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Born of Magic's Fire by Tasha


Parts 6-10

Part 07 | Part 08 | Part 09 | Part 10 | Bottom |

Part 6

Half an hour later everyone except Kat, who Rachel had sent back outside, was in the lab. Alex was already buzzing with ideas for experiments they could do after the initial medical once over, and Philip, being his usual agreeable self was nodding politely. The MD among them was not trying to pretend she was totally at ease with the current arrangements, but she was being professional about it. There was no warmth in the way she looked at Philip, but there was no hostility either. Jas was taking a back seat in this situation for now, and quietly waited for her turn.

"Well I suppose we may as well start with a general physical," Rachel said evenly, "if you take your shirt off and sit down over here, we can get started."

The young man made absolutely no objection, he was just quite happy to do whatever they wanted. He was still having trouble believing that he was home. The buttons on his blue top gave no resistance and he removed the garment rapidly. It was when he sat down that he discovered Nick was staring at him. It took him a few moment to realise that the ex-SEAL was fixated on the centre of his chest and as he looked down he realised why.

The neat set of scars that littered his torso were very pale, and looked as if they were years old, but they were still there and they must have matched exactly the ones that decorated Nick's body. They would eventually just be ghosts of impressions on his skin, but for now they were very visible, and it must have brought home to Nick exactly what had happened. Alex also looked a little surprised, they had known what had occurred, but this was somehow, the final proof.

The look on Nick's face said he was remembering the event which had given him the injuries, and he was suddenly very pale.

"I'll see you later," he said a little too quickly, and he turned for the door.

Nobody tried to stop him.

"I should have thought," Philip said quietly.

Alex just smiled at him reassuringly, she wasn't quite sure what to say. The scars made Rachel pause for a moment, and her eyes didn't seem quite so hard when she looked at him. It didn't stop the electrodes she attached to his chest from being cold, though.

Both subjects came up totally human on all tests Rachel chose to run, although they exhibited brain patterns the Doctor had come to associate with the more talented members of mankind. Jasmine shifting into the form of a cat and then allowing the MD to examine her again, raised a few eyebrows, and it turned out that she seemed to be whatever shape she chose to take. In feline form she really was a cat, all be it a cat with a unique intelligence. It was shortly after that when Alex stuck electrodes to Philip's head and started testing him for various psychic abilities.

They started with something easy. It was a simple game Philip had seen Alex play with Kat on occasion, and it involved cards and telepathy. It was quite simple, the researcher would turn over the top card where her subject couldn't see it and he would have to tell her what it was. The first couple Philip managed to totally miss, but with a little scolding things changed.

"Okay," Alex said with a resigned smile, "again."

She picked up a card and looked at it, then she thought about it very hard.

"Queen," the pale eyed man said after a few seconds, "queen of spades."

His friend looked delighted, he'd finally got one right.

"Now we see if that was fluke," she said lightly and picked up the next card.

Philip looked straight into her eyes, and it took him no time at all.

"Two of diamonds," he said quite confidently.

It appeared that he had tuned in. Jas was sitting in the corner next to Rachel, just watching, she seemed pleased. The doctor had finally given up trying to be suspicious and was now just being interested. This might work out after all.

Alex and Philip went through a few more cards whilst the computer recorded all the strange readings the young man's brain was giving out. They really seemed to be getting into the flow of it, and both of them were starting to enjoy themselves. Alex had begun experimenting with how much concentration she had to put in for the ex-priest to be able to read her, and slowly she began reducing it.

When they were about twenty cards in they're gazes were locked together and she just blindly reached for a card. She never even had a chance to turn it over when Philip spoke.

"Three of hearts," the young man's mouth had operated before his brain had time to engage.

They both just sat there in surprise, until slowly Alex turned over the card she was holding. She held up the three of hearts so the other two could see it.

"Let's see if you can do that again," the researcher said quietly.

This was an element of the game she had not considered. The next two cards he could not identify until Alex turned them over, and actually looked at them, but the third the answer just fell out of his mouth. He couldn't explain it, and the computer recorded an interesting little spike every time he did it. Both participants were beginning to think it was a random process as they went through another two cards with no success.

Philip was determined that he was going to figure this out and as Alex reached for yet another on the pack he put everything he was worth into the concentration. His friend's finger's touched the pack, and suddenly his mind filled with images of cards. The pictures flew through his thoughts so fast and with such intensity that it actually hurt. He sat back in his chair with a grunt, closing his eyes and trying to force the torrent from his mind.

"Philip, what's the matter?" Alex forgot the experiment the moment her friend appeared distressed, and she leapt out of her chair.

Her first urge was to touch him, but she remembered her experience earlier in the day and managed to hold back. Jas was by his side in seconds, and she too refrained from interfering. It took him a few moments, but finally the young man opened his eyes, and a mischievous smile played at the edged of his mouth.

"I think I pushed too hard," he said lightly, now that the pain was gone, he chalked the whole thing up to another little accident.

"Are you okay now?" Alex sounded very worried.

He patted her hand lightly.

"I'm fine," he responded calmly, "it was nothing."

"I hate to disagree," it was Rachel's voice, and she was looking at the read out the computer had recorded, "but it was definitely something. There is a spike on this thing to rival the Empire State building."

You couldn't really argue with a machine, but as far as Philip was concerned, the incident was over. He'd done something and his body had paid him back whilst refusing to go any further.

"What happened, exactly?" Jasmine stepped in now.

If there wasn't any arguing with a machine, there was even less comment to the contrary when three women wanted answers. The young man gave in to the inevitable.

"I was trying too hard," Philip explained evenly, "and instead of one card I got this rush of lots of them. With it came a headache, that's all."

Jas and Alex looked at each other as if something seemed to occur to both of them. It had obviously passed their subject by, but he was quite happy in his role as guinea pig.

"Can you remember what cards you saw?" the Legacy researcher asked the question this time.

Now one thing Philip had always had, was a good memory, and Jas had been making him improve it even more. With little or no prompting he closed his eyes and tried to bring back what had flashed through his mind. He noticed very quickly that it seemed to be very easy to remember them, almost like a vision. Visions weren't like normal memories, they didn't go away quite so quickly.

"Five of diamonds, six of spades," he began, and then proceeded to rattle off another ten cards. "Is that enough?" he asked as he reached only the middle of the memory.

Jasmine reached for the pack of cards, and one by one she turned over the top ones. It didn't take them long to notice that the order was by no means random.

"Incredible," was all Alex could say.

Philip just tried to look innocuous, but provided the rest of the cards in the pack with complete accuracy. He didn't know how he'd done it, and he didn't know if he could do it again, he just hoped nothing in the castle was on fire.

They talked, they recorded, they experimented, and they spent the entire afternoon finding things out. The two unusual individuals did anything they were asked, and by dinner time even Rachel seemed to have warmed to them both. They were laughing and joking, almost as if what they were doing was a completely ordinary, and everything was as it had been. Even the inter-reaction between Philip and Jas, that would never in a million years have been there before, did not seem to affect the mood. Only when Kat wandered back in did her mother's guard go back up slightly, but it was nothing like before.

Nick did not appear at the meal table, and while Alex chatted animatedly with Derek about what they'd been up to, Philip excused himself early and went on a small mission. The young man found his friend in the garage with his head under the hood of his mustang.

