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The conversation in the car
was not what could exactly be called animated. The pair of operatives
discussed exactly what had happened, but neither seemed particularly
interested in the discourse and it was limited to facts. Out
of the two it was Philip who seemed most distracted: something
was bothering him and yet he chose not to mention it to Nick.
The ex-SEAL had seen that particular look in his friend's face
before and he did not try and drag the information out of him.
Even Jas could only raise a half smile from the young man as
she descended on the pair when they came through the door.
"Have fun?" she enquired
brightly and slipped her hand through Philip's arm.
"Oh, you could say that,"
it was Nick who replied, "if you call possession fun ...
should be in all the to-do books."
The young-looking woman wasn't
quite sure she'd heard right, and neither was Alex who had also
emerged into the hallway.
"You did say possession,
didn't you?" she said slowly. "Who? By what?"
The researcher's brain never
did seem to work in ones, her questions always came out in groups
of two or more. Nick's face took on the awkward look again,
but he wasn't quite so embarrassed about it anymore. Philip
had pointed out to him several times, that it could have been
any of them.
"Me," the ex-SEAL
returned with frown, "and by an entity that no one chose
to tell us about before we got there. He was a little hard to
miss, over six feet tall ... glowed quite a bit."
It wasn't just Alex that looked
[[What happened, are you both
okay?]] Jasmine's urgent thought went straight to Philip.
[[We're fine,]] the ex-priest
sent back, managing to pull his mind away from his contemplation
to reassure her, [[we'll explain everything later.]]
"And have you had an entertaining
morning?" Nick was speaking to Alex, unaware that there
was another conversation going on in the room.
"There's nothing anywhere
about our symbol," the dark haired researcher responded
evenly, "but Rachel came in late today ... seems Kat had
a nightmare last night and she didn't get her off to school
Nick looked intrigued, but
for some reason, Philip just appeared annoyed.
he asked pointedly.
"In his study," Alex
provided, noticing his mood, "but someone's with him. He
had a visitor soon after you two left. What's bothering you
The exasperated expression
that was on the young man's face was more normally seen on Nick's,
and the fact that the calm, healer was not happy spoke volumes.
"Everyone connected to
this house who has the Sight, sees a vision," the annoyed
individual replied, "and something even gets through to
Nick," the ex-SEAL looked surprised that Philip had come
to that conclusion, but didn't argue, "and we're supposed
to believe that our Precept didn't share it. Somehow it doesn't
quite add up."
When someone actually came
out and said it, it was a little hard not to agree. The look
in Alex's eyes said that it had also occurred to her, and Nick
had taken to assuming that Derek wasn't quite telling all, most
of the time. What neither of them had done, was take the next
step in this case, which Philip chose not to voice. The young
healer was almost positive that he was the reason the Precept
was not talking this time. He was beginning to think that maybe
Derek's reluctance to talk to him alone, for any great amount
of time was very much to do with what they had all seen in their
vision. He also couldn't shake the feeling that the problems
at the University weren't entirely unconnected.
"Okay," Nick chose
to speak as the four fell into a silence, "say you're right,
what do we do about it?"
"I'm going to talk to
him," Philip said quite firmly, "and if that doesn't
work I'll call in the cavalry."
This attitude was quite unlike
the outlook everyone had come to expect from the young man,
but there was something about his demeanour that said `don't
argue'. Even Nick understood this one, and no one tried to stop
him as the ex-priest walked across the hall. It was only as
he disappeared through a doorway that Alex suddenly remember
that Derek was not alone.
"The visitor," she
said quickly and went to follow her friend.
"He knows," Jas put
her hand on Alex's arm and gave a rueful smile. "I think
the Precept maybe about to hear a piece of Philip's mind, and
there's nothing that's going to stop him."
"Where's the nuclear bunker?"
Nick asked as they all looked at the empty space where their
comrade had been.
All three looked at each other:
so this was what happened when Philip got to the end of his
Since Derek had a visitor,
the doors weren't on automatic, but Philip made damn sure his
Precept knew he was there. It was difficult to ignore someone
hovering behind only semi-opaque glass. Eventually the head
of the house had to admit his younger colleague, and the look
on the ex-priest's face said everything that needed to be said.
Yet with infuriating calm Derek did not allow the intrusion
to phase him, he even smiled as his guest turned to see who
had just entered.
"Philip," he greeted
evenly, "is it something that can't wait?"
"You could say that,"
the other replied tersely.
Quite to the young man's surprise
the Precept did not try and brush him off at all, in fact he
introduced him to the woman in the chair. She was in her mid
fifties if the slight grey in her hair was anything to go by,
and the lines on her face that spoke of very animated features.
"This is Rhyanna,"
Derek introduced calmly, "Rhyanna, this is Philip Callahan,
one of my people. Rhyanna's from the university."
