The queen lay a hand on Nesmith's arm. "Nay, milord -- suffer the Four to battle -- we owe our support, but the Four can do anything."
"Aye," he said, squeezing her hand and gazing into her eyes. "The Four can do anything."
Sir Joseph took it up as a chant as he stepped outside. "The Four can do anything! The Four can do anything!"
The voices swelled until Mike bellowed, "Enough!" When the chant died, Mike leaned onto the table. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Tork blinked at them. "Thou art the Four... the Powerful Ones. We saw thee rout Tari before our eyes!"
"Uh-oh," Davy whispered.
"Yeah," Micky whispered back. "They're a superstitious people ---"
"Who saw you using your abilities --" Babbitt said, nodding in understanding.
"And now they think we're some kind of ---" Mike growled. "Oh, great."
"Yeah, really," Babbitt chuckled. "Maybe I should tell them their 'miracle workers' once paid September's rent in January of the next year!"
Mike glared at him, which only made the grin spread.
Peter cleared his aching throat. "We are only men, Nesmith," he said. "Gifted men -- but men nonetheless. We are fallible."
"We saw thee defeat Tari... no mere man could --"
"We are gifted," Micky said. "We're not angels, gods, saints or whatever you think."
Nesmith opened his mouth, then Sir Joseph bolted back into the cabin. "Weres!" he bellowed. "The weres are coming!"
"Weres?" the five gasped.
The queen nodded. "Tari created weres a turn of the seasons before you came. They helped keep us in thrall."
"And now they're wild," Tork said. "They attack at their whim -- how many?" he asked Sir Joseph.
"Forty, I'd wager."
The natives cursed in unison. "Out of the cabin!" Nesmith ordered. "To the rocks! More protection!"
They scrambled to the steep rocks, suddenly finding themselves at the eye of a hurricane of weres.
Peter and Micky took to the air, Mike fired lasers and Davy threw rocks. And still the weres kept coming.
One apparently thought he'd sneak by -- and shifted into human form, trying to tiptoe past Mike. He was cut down by Mike, shifting to were form as he fell.
Babbitt's jaw dropped and his eyes widened. "He's phosed!" he gasped.
Davy's head snapped around. "What?"
Babbitt frowned. "Phosed....metamorphosis....how in the hell..." He saw another transform and mumbled, "Animal metamorphosis...ani-phose..."
The battle still raged, but Babbitt's eyes grew huge as his hand covered his mouth. "Oh...my...." he gasped. Then he closed his eyes, trembling, as a barrier inside his mind fell.
"Mister Babbitt?" Davy cried. "Are you okay?"
The older man shook from head to toe. His jaw set in a grim line and he rose to his feet, slowly. "I remember, Davy."
"Well that's all well and good, Mister B, but would you please take cover?" Davy snapped, trying to pull him back to safety.
Babbitt shrugged out of the black vest, leaving it in Davy's hand. "You don't understand," he said with a genuine smile. "You don't get it -- I remember!"
With that, and ignoring Davy's alarmed cry, Babbitt raced to the battle.
"Mister B, get back under cover!" Mike yelled.
"I remember, Mike!" he laughed. "I remember it all!"
Mike blinked, nearly misfiring. "All? You mean ---?"
Babbitt nodded. He turned to face the oncoming weres and threw a mental switch unused in thirty years.
The Monkees stared in shock as their landlord began to.....change.
He grew taller and bulkier. His clothes vanished into his skin as his arms lengthened and legs thickened. Jet-black fur sprung out all over his body and his face reshaped itself.
Seconds from the onset of the change, the black grizzly bear that had replaced Henry Babbitt waded into the battle.
The weres pressed forward, taking advantage of the Monkees' shock. The four could only stare at the grizzly bear, stunned.
"The Four are not fighting!" the queen cried.
Tork was already in motion. The archer loaded his bow and fired till his quiver was empty. Every arrow was on target, and twelve weres lay dead or wounded.
Nesmith, Sir Joseph and Dolen waded into the fight, swords flailing. The queen joined Davy, using her sling to fire rocks with deadly accuracy.
The Monkees snapped out of their stunned immobilization and began to fight again. The grizzly ripped through the weres, and the nine made short work of the rest.
Finally, there was not a were left standing. The nine fighters then turned to the grizzly bear, which stood there flexing and un-flexing its claws.