"How are you going to blow it up this time?" Philip spoke first because even though they both knew Nick realised he was there, the ex-SEAL made no move to start a conversation.

"The oil needed changing," the dark haired man replied with total neutrality in his voice.

He did stand back from the car, almost automatically wiping his hands down what should have been overalls, but which he quickly noticed was a clean T-shirt. His friend took the opportunity to step closer and passed him a discarded rag, but Nick would only look at him for a moment. The angry young man cleaned one finger after another whilst his eyes remained firmly fixed on the engine block.

"You're allowed to be angry with me," Philip finally went directly for the heart of the matter, "yell at me, hit me if you like, but please, don't shut me out."

That gained him a hot glare from his companion, but the anger that shone in those eyes seemed tinged with guilt. He said nothing and turned away again.

"Nick," the young man's tone was softer than before, "whatever you think you owe me, you don't. I want your friendship, but I don't want it based on some misplaced feeling of obligation."

The laugh that almost exploded from the ex-SEAL's mouth was not a humorous sound.

"Don't owe you anything?" his tone was incredulous. "I should be dying, fading away in some hospital room, but I'm walking around, talking and thinking. You wear my scars."

At least he was letting out some of the anger, but he still wouldn't look at Philip.

"Scars fade," was the Irishman's quiet reply, "I've given you a few."

At last Nick actually turned to his one time friend, surprise in his eyes.

"I've betrayed you twice," Philip continued evenly. "You forgave me once, can you do it again?"

It was obvious that the ex-SEAL didn't know what to say, he seemed totally stunned by his companion's words. The young man had been running through many scenarios in his head throughout the afternoon as he worked, but this had definitely not been one of them. Part of him felt the betrayal of which Philip spoke, but the rest of his mind was steeped in the debt he felt to this man. He really had no idea how to react as the opposing sections of his thoughts warred with each other.

"You saved my life," he finally said as if that would answer everything.

"Just returning a favour," the gentle lilt of the young man's voice could calm a raging lion, "but that wasn't what I asked. We were friends once, good friends before I blew it. We were just beginning to find that a second time, and I seem to have managed to destroy it again. I can't change that, but I can say I'm sorry."

Nick knew his companion was manipulating him into letting his emotions go, but it was like trying to stop a flood tide.

"You didn't even let us know you were still alive," he exploded all at once as his anger boiled to the surface. "How could you do that? There was nothing left, not even a scrap of your self-sacrificing hide to bury. Do you know what that felt like? Replaying every moment in my mind to see if there was anything I could have done to save you, knowing in my heart that I couldn't, but still needing to, and it turns out you've been hiding away in Ireland all that time. Can you possibly know what that was like?"

"No," the reply was very quiet and very short.

They stood there, eyes locked together, reading each other's faces. Both knew they had caused the other pain in different ways, and there was a question in each mind. Could they ever rebuild what had once been, or was it lost forever?

"I couldn't come back," Philip said finally, "I had to heal. No matter how I try, I cannot regret that, because I feel what would have happened if I had returned. I couldn't take any distractions, I had enough trouble trying to figure out how to relate to myself let alone other people. I cannot repent doing what I had to do, but I'm so sorry it had to hurt you. I *needed* to be alone."

"But you weren't quite all alone, were you?" Philip's mind was caught in momentary shock, was that really jealousy he heard in Nick's voice.

His mouth opened slightly where he had been about to speak, but the reply had taken his words away. It had really never occurred to him that Nick's resentment would be directed anywhere except directly at him. The ex-SEAL actually looked a little embarrassed at what he had said, as if he wanted to take them back.

"She put me back together," Philip said slowly, "without Jasmine I would still be wandering in a world I no-longer understood."

The young man walked round the side of the car, right up to his friend. He finally saw part of his friend's anger that he had not understood before.

"I've been a little mixed up in the past, haven't I," he said quietly. "I must be a bit of a mystery to a man who can make a decision and go with it as far as it runs."

The rage that had consumed Nick only a few moments before was fading rapidly, and it was being replaced by a faint hope. Philip's comment actually drew an ironic smile from his companion.

"You found what you needed when you entered the Legacy," the ex- priest continued calmly. "I thought I had when I entered the church, and the Legacy gave me a direction, but Ellen smashed just about any faith I had in myself. Alex has her passion to change man's inhumanity to man, Rachel has her need to know, and Derek has his incredible dedication to this house. I always felt a little out of place with all my doubt, but I have found what I was looking for. Don't blame Jasmine for being there for me, she was all I had for a while. She is part of what I have become and I love her dearly."

They stood in silence as Nick let his friend's words sink in. There was just one thing he needed to know.

"Will you leave us again?" before he could put his trust in this man again, he had to be sure.

"No," it was so sure that Philip's reply left absolutely no doubt.

He meant it as well. Where there had been a uncertain path before him once, now the way forward was a very clear trail, and the young man had no hesitation in choosing where his life lay.

"Let's go find a drink," Nick said after a moment.

His companion grinned and did not object.

End of Part 6
Part 7

Rachel followed Derek into his study after they had both watched Philip and Nick wander into the living room, laughing at some passing comment. As usual, the psychiatrist was worried about a man who took far too much on his shoulders.

"So how are you handling this?" she asked calmly as the man she loved sat down.

"How do you think?" was the reply as the little mischievous smile that always appeared when he was going to be difficult, slipped onto his face.

His companion, however, was in no mood for games.

"Don't try and hide from me," she said evenly, "I know you rather well, remember. You can't open up to any of the others yet, but I'm not taking no for an answer."

She walked towards, then behind him and draped her arms around his neck, kissing the top of his head.

"You can't tell me that the prodigal returns and it means nothing to you," the woman was not going to let this drop.

Derek closed his eyes for a moment and just enjoyed her closeness, before he tried to think of what to say. There were things he didn't even tell Rachel, and they were playing on his mind, but he banished them for a moment.

"I cannot quite explain the joy I felt when I first saw him," the Precept of the house said finally, "but ..." he trailed off, unable to quite formulate his thoughts.

"But then you realised he might be more than he seems," his companion finished for him.

A smile ran across Derek's features, sometimes it was almost as if Rachel was the psychic one.

"I can't help wishing that I could just forget the responsibility of this house," the sensitive admitted slowly, "that I could just be happy to have one of our own back. I *know* Philip has returned, I just wish I could be sure he has not brought anything with him."

"Only time will tell," the psychiatrist's words brought little comfort to her companion.

There were things that were just not possible yet, and Derek so much wanted them to be. If he could he would have welcomed Philip back to the fold with open arms, another member of his family, but it was not time. For once in his life, he started to talk, and all Rachel had to do was listen.

The evening came and went and the household retired to bed almost as if it were a normal day. The only difference seemed to be the fact that two extra rooms were occupied. There was a calm over the San Francisco Legacy house as it slept under the summer night sky, but the Precept did very little sleeping.

The morning sun streamed through the dining room windows as Rachel walked in with a smile on her face. A weight had been lifted off the people who made themselves part of this family, and it showed, even if they couldn't exactly just go back to how it was. The only thing that surprised the psychiatrist as she found some food was the fact that her daughter was not at the breakfast table. One thing about Kat that did not differ from other little girls was her appetite.

"Has Kat been down yet?" Rachel asked Alex as she sat down.

