? How could this be?" he asked. "We
couldn't have both had the same dream."
"It was...so sharp, so real," she said.† "It...wasn't a dream.† A demon must have done something to us.
"Prue...and Piper?" she asked, as she realized
they may be in danger.
Phoebe ran into Prue's room while Stuart went to check on
"Prue! Prue! Wake up!" Phoebe shouted as she shook
her sister hard. "Wake up, Prue!!"
"I can't wake Piper," Stuart said as he came into
"And I can't wake Prue," Phoebe said.
"What's that?" Stuart asked as he took Phoebe's
hand and turned it over.
"When...I grabbed you and pulled your hand away from
the switch I scraped my hand on it." She looked at the trace of blood
along the scrape. "All of it was real."
"I...almost really killed you," Stuart said, in
"How?" she asked.
"The room was set up with gas jets around where you
were standing," he said. " That switch would have dropped a net on you to hold
you and then ignited the jets.† The fire
was to burn you...as witches."
"Prue and Piper...if that reality still exists they're
still in it," Phoebe said.
"Uh...uh...uh...Corey," Stuart said trying to remember
the name. "He was my partner in the Council.†
He set up everything for the fire.†
If he finds them there and doesn't see me...he'll start the fire
himself.† They're in danger."†
"If a demon has a spell on them to keep them there then
I can't get them out," Phoebe said.
"You have to look through the Book of Shadows and find
the demon," he said.
"That could take hours.† There isn't time for that," she said, as she turned back to
look at Prue.
"No!!" Phoebe screamed.
Stuart turned to Prue and saw perspiration on her face. He
lifted her arm and felt that it was wet and very hot.
"Corey must have started the fire," he said.
"If I can't get them out of that reality, then
I'll take Corey and the fire out of it," she said.† "Prue said that I've become completely
like Phoebe.† Iím going to make up this
spell on the fly the way Phoebe does." She took a deep breath.
"Prue had better be right," she said.
She was silent for a moment. Her eyes closed briefly
and then opened.
†††† "To save my
sisters who are in danger†††††
where they are that I cannot see,†††
here the fire and the one who made it†††††
Contained together before me."
a sudden loud clap of thunder and a circle of fire appeared in the bedroom.
Within it stood someone. Tall, with grayish black hair and piercing eyes,† a smug, powerful look on his long, somewhat
"That's not Corey," Stuart said.
"Who...are you?" Phoebe asked as she slowly walked
"You're worst nightmare," he answered with
"This wasn't a nightmare. This was real," she said
"Hmm...smart witch," he said.
"My spell said to bring the fire and the one who made
it," she said turning to Stuart. "Corey didn't really make the fire.
This demon did. That's why my spell brought him here."
"Smart indeed," the demon said to her.
"What did you do?" she asked.
"I created an alternative reality," he
answered.† "I changed your
perceptions so that you would think it was real. You did - and it became real
"Get my sisters out of it," Phoebe demanded.
"Bring them back here now!"
He glared at Phoebe with a look that went right through her.† "Sisters," he repeated,
emphasizing the word. Mockingly, it seemed to Phoebe.
He closed his eyes for a few seconds and concentrated, then
contemptuously nodded in Prue's direction.†
Phoebe hurried over to her and shook her.
"I'll check on Piper," Stuart said.
"Prue!" she called as Prue started to move.
"EEYY!!" she screamed as she sat up, frightened.
"I...was being burned by a fire..." Prue said.
"This demon put us into another reality and tried to
get us killed," Phoebe said.
Prue slowly got up from the bed and stared at the demon and
"I made up a spell to bring him and the fire
here," Phoebe said.
"I underestimated your power," the demon said to
Phoebe. "It let you see more than one reality. I also underestimated the
strength of his emotional tie to you. It's so strong that it let him see beyond
that reality, too. I won't make those mistakes again."
"How did he change reality?" Prue asked.
"Quite simple, really," the demon said as Stuart
and Piper came into the room.. "Reality is shaped and formed by what one
perceives it to be.†† Your reality is a
reflection of your perception of reality. Alter the perception and I've
altered the reality.
"I'll put it into terms that even your small human
minds can fathom.