Peter took a deep breath and stepped forward. "Mis...Mister...Mister B-Babbitt?"
The grizzly turned to face him, and its head bobbed in a very human nod.
The process then reversed itself just as quickly as it had happened. In the space of a few seconds, Babbitt stood before them -- in human form, his clothing intact.
Nine jaws slammed open. Nine pairs of eyes grew huge. The queen, Tork, and Sir Joseph crossed themselves.
Babbitt blinked at them. "What? What's the matter?" There was no anger in his voice, only confusion.
Mike took one of Babbitt's arms, Peter the other. They pulled him to the edge of the rocks, where there was nothing but sand.
"Shield your eyes," Mike said, stepping away from the others. Once they had shielded, Mike's golden choker pulsed with light as he fired purplish-red lasers into the sand --- pouring all the power he could into the beams. Minutes later, he cut off the beams and drooped slightly from effort.
A perfect circle of glass, reflective once Mike melted the silver band of his watch against the back, rested in the sand. "There," Mike gasped. "Look at yourself."
Babbitt frowned at him, but knelt in the sand and looked at his reflection. His ebony eyes widened at what met his gaze.
He was still recognizable as Babbitt -- but the slender form and unlined face framed by short raven hair hadn't been seen in thirty years. "Twenty-five years old," Babbitt gasped, raising a trembling hand to touch his cheek and chin. "I'm twenty-five years old again...."
"The age you were when you lost your memory," Mike nodded.
"How did that happen?" Peter asked.
"I...I'm an ani-phose," Babbitt said, still staring at the youthful features. "I can change into any animal. I was battling the Dark Lady....I think I won, I'm a little fuzzy on that... I was in feline form, running through the streets, when I..." He frowned. "I got...hit by a car. I remember falling from a bridge into the ocean, shifting to human as I did... I hit my head again as I surfaced... the next thing I remember is Alice finding me." He chuckled. "After ten years of batting the Dark Lady and her like, losing my memory in a traffic accident seems kind of...anticlimactic."
Nobody knew quite how to respond to that. Peter looked at Mike, passing a suggestion to him telepathically. As one, the linked duo lay a hand on each of Babbitt's shoulders, and gave them a supportive squeeze before lowering their hands.
Davy stepped forward as Babbitt climbed to his feet. "Mister Babbitt, I...I don't know entirely what to say..."
"I do." The young man smiled. "Don't call me Mister Babbitt."
"What?" the Monkees gasped.
The smile grew bigger. "Mister Babbitt was a bad-tempered man pushing sixty with a pot belly and a bad back. I am a twenty-five year old ani-phose -- your equal in age, your equal in power. So please -- treat me as an equal.
"Call me Hank."
Four jaws dropped at Babbitt's -- Hank's --- declaration. Then all five blinked in shock as all but King Nesmith fell to their knees.
Mike looked at Nesmith, who shook his head in amusement. Mike sighed and pulled the queen to her feet. "Enough -- please! We are just men!"
Nesmith lay gentle hands on his wife's shoulders. "Phyllis, love...they art but men."
Peter smiled at him. "Thank you!" he rasped.
Nesmith smiled. "Saints and angels would not stop stunned mid-battle and needs be rescued by mere mortals." He nodded at Peter. "Or require the services of a healer."
"He be right," Tork laughed as he climbed to his feet. He inclined his head toward the Monkees and Hank. "Forgive us?"
"Just don't do it again," Peter said. Clearing his throat, he went on, "There is only One that kind of adoration belongs to -- and none of us is Him."
Nesmith's strong hand landed on Peter's shoulder. "Come, then -- let's hie to Kamlot and let the healer discern the matter with thee."
Mike touched the choker around his neck, frowning. It was his fault Peter's voice had been lost and was just now returning.....
Then the chocolate brown eyes went huge as Mike's fingers slid over the necklace.
It felt warm...
Peter sipped the herbal tea Kamlot's healer had prepared. He winced as it slid down his tender throat, but a moment later, his eyes widened in astonishment as the pain -- for the first time in weeks -- began to ease!
Mike broke off mid-word and turned an incredulous look onto Peter. Peter met it with a stunned smile and a nod.
Mike smiled slightly as he took a sip of his own tea and he suddenly pulled a horrid face. "Mediaeval days," he groused. "Pre-coffee. Bleah."