"She flew through here about half an hour ago," the researcher replied with a bright smile. "She said she wanted to play in the garden whilst the birds were still singing."

The mother had to smile back, her daughter had some interesting ideas. So long as she knew where she was, she was content and she set about her eggs and toast with a healthy vigour. As things seemed quite normal in the house, the MD and Alex fell into cheerful conversation whilst Nick tried to read the paper and they waited for Derek to make an appearance. The precept's eating habits could sometimes be erratic. In keeping with usual events, the ex-SEAL gave up trying to pretend he wasn't listening to the conversation a few minutes after it began, and by the time Jasmine breezed in, he was in full flow.

No one tried to make it happen, but it was really inevitable, as soon as the young looking woman walked in, the talking stopped. Quite frankly, it was mostly surprise that caused the sudden cessation of sound.

"Morning," Jas greeted lightly and unconsciously straightened her perfectly ordinary T-shirt and jeans.

The nymph-like creature of the evening before actually looked like a completely ordinary woman, in every day casuals. She was even wearing shoes, and her long hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail.

"Hi," Alex found her tongue first, "just grab a plate and help yourself."

"Thanks," the newcomer said brightly, doing a very good job of pretending she didn't notice all the attention.

"Sleep well?" Nick really couldn't think of anything else to say.

Jasmine beamed at him as she picked up a couple of pieces of toast and sat down.

"Wonderfully, thank you," she said brightly, "I like this house, it feels so warm."

Everyone at the table was given the distinct impression that she wasn't talking about the temperature.

"There are some really weird waves flying around," she continued cheerfully, "but they sort of fit in with the whole atmosphere."

Alex just laughed as the other two people at the table tried not to look completely bemused.

"I think I'm going to like having you around," the researcher said happily.

They chatted idly for a few minutes, until finally the subject seemed to be ebbing off somewhat. They were headed for an awkward silence, that much was obvious, so Nick decided to divert the course of the conversation.

"So has Philip taken to lying around in bed all day?" he asked, mischievously glancing at his watch.

The subject of his attention grinned, enjoying the fun, especially because she knew better.

"Oh, he'll have been up and outside hours ago," the young woman returned triumphantly, "he can't resist watching the dawn. You'll probably find him in the garden under a tree."

Nick's smile never slipped, but his eyes went straight to Rachel. The woman seemed to have suddenly lost interest in breakfast, and she was looking a little unsure. Whatever was going on, Jasmine knew she was missing the vital clue, so she did not try and interfere. The psychiatrist looked as if she was fighting herself, and her two Legacy comrades didn't quite know what to do. The warring instincts finally finished there battle, but there was still a little embarrassment on her face as the older woman stood up.

"I just have to go find Kat," she said quickly and managed to walk out of the room slowly.

It didn't take a genius to realise what was going on, and Jas deduced the information she was missing.

"Katherine wouldn't happen to be outside would she?" the Guide asked the two remaining people calmly.

Her tone was not condemnational, in fact it sounded understanding, but it didn't help the others feeling a little awkward.

"Rachel doesn't mean anything," Alex tried to explain, "it's just she's had a bad experience with dead people coming back from the grave."

Jasmine reacted very quickly, and put her hand out to reassure the other psychic.

"It's okay, Alex," she said with a smile, "I know all about Rachel's husband and son."

Her companions looked surprised.

"Philip may not have felt a connection with you," the dark haired beauty told them both, "but he still told me about you all. I pestered him with questions, I'm nosy like that."

Her comment made Nick smile again, and Jas knew she was on the right track.

By the time Rachel made it out of the house she was beginning to calm down. She didn't want to react to Philip this way, but Kat was her only child and she would do anything to protect her. Half her instincts said the young man was exactly what and who he said he was, but the other half spoke to her in words of warning. Maybe one day soon she would be able to trust him, but she would not risk her child on a maybe. She was not, however, about to be openly hostile about this and she walked slowly, rather than running to find her daughter like part of her mind urged her to do.

The first thing that gave her an indication of where to go was the distant sound of laughter. Despite her battling inner voices her steps sped up, soon she heard voices.

"But I don't understand," it was Kat, and she sounded cheerful, "it doesn't say anything."

"You have to just listen," was the calm reply, with it's delightful Irish twang, "eventually you can just hear what it's saying. Just sit back and close your eyes."

There was a moment's silence at which point Rachel realised that she'd stopped walking. She quickly began again, curious as well as anxious to find her child, now.

"It's just the wind," Kat's voice again, her tone was only slightly annoyed. "Please, Philip, tell me what it's saying."

The girl's mother wasn't quite sure she'd heard right. Were the pair of them really talking about a summer wind?

"Okay," there was laughter in Philip's voice, "but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to hear it yourself sometime. There's a storm over the Atlantic ocean, a powerful storm, and it's edges are in this breeze. It wants to talk about nothing else, to tell the earth of it's accomplishments. But that's not all that made this air move and there are whispers of perfumed winds from the Caribbean. Those add a gentle hum to the magnificence of maelstrom."

Rachel had stopped again, and she shook her head in self-admonition as she began walking a second time. Now she could see her daughter's feet sticking out from behind a large oak tree at the bottom of the bank.

"It must be beautiful," Kat sounded enchanted, "how did you learn to understand what it's saying?"

"Jasmine showed me," her companion replied cheerfully, "and she swears most of us can do it if we just take the time to learn."

It sounded as if he was going to go on, but his voice suddenly stopped. Much to Rachel's surprise, a head appeared from behind the other side of the tree, and the psychiatrist was pinned down by the young man's peculiar gaze. She felt like a rabbit caught in headlights, even though he smiled as soon as he realised who it was. There was an understanding in his eyes as he saw her face and he disappeared behind the tree again.

"Kat," Rachel heard him say, "I think your mother is looking for you."

The girl's head appeared this time and she grinned at her parent.

"Mom," she said brightly, climbing to her feet, "Philip was telling me all about the wind. Did you know it talks?"

"Ah, no I didn't," was the careful reply as the child ran to Rachel.

The young man standing next to the tree as she reached her mother could have in no way been considered threatening. His stance was casual, his face was open, but he was not trying to pretend he did not realise what was going on.

"Maybe he could teach both of us to listen," Kat's enthusiasm was over-riding her usual insight into her mother's moods.

Rachel really didn't know how to respond to that suggestion.

"I'm afraid I don't have time right now," Philip stepped into the conversation, much to the psychiatrist's surprise, "I'm sorry Kat, but I have somethings to do before I go to mass this morning. Why don't we walk back to the house?"

There was no argument from any adult direction, and Kat had never had any defences against Philip's smile.

End of Part 7
Part 8

Philip had wanted to see Derek before he left for the mainland, but the Precept had been keeping a low profile. They'd spoken briefly just before bed the night before, and the older man knew exactly where the younger was going and what he intended to do. Why the psychic did not seem to want to see his friend in the morning was a bit of a mystery.

The fact that Philip was very nervous when he said goodbye to the other members of the house, including Jasmine, and headed into the city, was not much of a secret. He was going to officially end his connection with the cloth, and the strain showed. It wasn't that he was indecisive about the direction his life was taking, it was just that it was going to be difficult coming back from the dead, *and* resigning his position.