"You humans once held a significance to a meaningless
ability to run the distance of one mile in some number of minutes.† People tried to do it, some more than
once.† They all failed.
"Their perception was that it could not be done.† And that was their reality.
"Until one person had a perception that it could
be done.† And he did it.† And then everyone's perceptions
changed.† Everyone perceived that it
could be done.
"And so others then did it too," the demon
continued. "Even those who had previously tried a few times and failed now
did it with relative ease.† Their
perceptions changed.† And so their
reality changed with it.
"I changed your perceptions while you were asleep.† It doesnít matter whether you are conscious
or not.† Your un-conscious mind can
perceive and make realities just like your conscious mind can, if you know how
to unlock itís power. You donít - but I do."
Piper and Stuart edged slowly towards the ring of fire.
"What you see around you is your reality now - because
you perceive it to be so," the demon said. "A little while ago, you
perceived something else to be your reality - and therefore it was.† In the past, when you had another perception
of reality, it too, was real to you."
That startled Phoebe and she turned to Prue. Could he have
meant what she thought he did? Could he know who they really are - what they
really are? And therefore know where to find them after they go back to being
their real selves?
Is that how all of this came about?† Prue thought.† Did we become The Halliwells in the real world because all of the
real world's perceptions of reality were changed?† Could something as incredible as that be true?
"Who...is he?" Piper asked.
"I don't know - but I'm going to find out," Phoebe
said. "Stay here and watch him while I go up and look through the Book of
"Be satisfied that you'll live through this night,
Charmed One," the demon said to Phoebe. "Don't push your luck."
"My spell has contained your powers," Phoebe said.
"If you could use them you would have already."
"I will eventually kill you, all of
you," he said. "One by one if not all together. But in the meantime
you need to be taught a lesson.
"You were lucky tonight with your amateurish, half
thought-out spell. But don't think that you can really take me on.
"My powers are contained.† But yours are not."
He looked at the fire surrounding him and concentrated.
"Why is it suddenly getting hot in here?" Piper
"Ahhh!! I just felt the fire against my skin,"
"Move back!" Prue said.
They moved back towards the wall where the door was.
"It's getting really hot in here," Piper said.
"Arrgghh!!!" Stuart screamed. The fire had
jumped and caught onto the sleeve of his tee shirt.
"Arrgghh!!!" he screamed again as it spread
over the rest of the shirt.
Piper grabbed a blanket from Prue's bed and threw it over
Stuart's arm and chest, trying to smother the flames.
"Eyye!!!" Piper screamed as a flame jumped and
landed at her feet.† She put her arms
around Stuart and pulled him further back with her.
"How is he doing that?" Phoebe asked.
"You brought the fire here with your spell," Prue
said. "So it exists here because of your power, not his. Your power
isn't contained so he's somehow able to use it."
Stuart couldn't suppress his crying out from the intense
pain from the burns. Piper held him, supporting him with both her hands.
"How far back do you want to go?" the demon asked,
his tone showing that he was in control.†
"To the hallway?† To the
other side of the house?† To the end of
the block?† I can make the fire go as
far as I need to."
"You have to let him go," Prue said.
"No!" Phoebe said.
"We don't have a choice,"† Prue said. "He'll keep doing that and
we can't stop him."
"Stuartís hurt bad," Piper said. "He needs help."
Phoebe tried to get closer to the demon but the heat was too
intense. She glared at him and then closed her eyes to concentrate.
and his fire
††††††† Who have
been brought here,†††††
††††† Set them
free and let them now
†††††††† From our midst disappear."
The demon and the fire were gone. But Stuart was still
crying out in pain.
"We have to get Stuart to a hospital," Piper said.
"Leo," Piper said as he materialized in the parlor
the next morning.† She went over to him
and kissed him.† "A powerful demon
tried to burn us. We almost didn't make it through the night."
"I know," he said. "They told me."
"Stuart got burned pretty badly on his arm and
side," Phoebe said. "The doctor at the hospital gave him very strong
"And...you want me to heal him," Leo said, then
hesitated. "Ahh...Phoebe, I know you're...close to Stuart.
But...this time I canít help him."
"What!?" Piper said. "Leo, I'm asking
you to heal him."