You'll get used to it, Peter sent. If we're stuck here, you'll have to.
Mike glared at him and sent him images --- them there with calendar pages flying by, then the four personally going and 'discovering' coffee.
Peter burst out laughing.
Hank leaned forward and lay a hand on Mike's wrist. "How are you doing that, Nes -- Mike?"
Mike frowned. "Doing what, Mist...Hank?" He smiled slightly then. "This first-name stuff is gonna take some gettin' used to."
Hank nodded. "And the return of my powers and... other things..." He touched his unlined cheek. Then he shook his head. "But I meant the shifting eye colours."
Mike's dark brows snapped together in confusion. "What?"
"I've noticed you and Tor--Peter --- seem to be communicating telepathically. But when it happens.. you get blue speckles in your eyes."
Mike touched his face under his eyes and snapped his head around to face Peter, whose stunned expression matched his own. He sent an image of Peter talking to him, and heard Peter's sharp intake of breath.
Your eyes do get blue flecks in them! Peter gasped mentally, and with every word, chocolate brown flecks danced in his dark blue eyes.
"So do yours," Mike gasped. "Only they're brown!"
"How long has this been happening?" Peter gasped.
"Since Michael Tork," Micky said from the doorway. Noting Hank's confused frown, Micky gave him a condensed version of the merge and what happened to them during the time-shift, ending with "...and since the merge, we've been able to tell at a glance when they use that link, because it shows in their eyes!"
Hank whistled. "Anything else I need to know?"
Micky shrugged. "Well, Davy's really a woman in disguise, but..." At Hank's pop-eyed expression, he laughed. "I'm kidding! Anyway," Micky went on, "Nesmith and Queen Phyllis sent me to come getcha -- they're throwing a feast."
"And that's why they sent you to get us," Mike said.
"What?" Micky frowned.
"So you wouldn't eat the entire feast by yourself before we got there!" Mike said, pushing past a spluttering Micky.
Peter and Hank laughed as the drummer turned red.
Midway through the feast, King Nesmith stood and raised his hands. When all eyes were on him, he announced, "The Four hast returned to our realm --- joined by a Fifth! And they have shown us their Truth -- Nay! They be not gods! They be not angels or saints! They be men --- they be heroes!"
And the Monkees and Hank dropped their heads in their hands as a cheer swelled up. "Heroes?" Hank gasped.
"That's almost as bad!" Davy agreed.
Mike stood up then, and the cheering died. "Your majesty," he began. "We...thank you... but in the morning, we shall be going."
Nesmith's dark brows snapped together. "Going?"
"Taking leave of you," Peter said, rising to stand beside Mike. "We've enjoyed your hospitality. However, we have things to take care of."
"Like finding the Dark Lady," Hank said.
"The Dark Lady?" Queen Phyllis frowned.
"Tari," Micky translated.
Morning came, and the natives saw the five off. Queen Phyllis hugged each one and promised to say prayers for them.
They walked until they were out of sight of the castle. Davy shrank to six inches and perched on Micky's neck as he took to the air. Peter clasped Mike's wrist and Mike held onto Peter's as the telekinetic lifted them both. Hank became a raven and few beside them.
"Hey Hank?" Micky asked. "Is every animal you become jet-black?"
The raven's head dipped in a nod.
Realizing that as an animal, Hank could not speak, Peter speculated, "Is it because your hair is jet-black?"
Hank-the-raven let out a bird-version of a laugh and nodded again.
After they flew for about fifty miles, accompanied by the steady droning of Micky's nonstop talking, they found themselves gliding over a field enclosed by woods. One by one, they touched down, the raven shifting back into human form.
"Why here?" Mike asked, curious.
"Nobody'll get hurt here," Hank said. Then, with a grin, "with the possible exception of me."
Recognizing the gleam in Hank's eye, Davy smiled. "You have a plan."
"That I do, indeed."
"Care to share?" Mike sighed.
Hank turned to Micky. "You gave me the idea, yammering on and on about those cartoon movies."
Micky looked at Peter, then back at Hank. "Groovy! Uhm...which one?"
"Something about a sword and a stone," Hank shrugged. "One on one combat."
Micky's almond eyes went huge. "The shape-shifter battle!"
"Precisely." Hank walked away from the Monkees and raised his voice. "Dark Lady!" he cried. "I challenge you!"