Going to mass before he went to the Bishop's residence seemed to be the right thing to do somehow. No-one really took much notice of the young man sitting at the back, who for some reason felt it necessary to wear shades inside the church. The young priest who was taking the service was new to the diocese, so he did not recognise the man who took communion amongst all the regular congregation.

After the service the man of the cloth almost walked up to the young stranger when he realised he was still sitting in the back pew long after everyone else was gone. Something about the stranger's stance stopped him, and his mind seemed to suddenly turn to the thought of the people he had to visit before lunch time. Philip just wanted a moment to himself, as he prayed and found the calm at his centre. He knew God was still with him, of that he had no doubt, and when he finally stood up he knew he was doing the right thing.

Philip had known his bishop for a long time, they had been very good friends, especially after a young priest had all but lost complete faith in himself, and needed more than just a spiritual guide. A young woman opened the door soon after he knocked at the house, and she smiled in a kind, neutral way that all nuns seemed to use when faced with someone they'd never met.

"Can I help you?" she enquired calmly.

"I'd like to see the Bishop, please," was the gentle reply.

The look that was apt to appear on a secretary's face when someone happened to ask to see their boss without an appointment, came over the young woman's face at the request.

"I'm sorry," she said politely, "but the bishop is very busy today, maybe if ..."

"He'll see me," Philip insisted quietly.

The nun was obviously not quite sure what to do. Faced with such confidence she was a little perturbed.

"Well, I can ask," she decided finally, "who shall I say is waiting?"

"Philip Callahan," the young man said calmly.

He was left standing in the hall next to the open door as she disappeared into the big house. There was the sound of children playing from the open door to the back garden, and Philip surmised that the Bishop's house keeper's grand children were on their monthly visit to the old man, who was an adopted uncle. The young man had rotated on the spot and was watching the traffic through the front door when he heard a noise behind him.

"I don't know why you told Sister Marie-Ruth what you did," a voice started, "but ..."

The sentence stopped the moment Philip turned and looked back into the house. The look on his old friend's face was halfway between shock and total disbelief.

"Hello," the young man said calmly, "I need to talk to you."

There were a few seconds complete silence, and the young nun was looking at both of them very strangely.

"Philip," the Bishop said eventually, "this is incredible. Come to my study, we can talk there."

They left the Sister to her own conclusions.

The two men sat on either side of the desk and just contemplated each other for a moment. The elder clergyman was obviously having the same problem accepting Philip as every one else.

"What happened to you?" the Bishop finally spoke. "How did you escape from that fire, and why didn't you come back?"

They were exactly the questions Philip had been expecting, it wasn't exactly a surprise. The man in front of him knew that the Luna Foundation was not exactly the benign research association it appeared to be, but it was not going to be easy to make him believe the extreme possibilities.

"I was rescued," the younger of the two said calmly, "and I didn't return because I had no reason to. I'm not the same man you knew Charles, I've changed."

He was still wearing his sunglasses and it was obvious that this bothered his friend. With quiet efficiency he took hold of the frames and removed the covers that hid his soul. The Bishop frowned and went for the only rational explanation that came into his head.

"You've taken to wearing lenses?" he asked in a very surprised voice.

That made his companion laugh, that was one suggestion none of the Legacy members had even considered.

"No," he replied evenly, "my eyes have changed colour, but that's not really important. I'm leaving the priesthood, and for that I need your help."

Now the silence was stunned and slightly taken aback. This revelation on top of everything else was just a little much for the old man in the leather chair. He'd seen a man with a broken spirit, run back to his god and his vows, and it had never even crossed his mind that the two of them would ever be having this conversation. If there was one person he had thought was following the correct calling it was Philip Callahan, and yet looking into his eyes it was obvious that the decision was made.

"Leaving," the priest's tone was incredulous, "but, Philip, why? Maybe if you went on a retreat for a while, thought about it in calmer surroundings, you'd change your mind. You're a good priest, child, the church cannot afford to loose people like you."

A small smile played across the young man's face, he had never seen himself as a particularly good priest. It seemed ironic that others thought he was.

"Nothing will make me reconsider my decision," he said calmly. "I think if I explain you will understand, you may think I'm insane, but you will understand."

Philip hadn't just come to this man to help him formally leave the church, he had come because he needed to talk to someone. He wanted to make someone else realise what he was, someone who would not look at it with prior knowledge, but just take it at face value. He also knew that this man would never tell another living soul. The young psychic began with the girl and the fire, and started to talk. He talked for two hours until it seemed he must be out of words, and then he talked some more. His friend never questioned, never interrupted, and did not judge. He just sat there, listening, and seeing a side of Philip he had never before met.

By the time the young Irishman had finished, the Bishop knew all about the Legacy, the crystal, and Jasmine. How much he believed was not certain, but that Philip believed it, and that he would no longer be happy as a man of the cloth was quite obvious.

"I'll be very sorry to see you go," Charles said after his companion finally stopped talking, "but I'll make sure the papers are ready by the end of the month."

They sat in silence again for a while, but this was a quiet of understanding rather than shock. Lunch had come and gone, but they had not been disturbed, and only now, the sound of children playing intruded into the room.

"Would you like to stay for tea, my friend?" the older man asked with a smile. "I seem to recall that Mrs Rosa's granddaughter was rather fond of you."

"Ah, thank you," Philip returned quietly, "but I'm not quite sure I'm ready to meet Mrs Rosa. I can imagine her reaction to my resurrection."

A bark of a laugh left the Bishop's throat, he had to agree. He sobered quickly, however, and caught his companion with a serious gaze.

"I understand," he said slowly, "but if you ever need me, Philip, I'm here for you."

A grateful smile appeared on the young man's face, but he didn't quite know what to say. He was saved from the awkward silence, however, but a yelp of fear, shortly followed by a scream of pain.

"Grandma," the shout of a frightened child reached the ears of both men in the study and they headed for the French windows immediately.

Emile, Mrs Rosa's granddaughter was running from the trees at the bottom of the garden, towards the back door, and the crumpled form of Michael, her grandson could be seen in the shade of the large apple bows. He was moving, but he was obviously hurt, and there was a piteous crying coming from his direction. It didn't take a genius to figure out he'd fallen out of the tree.

There was no hesitation in Philip's stride as he ran from the house at the same moment Sister Marie-Ruth appeared at the rear door. The young man had to negotiate a bed of roses so the two reached the child together.

"It's okay, Michael," the nun said with an admiral amount of calm, "we're here."

The boy was cradling his arm and there was blood seeping through his fingers. As the young woman gently removed his hand so she could see what was wrong, the reason for the red liquid became obvious. The bone of the forearm had snapped violently and it was protruding through the skin.

"Holy Mother," Marie-Ruth whispered as she saw the injury. "Go and tell them to call an ambulance."

She instructed Philip without expecting him to object, when he knelt down beside her she was a little put out. The boy's crying had turned to a low whimper at the presence of his elders, but he couldn't help flinching when the young man reached towards him.

"Don't worry, Michael," the ex-priest said with a reassuring smile, "I'm not going to hurt you. You remember me don't you?"

The child nodded slowly.

"That's good," Philip continued in his gentle lilt, "now will you let me see your arm."

The moment the nun had let go, the other hand had curled back round the injury protectively, but now it moved away again. The moment Philip's finger's touched the limb he knew the boy's agony and he could do nothing but what followed. He snared the youngster's gaze with his own and exerted his will.