That caught the ex-priest off
guard, that was one thing he hadn't expected. The plot was thickening
rapidly, and as he looked at the middle aged woman he noticed
a familiar look on her face. Philip hadn't bothered to take
his shades off yet, they reacted to the light levels so seeing
wasn't a problem, and he'd noticed that several people outside
the Legacy had seemed uncomfortable under his gaze. Now, however,
he did not hesitate to reach up and pull them off. Somehow it
seemed the only respectful thing to do, and now that he really
looked at her, he was profoundly aware that she deserved it.
He would never be able to explain why, but all his annoyance
trickled away, and he knew without a doubt that she'd had exactly
the same effect on Derek. There was something all too familiar
about the sensation.
"You're from the coven,"
the young man said with complete certainty.
Rhyanna smiled at that.
"And it is you I have
to thank for restoring the circle," she responded calmly.
"I did not think that our first problem would be overcome
so easily. Holland's report was somewhat mixed on the phone,
but then she does not know about the Legacy."
Well it wasn't as if all the
cards weren't being placed quite clearly on the table now.
"I must say that I was
surprised to hear of what the Guardian did," was her last
"Nature out of balance
does strange things," Philip just reacted to her words.
"But that's not the real problem, is it? You need to know
who tried to desecrate the ritual in the first place."
"That's why Rhyanna and
her husband Samuel Flint came to us," Derek was in an open
mood, "they cannot locate the perpetrator. Whoever's doing
this is covered by Black magic, and they need our help to find
them. I didn't tell you what to expect at the University because
I wanted an unbiased opinion from you and Nick. I didn't want
any assumptions based on what you had been told."
It was then that the man-in-question's
head appeared around the door - they hadn't been able to resist,
the others in the Legacy team had followed. They'd even gained
Rachel on the way.
"Come in," Derek
said calmly, "it's time I explained a few things."
Alex was doing a great impression
of looking innocent; Jas slipped in next to Philip; Nick perched
next to the sideboard; and Rachel wandered beside the desk.
They were glad that they were finally going to get some answers,
but they were a little guilty about seeming to have forced it.
Their precept introduced them all, and they all said hello to
the strange woman who just smiled back. There was an air about
her that said problems rolled off her like water from a duck's
back, and even through the seriousness of the situation she
could offer placid thought.
"I suppose I should explain
myself first," Rhyanna said gently as the pleasantries
Derek indicated that he was
quite happy with this so she continued.
"I was once a member of
the Legacy," she told them with a wistful smile, "when
I was little more than a girl. My family had connections in
Canada, and I joined after my father died in an accident. I
came to San Francisco shortly after that and became part of
this house. Then I met Samuel Flint on an expedition in Europe,
we found this." She tapped a small box which sat on Derek's
It was the Precept's turn to
take up the story.
"Sam brought it back to
the University," the tall man explained evenly, "much
to this house's displeasure. The coven at that sight had been
there for many years, and you could say that the Legacy and
the witches tolerated each other, co-operating when they had
Rhyanna grinned at that, there
was obviously a tale to tell there.
"My husband was not exactly
a staunch supporter of what you do," she said cheerfully,
"until he came across something he could not handle."
"With the box came a Guardian
spirit," Derek continued calmly, "a somewhat angry
Guardian spirit. When the coven tried to make contact with it,
the entity reacted rather violently."
"Except to me," Rhyanna
added lightly. "It did not seem to think I was a threat.
The coven had to except the help of the Legacy. When I went
to liaise with them it never crossed my mind that I would not
be coming back. The Guardian has two aspects, one we can equate
to male, the other to female, it was the calmer female side
which would speak to me. We do not know what is in this box,
but the Guardian does not want it removed. It needed a place
to be safe and we took it to the circle."
She smiled at her next thought,
and Nick could have sworn that her cheeks coloured slightly.
"There was a bonding ritual,"
she continued gently, "you could say that was where I truly
got to know my husband. The Guardian took to the trees, combined
with the power that was already there, and the box was placed
in a safe place on campus. There was really no question of my
returning, I was part of the coven after that, and our charge
became the talisman, whatever it may be. The desecration somehow
split the Guardian into it's two elements and it must have been
looking for the box. We really didn't expect it to do anything
except throw a few things around, it has never tried to hurt
The colourful woman looked
at the object on the table, contemplatively. It was only then
that a frown clouded her features for a split second.
"Someone tried to steal
this after the desecration," she said slowly, "someone
we cannot identify. I had moved it from it's normal resting
place last night for a reason I could not fathom until the ritual
was disturbed. I have brought it here so that is may be kept
There was silence as she finished.
The information had answered a great many questions and they
let it sink in. If there was one thing that could be said of
life in a Legacy house, it was that is was never boring. The
revelations had cancelled thoughts of the various visions that
had been experienced by the members from most minds, all except
Philip's, and as he looked at Derek, he realised his precept's
as well. The way the older man's eyes flicked onto the box and
away again said that he was not happy about it, but he was also
not about to send it back where it might be stolen.
The party moved into discussions
of the case in hand and the two men remained silent about their
When Rhyanna finally left,
only Philip followed Derek back to his office. The others left
them to it.
"Something wicked this
way comes," the ex-priest said quietly as the door closed
and they both looked at the box.