"I'm able to heal only when they want me to," he
said. "And...they told me they don't want him healed."
"What!?" Phoebe said.
"After he almost got you killed last night, they don't
want him endangering you again," Leo said. "They don't want him
getting in the way."
"Getting in the way?!" Phoebe said. "Stuart
hasnít gotten in our way...heís helped us! He hasn't stopped us from doing
"And we're not going to leave him like this. You're our
whitelighter. You're supposed to help us."
"I am," Leo said. "By protecting
you.† By not letting something like what
happened to you last night through him happen again.
"He can't defend himself against demons," Leo
continued. "And because he can't he almost got you all killed."
"Last night, Stuart was under a spell," Piper
said. "We all were. Stuart's the one who broke the spell with
"Piper...even if I thought that you were right, I can't
do anything about this," he said.
said.† "Well, here's something you can
do.† You can tell ThevElders that
theyíre right - Stuart doesnít have any powers. But heís taken on demons
anyway. Because he has something they'll never have - courage. He's chosen to
fight evil without any way of protecting himself.
"But they - they stay...wherever it is that they
are.† They don't take on the demons
themselves. Oh no, they just wave their magic wand and send others to do
that.† They manipulate people, people
who are un-prepared, who aren't even asked if they want to take on evil
and protect innocents, and throw them into life-and-death situations. And then
they just watch."
"Phoebe, you don't know what you're saying," Leo
"You think so?" Piper said angrily.† "Then maybe I should explain some
things to you, Leo.† About us, about
this reality, about our being The Charmed Ones."
"Maybe even about you," Prue said.† "I learned something last night about
perceptions and reality. I wonder what would happen to all of this
reality that The Elders made here if we changed your perceptions of
Prue stopped as she saw Leo look upwards and slowly move his
head for a few seconds.
"Ahh...whatever it is that you were going to say...they
really don't want you to say it," Leo said. "You win. Take me
"He's still going to be out a long time from those pain
killers," Piper said after they removed Stuart's bandages and saw that
everything was completely healed.
Phoebe took Stuart's hand in hers. With her other hand she
slowly stroked his forehead, then kissed him gently. She let go of his hand and
turned back to the others.
"I'll check on him in an hour," she said.†
"In the meantime, I want to know why there was nothing
in the Book of Shadows about this demon," she said to Leo.† "Someone must have run into a demon
this powerful before."
"There's nothing in The Book of Shadows because no one
has run in to him," Leo answered. "And they haven't because he is
"I don't understand," Prue said. "Just who is
"Dalios," Leo answered. "He sits on the
"The Infernal Council. They...they sent that genie to
destroy us," Piper said, recalling that Charmed episode. "And they've sent
"How do we vanquish him?" Phoebe asked.
"That's just it," Leo said. "You can't. Your
powers aren't strong enough to vanquish a demon that high up."
"So what do we? Just let him kill us?" Phoebe
"You have to avoid him," he answered.
"How?" Phoebe asked. "He came after us!"
"What he did...to personally try to kill you, is
unprecedented," Leo said. "There must be something you did that
really provoked him."
"Or will do," Prue said, thinking about their
still having to save the world from destruction before the solstice.
"His intervening tips the balance of power between good
and evil," Leo said. "And The Elders let the Infernal Council know
that they won't tolerate it."
"You mean the good side and the bad side talk to each
other?" Piper asked.
"Not exactly talk," Leo said. "They
communicate. The thoughts from one side get to the other side. They let the
Infernal Council know that they would also intervene personally if Dalios was
allowed to continue. And the Council couldn't allow that to happen.
"Even though in practice good and evil are balanced,
there is an underlying basic, passive goodness to the world.† That inherently would give good a small
advantage over bad but under normal circumstances it's not enough to make a
difference.† But if the The Elders got
personally involved that advantage would be amplified and become much greater
than the evil side could hope to defeat.†
So to prevent that, the Council has restrained Dalios - for now."
"But for how long?" Prue asked.
"I don't know," he said. "They told me that
Dalios is a maverick, that he chafes at the restraints the Council imposes. How
long he'll stay restrained - I just don't know."
"And we won't know," Piper said slowly,
with fear in her voice, "until itís too late. Until he's already come
after us again."