"There's no pain, Michael," he said calmly, ignoring everything else, "it doesn't hurt any more."

Sister Marie-Ruth would have protested at the peculiar goings on, but she was stunned into silence as the boy's whimpers died away almost instantly. He was staring fixedly at the young man beside her, and the creases of pain rapidly left his face. Philip had hold of Michael's wrist and elbow, but the touch was only light and there was no way it could explain what the nun saw next. She watched as the bone actually slipped slowly back into place and the wound closed behind it. There was the sound of creaking sinews and the flesh actually knitted together in a healing scab.

The boy may have been spared the pain, but it flowed into Philip like a river. It was a tide he had no intention of stemming, but he couldn't ignore it completely, and the best he could do was force it to the back of his mind. He felt the bone in his arm shift and the flesh tear before his abilities began to heal it. The blood trickled down his wrist onto a hand that had become almost useless, until the skin knitted with unnatural speed and the would healed even more rapidly than Michael's had.

By the time he actually let go of the child's arm his hand was working again, but the stickiness on his forearm was not even dry. He smiled at Michael warmly and slowly stood up to find that he had an audience. He rubbed his arm unconsciously as it ached slightly, and tried to ignore that he was the centre of attention. Charles, Mrs Rosa and Emile were all stood just beyond the shade of the tree, and the housekeeper was looking at him in awe. There was a shocked belief in the Bishop's eyes, but as Mrs Rosa crossed herself, Philip decided it was time to leave.

"I'm going home," the young man said quietly, "please don't tell anyone about this."

He walked back to the house, leaving Charles to deal with his household. Philip knew that the older man would not let this get out of hand, and his presence would not help matters.

End of Part 8
Part 9

Nobody wanted to seem as if they were prying so they didn't ask questions when Philip returned. When it became obvious that several members of the household were dying of curiosity, however, and the young man had recovered from the strain he explained everything. Things seemed to slip into a routine then. Derek still seemed to be avoiding Philip except the next day to give him some translating to do, but then the precept appeared to be avoiding everybody except Rachel.

Rachel and Kat returned home on the Monday and life continued. There were many long distance phone calls as Philip called his family and tried to explain. Everyone went back to tasks that had been waiting ever since the case that had nearly killed Nick had begun, and the house got on with existence. They had no pressing engagements and it actually seemed to be peaceful ... for a while.

Tuesday night, Nick woke sharply from a dream that vanished the moment he opened his eyes. It left him with his heart racing, and a cold sweat all over his body. He reached for the light switch automatically, and as the soft illumination filled the room he began to feel a little foolish. The main emotion he had felt was fear, but as with most mortal men, his anxiety vanished with the magic of electricity. It didn't, however, change the fact that he was now wide awake and his body quite plainly told him it was not ready to go back to sleep just yet.

The ex-SEAL looked around his room aimlessly, to see if there was anything that might occupy his mind for the twenty minutes or so it would take to convince his flesh that sleep was the best idea. He remembered with a scowl that he'd left the book Alex had lent him to read, in the library. With a resigned sigh he pushed the bedclothes back to reveal his lightly glistening torso. Looking down he decided that a shower might not be a bad idea either.

Padding down the hall ten minutes later, clean but no more ready to sleep than before, he noted that Philip's door was open. He peered in casually on his way past and saw that the bedside light on, and the bedclothes appeared to be in quite a state. There was, however, no sign of his friend. When he reached the library, the location of the young man became obvious as Nick found the ex-priest pouring over a book on one of the upper tables. The researcher was so engrossed in what he was doing that he didn't even register that someone was standing behind him for a good minute or so.

"What's up?" the ex-SEAL finally asked and Philip jumped out of his skin.

"Did you have to do that?" the other man said when his heart finally left his throat.

Nick was grinning when he turned to look at him.

"Sorry," he said without the slightest sound of remorse in his voice. "What ya doing?"

"Looking for a symbol," his companion replied evenly, "I know I've seen it before, but I can't remember where from."

He held the drawing of a peculiar sigil that he'd created in marker pen on a note pad. It meant nothing to the ex-SEAL, but for some reason he shivered. Nick put it down to his wet hair.

"Are you sure it's in the books?" the short haired man enquired calmly. "Could it be in the computer records?"

"Could what be in the computer records?" they were interrupted by Alex's voice.

The two men looked over the balcony to see their female friend standing there about as suitably dressed as they were. Philip held up his rendition of the design and showed it to her. The look on the woman's face said that she recognised it.

"You saw it in a vision, didn't you?" she said slowly, and then headed for the spiral stairs.

"Yes," the ex-priest replied rapidly, "why, did you as well?"

"You bet I did," was Alex's reply, "damn near had a heart attack as well."

The memory of the way his heart had been pounding flashed into Nick's head, but he kept his mouth shut.

"What else did you see?" Philip's question caught everyone's attention.

The other psychic looked uncomfortable, but it didn't stop her revealing what she had seen.

"This house in flames," she said with a slight tremor in her voice.

The vision had really shaken her and Philip patted her hand gently.

"Did you see that as well?" she asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.

"No," the reply was such a relief, Alex couldn't bare the thought of what she had seen being the whole truth. "I saw an altar split in two. This symbol was on the cloth that covered it and was ripping down the middle. I can't be sure, but I think the altar was in this house."

Visions could be misleading things and there was no certainty that they would come to pass, but these did not bode well at all. There were two piles of books on the table, ones that Philip had looked through, and ones he had not, his companions picked up some of the unopened volumes. When they'd exhausted the books they went to the computer room, but still they didn't find the symbol. They were all so busy that they never noticed Derek watching them from the dark hall. They went to bed at about four in the morning, without finding what they were looking for. Falling asleep on a keyboard did nobody any good, and they agreed to start again in the morning.

At breakfast Philip explained everything to Jasmine, who seemed very surprised not to have noticed anything. She was most eager to help and they'd just decided that she and Alex would have another go at the computers, whilst Philip and Nick went back to the library. That's when the foursome's plans went south. For a change, Derek actually joined them for the morning meal, and he brought a new case with him.

"I've just had a call from a friend at the university," he said calmly as he sat down. "It seems that they are having some kind of disturbances, and the security guards have found what appears to be the remains of a black mass. I told Professor Flint that I send someone over to take a look."

He glanced at Philip and Nick and smiled.

"Philip," he said calmly, "I want you to investigate the circle they've found, see if you can figure out what was going on. Nick you find out exactly what these disturbances are, and if you can find a rational explanation. The Professor is expecting you at about ten."

There was no arguing with that, their precept seemed very sure about what was going to happen. That was not, however, going to stop the group from telling him what they had found. Philip opened the pad he had been showing to Jasmine earlier, and handed it to Derek.

"Mean anything to you?" he enquired bluntly.

The older man glanced at the paper, and almost offhandedly gave it back.

"No," was the calm reply, "what is it's significance?"

"Philip and I saw it in visions," Alex said eagerly. "We also saw destruction of some kind. I witnessed this house burning to the ground."

"I saw an altar being torn in two," the ex-priest finished for her, "an altar that was in this house."

Derek looked at them both with his even, penetrating gaze. For a few moments he said nothing, as if weighing his options in his mind.

"We can't find this symbol anywhere in the library, and the computers haven't given us a match," were Philip's next words. "We believe that if we find it, we'll at least have a clue as to what our visions were about."

There was definitely something going on in Derek's head, as a few more minutes silence past, but eventually he spoke.

"Interesting," he commented slowly, "Alex can continue to research this whilst you and Nick are at the University."

And that was it. The way he looked towards his food, and changed the subject, the others realised, that for whatever reasons, the matter was closed. Sometimes it was very hard to fathom their precept's mind.

As it turned out, when the two Legacy members reached the University campus, Philip had quite a walk on his hands. The faculty owned a small piece of park land quite a way from the main buildings, and on enquiring with a security guard they discovered that this property contained the alleged site of the black mass.

"See you later," Nick said with a very unhelpful smile, and watched his friend head off in the right direction.

It was a beautiful day, and it was going to be a long, hot walk. The ex-priest was very glad he had selected a T-shirt this morning.

As Philip wandered around the side of a building, Nick decided it was time to go and find Professor Flint, and he began to walk towards one of the main offices. It was definitely one of the older buildings, and could seem a bit like a rabbit warren to a stranger, but the ex- SEAL had been here before. The Legacy had an extensive lab, but just occasionally they needed specialists and equipment, and the university had it. He'd never met this particular Professor before: lab technicians were the people he usually spoke to, but Nick had never been the shy type.

It didn't take him long to find the office number written on the small piece of paper in his hand, and he knocked firmly.

"Come in," what surprised Nick about the voice was the fact that it was female and sounded young.

The Legacy operative knew for a fact that Professor Flint was a Samuel, and he was well over sixty. Never the less, on the answer, the young man followed the instructions.

"Good morning," there was a young woman behind the desk with the morning sun streaming through her red hair, "can I help you?"

Nick tried not to stare, but he couldn't really help it: he had a thing for beautiful red heads. Covering his momentary slip he smiled the most killer smile he could muster.

"Ah, hi," he said evenly, "I was looking for Professor Flint, is he around?"

"I'm afraid that the Professor was called away a short time ago," the young woman said efficiently, "maybe I could help. If you give me your name, and tell me why you're here, I might be able to solve your problem."

Now this amused Nick somewhat.

"I think it might be you, who has the problem," he said cheerfully. "I'm from the Luna Foundation, we were asked to come and observe some disturbances that we were told are going on."

The young woman's whole demeanour changed at his words, and she went from distantly polite, to recognition.

"Oh," she said brightly, "yes, the Professor said you were coming. Somehow I was expecting someone ... someone."

"More studious?" Nick offered helpfully, well he didn't exactly look the part of philanthropic researcher.

She smiled.

"Ah, yes," she agreed, coming round the side of the desk. "I'm Holland, Professor Flint's grad assistant. He asked me to show you around. He was summoned by those on high, who want to know why our research section is closed to everybody today."

She stuck out her hand in greeting, and Nick shook it in a very gentlemanly fashion. Looking into Holland's deep green eyes he had the strangest feeling that she wasn't quite looking at his face. It was almost like the feeling he sometimes had when trying to stare Derek down, but he shook himself and told his mind that he'd been hanging around psychics too long.

"Nick Boyle," he offered as he ignored the thoughts.

"He's this way?" the young woman said, and swept towards the door.

It took a few seconds for the ex-SEAL's brain to click in, but the moment it did he followed her closely.

"I thought you said the Professor wasn't here?" he said in idle conversation as they walked.

"He's not," Holland returned, looking a little puzzled.

"Then who's `he'?" Nick enquired calmly.

She grinned at that question and led him round a corner.

"The entity," she told him calmly, "our disturbances. He seems to have taken a liking to one of the study rooms, and he's throwing books around."

Now this was not what Nick had expected at all. Nobody had said anything about an `entity'. The young man had been expecting maybe a few moved coffee mugs, the odd dizzy computer, but an actual thing was a bit of a shock.

"You have some sort of creature in this building?" he asked sceptically.

"Yes," what was really strange was the fact that Holland didn't seem phased by this at all, in fact she seemed to be enjoying herself. "He seems to be looking for something and he gets annoyed when he doesn't find it. He threw a security guard across the room when he tried to get in his way, but as long as no one goes near him he seems quite happy with the books."

The main question on Nick's mind, was why no one had told him this. It seemed to be quite a vital piece of information and it wasn't the sort of thing someone would just forget to mention. He was beginning to think that either Philip would have been better qualified to carry out this end of the investigation, or someone was having a joke on the Luna Foundation.

It took about two seconds for the ex-SEAL to decide that this was no hoax, after they walked up a small flight of stair into a big, open study area. It was approximately six feet tall, and when he first saw it, the entity resembled a pillar of light with shooting beams of radiance where limbs would have been. As Nick watched it resolved into an almost stylised figure of a man, with black lines for features and definition. It was like looking at a thirties abstract of a person, and it faded back into the mass of light before reforming once more.

"Isn't he incredible," Holland whispered as the pair just stood there.

On the wall to one side there was a white board, and on it was one word, in very large letters. It said "Guardian", in the most peculiar handwriting.

"What's that?" Nick enquired in a hushed voice.

"I asked him who he was," the redhead replied calmly, "just before he threw the guard across the room. He wrote that on the board. Well technically the pen wrote it all by itself, but I think we can assume that he had something to do with it."

Her companion was not about to dispute that, and they slowly began to edge around the side of the room to get a better view. The entity seemed to either be unaware that they were there, or didn't care. Guardian was ignoring them. It was just standing there, in the centre of the room, the only movement the fading in and out of focus.

Quite suddenly the most unpleasant sensation ran down Nick's spine and the entity moved. It turned and the ex-SEAL found himself fixed by two black slits that passed as eyes. He was pinned by that gaze, riveted to the spot, totally unable to move. His heart beat seemed to grow very load in his ears, and those dark gashes wanted to swallow him. He heard Holland gasp, but it was like a distant sound, not at all close to him. Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed what had made the young woman gasp. The board pen was on the move again, and he felt himself being forced to turn and look.

It seemed as if it was taking hours, as the pen slowly traced out the letters. First there was a `Y', and then an `o' as a word began to form. It could only have been seconds, but the entity's influence appeared to distort time, and Nick was beginning to think he shouldn't be here. The pen fell away and left the phrase "You Know", behind it. The ex-SEAL found his eyes dragged back to Guardian, and he suddenly knew what a fly felt like in a web, with the spider bearing down.

"Nick, what's going on?" Holland's voice seemed so far away.

He couldn't speak, he was totally paralysed by those slits. The young man felt very small and very helpless, but he had never been a quitter. With his fear came adrenaline, and it flooded his system, giving him something to fight with. As he tried to break free he managed to move about a foot before Guardian became very annoyed. A wind started up from no where, and Nick heard Holland yelp as a book flew off a shelf and landed next to her.

"We should be going," she said urgently, but her companion could no more oblige her than he could get out of the way of the entity as it began to move.

With the speed of a pouncing eagle it lanced straight towards him, and the strangest thing happened, it disappeared. Dozens of books fell off the shelves at exactly the same time, and then everything seemed to have stopped. There was no wind, no glowing pillar of light, and Guardian appeared to be gone.

"Wow," Holland said with a sigh of relief, "that was hairy."

Strangely, Nick didn't move or reply, but the young woman assumed he was trying as hard as she was to work out what had just happened.

"Well it seems to be over for now," she continued slowly, "maybe we should go and tell the Professor."

Still no answer from her companion, so she wandered closer.

"Are you okay?" Holland enquired slightly anxiously, and put her hand on his shoulder.

When he finally turned, the young woman was in for a very great shock. She looked into two pools of complete blackness as she gazed into his eyes.

"He has seen it," as Nick's mouth opened, bright light shone forth. "You must help me find it, daughter."

The young woman had no idea what to do.

End of Part 9
Part 10

The first thing Philip felt as he walked towards the area the police had cordoned off, was a deep sense of peace. It didn't take him more than a few moments to decide that whatever had happened here, it hadn't seen it very often. Only as he walked towards the yellow tape did he begin to feel that all was not well. It was strange though, the overriding emotion that jumped unbidden into his head was anger, tinged with just a touch of fear.

The young man stopped outside the police line for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts and stop the torrent of feelings that were coming at him from every direction. It was quite incredible: there was so much energy in the area, and it was definitely disturbed. Banishing the more severe emotions to the back of his mind, he stepped quickly under the plastic barrier and into what appeared to be some sort of worship place.

It was clear why the police had taped off the area: there was blood over a large part of the ground, and that sort of thing tended to make the law jumpy. The lack of any officers spoke of the fact that the city's police department had soon discovered that the liquid was of animal origin. Philip stepped round the mess gingerly and went towards something that caught his eye. On one of the large trees that surrounded the clearing there was a symbol burned into the bark, and it was immediately of interest to the researcher.

Kneeling down the ex-priest put his hand out towards the design. It was round in basic form, but there were the most complex patterns within the outer circle. Philip realised that he had been wrong in thinking that it was burned into the bark, it was better described as being a natural marking of the wood. It was much darker than the overall colour, but there was no damage to the tree. As his fingers brushed the surface of the plant a jolt ran up his arm, and he jerked back in surprise. It was like touching a live circuit, and his hand still tingled even after the contact was broken. There was distinct power here and it was severely out of phase.

Caution being the better part of valour, the Legacy member decided that touching it again was a bad idea and stood up instead. With a calm eye he took in the rest of the clearing. He noted the small flat stone at the exact centre of the area and the objects on it. The fact that all the blood had come from one direction was obvious, and that it had touched just about everything in the circle was clear. Now that he knew what he was looking for, he could see that each tree had a slightly different symbols on them as they stood on their respective point of the compass. Philip traced the trails of dull brown back to their source of origin and stored the fact that whoever had thrown the blood had been standing next to the southern most oak.

With an even, determined stride, the young man walked towards this tree, and without even thinking, grabbed straight for the handle of a hatchet which had been plunged into the centre of it's symbol. The same feeling of power ran into his hand, running up his entire arm this time, but it didn't stop him from pulling the axe free. The change in the atmosphere of the clearing was totally amazing and instantaneous. Suddenly there was the most incredible feeling of relief, and Philip couldn't help shake the instinct that he was not alone. It was if there were eyes boring into the middle of his back, and very slowly he had to turn around.

It was about five and a half feet tall and it glowed blue. The figure was well defined in the shape of a human woman, but the being had no face. Where the features should have been was blank space, except for the eyes that were wide, white pools. She had her head turned on one side, and was looking directly at Philip. This figure was alien, but inescapably beautiful with it's radiance and the young researcher did not try to move as she glided towards him. One hand reached out slowly and wound it's long fingers around the rest of the hatchet handle. Energy radiated from the hand as it almost touched Philip's, but the feeling faded as he released the tool into his companion's keeping. The entity looked at the device she now held, as if confounded by it, and then, quite suddenly the hatchet just disintegrated. One second it was whole and the next it fell to the ground in tiny pieces.

Philip's heart was racing madly and his instincts cried out in fear, but at a very fundamental level he knew that this creature was not his enemy. His mind screamed for him to flinch away as she reached out a second time, but he held his ground and the blue fingers brushed his hand. He could feel the power in that limb, but he also recognised that it was a very finely controlled energy. He was in no danger, at that moment he was totally sure. She took his fingers and placed them on the tree, never once breaking the eye contact they had made even as the sunglasses Philip was wearing seemed to make no difference. Then she drew back and her overwhelming presence dimmed from his mind. He was confused at first and then he felt it, under his hand there was pain.

He couldn't help himself, and almost immediately he turned to look at the plant from which the agony originated. This was no ordinary tree, this part of God's creation was alive, it was aware. The young man's eyes were drawn to the large gash that the hatchet had left and he knew from whence the pain originated. He was no more able to control his reaction to this than he had been with Michael and he knelt down beside the injured creature. There was no flow of energy as his hand covered the split symbol and all he felt was the disruption and terrible hurt this was causing.

Now this living thing could not be more dissimilar to human kind, but it didn't make any difference, Philip had to help it. His heart reached out before his mind was anywhere near decided on what to do, and his senses moved into the tangled lines of force that surrounded the wound. Like an engineer understanding the complicated wires of a circuit he began to reconnect the flows of energy with all the care of a father cleaning a graze on the knee of his child. With each connection the pain seemed to flow away, and as the last piece slipped into the puzzle he came back to himself with a start.

The power flowed up his arm again and filled him with an energy that he could not trace. It was difficult to remove his hand, but as he did he realised that the symbol was whole, and he was once again alone.

Holland was afraid as she stared into those deep black orbs. She had known fear before, but this was at a much more fundamental level and she would have run if she could. She had thought she knew what the entity was, but this show of it's abilities undid several of her basic assumptions.

"Help me, daughter," the creature spoke for a second time.

The young woman had no idea how long she had been standing there looking into it's eyes, but she had a distinct feeling that her soul had just been searched. For all she knew, she had been standing there for hours.

"Don't hurt him, please," she said in a very quiet voice.

It was the only thing that would come into her mind as she tried not to shake. The expression which looked back at her did not seem to quite understand what she meant. She was captivated by the gaze and she felt herself losing grip on reality again. Then, suddenly it was gone: the influence on her mind was released and she was looking at a peculiar version of Nick. The ex-SEAL had his head turned to one side as if listening to something, and he did not seem to be at all interested in her anymore.

Moving would bring the possibility of a renewal of interest, but she really felt she had to get out of it's way. Very slowly she began to edge backwards, towards the door. The entity in Nick's body remained totally motionless, and Holland was beginning to think she was getting away with this. Then there was a blue light coming from behind her, and she knew that something else had arrived. She spun on the spot, saw the female figure, built up the panic just enough to scream, and then all the emotion flowed out of her. In a moment she was calm, and even as the newcomer walked past her she smiled.

The female being reached out towards Nick and the black, empty eyes turned towards her. There was no sound, and they just stood there for a moment, frozen, but not even a normal human could have failed to notice that there was some form of communication going on. Holland found that she was in no hurry to do anything, but when there was a loud thump and a groan behind her she did turn round. The ex-SEAL was lying on the ground, and he was alone.

"Oh Jesus, my head hurts," were the first words out of his mouth. "What the hell was that thing," were the second.

"I'm not so sure," Holland said quietly and slowly walked over to help him up. "Did you see the other one, or were you ... out of it?"

Nick looked askance.

"Another one?" he said incredulously. "When? The last thing I remember is trying to stare down the first one. What the hell happened?"

"Guardian possessed you," his companion provided calmly, "and you kept asking me to help you find `it', whatever it may be. Then something distracted you, I mean the entity, before this female one turned up."

A smile appeared on Holland's face, even as she thought about the captivating creature.

"She was so beautiful, Nick," the young woman provided happily, "and just looking at her I knew she wouldn't hurt us. She went past me, and then I heard you fall over and then I turned around. I lost at least a quarter of an hour," she continued looking at her watch, "and you must have been gone for a little more."

This was turning into a really bizarre fortnight for Nick: first nearly dying, then being healed, then being possessed. He was beginning to wonder if it could get any better. Philip was probably going to think this was incredibly interesting. That thought stopped him as his mind settled on the his friend and jumped to nasty conclusions.

"Oh God," he said quickly, climbing to his feet as fast as his spinning head would allow, "My colleague's at the circle, what if that's where this thing went."

"There's two of you?" Holland said loudly. "It might be wise to go and find your friend."

They hurried out of the door, but the young woman seemed to be anxious for an entirely different reason than her companion.

What the found as they rushed through the short stretch of trees was a very much more serene scene then that which Nick had expected. Philip was standing in the centre of the circle with his eyes closed, as if he was listening for something. The moment Holland stepped on a dead twig his expression completely changed and he turned towards them. As soon as he realised that it was Nick he smiled and walked over.

"Holland, this is Philip Callahan," the ex-SEAL introduced as his friend came to a halt, "Philip, this is Holland, Professor Flint's assistant."

"Pleased to meet you," the second Legacy operative said automatically.

"Ah, hi," the young woman seemed to be staring at him in the most peculiar fashion.

Philip brushed this off, however, as he noticed the fact that his friend seemed to be very pale, and not exactly comfortable with his surroundings. The panic over, Nick was leaning against an available tree, rubbing his temples.

"Are you feeling all right?" the ex-priest enquired with his usual concerned manner.

"Nothing a head amputation wouldn't fix," his friend replied sarcastically.

"He was possessed," Holland supplied helpfully, which earned her a `why did you have to say that' look from Nick.

That wasn't exactly how the ex-SEAL would have put it, and he didn't exactly want to have to explain everything here. Philip was obviously building up to ask why, so Nick put his oar in first.

"The `disturbances' turned out to be a lot more real than what we usually get," he provided evenly, "there was actually an entity in one of the study rooms. Guardian seemed to take a dislike to me. What did you get from the circle?"

The young man really did look uncomfortable, so his companion decided to answer the question before asking more of his own.

"Well it wasn't a black mass," he said calmly, looking from Nick to Holland and back again, "I'd say it was a fertility ceremony, probably for those saplings we all passed on the way up. Someone decided to desecrate it, and that's what all the blood was about. There was also a hatchet buried in one of the trees, right across its name sigil."

"So, did you see anything interesting?" Nick was obviously trying to push attention away from the incident in which he had been involved.

"Only if you call a naked woman who glows blue, and doesn't have a face, interesting," Philip replied amenably.

At this information, Holland pricked up her ears.

"You saw her too?" the young woman enquired, quite excited by the fact.

The ex-priest nodded and pointed to the spot in front of the south most tree.

"She appeared when I took the hatchet out if the tree," he explained calmly, "and disappeared soon after."

The young man saw something like understanding cross Holland's face, but she covered it quickly. If Nick hadn't been suffering quite so much he'd have realised that there was more to this young lady than met the eye, but he was more concerned with the throbbing of his head. As Holland wandered into the circle towards the correct oak, Philip reached out to his friend and wiped away his headache. The ex- SEAL looked more than a little surprised, but he was not about to complain.

"There's something strange about your friend," the ex-priest whispered calmly, "she knows more than she's saying."

"Are you sure?" Nick enquired in a voice just as low as his companion's.

He had so far seen nothing to indicate that Holland was any more than the student she professed to be. The fact that he thought she was the most gorgeous creature he'd seen in quite a while didn't help his judgement. This fact had not escaped Philip, since even when his head felt like a hammer drill, Nick had managed to size up Holland's legs quite sufficiently. The young man smiled at his companion's reaction.

"I don't think it's sinister," Philip said as he grinned, "but keep in mind that this area must have a coven of witches to maintain this circle. You might have been talking to one of them."

"So you think that she knows what happened here last night?" there were times when it would be foolish to ignore a colleague's judgement, and Nick realised, now was one of them.

As if to confirm their suspicions there was a surprised little sound from Holland's direction.

"What happened to the tree?" she asked before her thoughts caught up with her instincts.

She stood from where she had crouched down and turned to both men.

"How was the tree healed?" she almost demanded, her need to know out weighing the charade she had been maintaining.

Neither Legacy member felt like playing the game and she glared at them both. The way she looked at them told the pair that she was not quite what she seemed, and for the second time that day, Nick had the feeling she was not actually viewing their faces.

"It was you," she said suddenly, her green eyes trying to see behind Philip's dark glasses. "You healed it."

"And how do you know I did anything?" the young man returned calmly.

Now she looked unsure, she obviously did not fully trust these two men. That was easy to understand, especially if she had been at the ceremony the previous night.

"You're one of the group who conduct ceremonies here, aren't you," Philip continued. "You already know what happened here last night, don't you."

"I asked first," was her only reply.

That caused the two men to look at each other, and Nick smiled, she had a point. He gave Philip, an it's up to you expression.

"Okay," he said eventually, "I healed the tree when the spirit asked me to."

"How?" Holland couldn't contain herself.

"Ah, ah," the ex-priest responded with his gentle Irish lilt, "your turn. How could you be sure I did it?"

The woman's eyes narrowed, but she wanted information as much as the Legacy operatives, so what could she do.

"It's in your aura," she told him slowly, "I saw that is was strange the moment I met you, but I didn't realise why until just now."

Philip looked suitably impressed, and saw her waiting for the next piece of information.

"I'm not sure how I healed it," he explained with a shrug, "I just did what felt right."

"He's like that," Nick added helpfully, "vague."

The other two gave him a sideways look.

"What happened here last night?" Philip dragged the subject back to the point of the conversation.

Holland looked very awkward at the enquiry, she was obviously not comfortable with the turn of the conversation. They knew that she was part of this place, but she was unwilling to reveal any more.

"I can't tell you," she said slowly, a slight trace of regret in her voice. She obviously wanted to know more about her two companions, but she was stuck for any more information to give them in return. "I don't suppose you'd care to explain why the Luna Foundation has healers on their staff. Not exactly what I'd been lead to expect by the Professor."

The expression on their faces said that her assumptions were right.

"Suffice to say that you're right about what was going on here as far as you know," the young woman continued evenly. "What went on afterwards is not mine to tell you. I don't know why the Professor decided to involve an outside organisation, but the truth of the matter is that it doesn't really concern you. I thought I knew what was happening here, but I'm not so sure anymore. It would probably be safer for everyone concerned if you just went home."

With that she breezed out of the circle in a different direction to that from which she had entered, and left the Legacy team alone.

"Let's go tell the Lord and Master what we've found," Nick suggested as they watched her go.

"Good idea," was all Philip replied.

End of Part 10