The precept did not reply,
he just sat down.
"You thought I was that
something, didn't you," Philip continued, all his previous
anger gone. "What changed your mind."
It was obvious that the alteration
had taken place, Derek had been reacting to him in an entirely
different way since he'd returned.
"The circle," the
older man replied calmly. "Healing Nick, the things you
have done since you returned, all that could have been a cover
for something darker, but not at that circle."
"It was a test then,"
his companion said slowly, taking the chair Rhyanna had used,
"and I passed."
He sounded almost relieved,
as if a large burden had been removed from his shoulders. He
looked into his friend's eyes and he realised he was about to
get an explanation.
"I knew the moment I saw
you that your actions would show your loyalty. It was not just
a phrase I chose to use, I knew it would be true," Derek
said evenly, "but I didn't know which direction you followed.
I've been feeling something growing for weeks, something very
bad, and when you stepped back into this house there was no
doubt you were connected. I wanted to believe that you were
true to us, but I had to be sure."
They just sat there in silence
after that and finally Philip half smiled.
he said and they both knew that there was a lot of the old person
in the new one.
of Part 11
The artefact was put in the
computer room so that Alex could take a look at it with modern
equipment, but since they'd promised not to interfere with it
there was little that could be done. They were only custodians
for now, and the box would not give up it's secrets unless it
so chose. The team spent the rest of the day trying to find
out all they could about the object and it's history. By the
evening they all knew everything there was to know, but no one
was any closer to finding a connection with the foreboding in
If anything the air around
the dining table that evening was lighter than usual. Kat had
been dropped off after school and she, Derek and Rachel were
laughing and talking as if they were the perfect family unit.
The mood was continued around the rest of the room where the
other four were involved in a lively debate about times long
past. It might have been the fact that Derek had finally relaxed
around Philip, or it might have been something else, but no
one chose to question it.
The next day, Philip drew the
researching straw whilst Alex and Nick went back to the university
to see if they could uncover who was behind the dark works.
This time both operatives headed for Professor Flint's office.
"Come in, come in,"
the older man invited warmly as soon as they put their heads
around the door, "you're a little earlier than I expected,
but you're most welcome. I asked the members of the coven who
were at the ceremony to meet us at the circle in about an hour.
I thought a reconstruction might be useful."
All the information was thrown
at them at once, but Alex just took it in stride. She had the
feeling that even though his wife had been one, Legacy people
made Samuel nervous.
"Thank you very much,
Professor," she said brightly, "it would probably
be a great help. Alex Moreau."
The two shook hands quickly
and then Nick introduced himself as well: so far so good. The
female member of the Legacy team had very firm ideas about what
she wanted to do first, and so it was Alex who took charge.
"I was wondering if I
could see the site of yesterday's events," she said brightly,
"I'd be most interested in looking at the writing Nick
"Of course," the
man who insisted that they call him Sam agreed quickly.
He seemed pleased that his
visitors had a direction in which to work, and he was quite
happy to go along with anything. He moved round his desk quickly
and offered to escort the pair to the study room. Alex struck
up an animated conversation almost immediately, people were
one of her fortes. It was as they were headed into the hallway,
however, that Nick found himself distracted by the side door
to the office opening. He forgot what he had been doing as soon
as Holland walked into the office.
"Ah, hi," the young
man greeted with a winning smile, "things looking brighter
The woman looked a little awkward,
she seemed embarrassed about something and she'd obviously thought
the office was empty.
"You could say that,"
she replied slowly and paused.
The silence was beginning to
grow into a wall.
"Look," they both
started at the same time, and of course immediately stopped
Nick grinned and indicated
that she should go on.
"Um," she began again
with a half smile, "I'm sorry for the way I treated you
yesterday. I get a bit protective of the coven sometimes, and
"No problem," the
ex-SEAL interrupted her smoothly, "I know the feeling."
There was a light in his hazel
eyes as he smiled at her.
"We could make up over
dinner," he gave her his most boyish expression.
Holland took a moment to realise
what he'd just said. The look on her face was vaguely stunned,
that was probably the one thing she had not expected.
"Did you just invite me
on a date?" she asked slowly.
Nick looked half embarrassed
and half gleeful, it had been a bit of an impulse thing. At
least she hadn't turned him down flat, if he played this right
it might just work.
"Sounded like it to me,"
he returned and bent his head to one side. "I'm not that
repellent am I?"
The lopsided grin was contagious
and Holland had to smile back, she was quite surprised.
"Well you get an A for
being forward," she said lightly.
She stared at him for a long
moment with that odd look in her eyes that said she was not
interested in his face.
"But then I should have
guessed that," she continued calmly.
There was nothing like making
a man wait, and Nick knew he was wriggling on the hook. The
young witch seemed amused, but she wasn't giving out the signs
of someone who thought this was a big joke.
"Okay," she said
finally, "do you know Allen's?"
Her companion nodded quickly.
"I'll meet you there at
seven," she said calmly. Then she picked up the files on
the desk, turned and floated back out the way she had entered.
Nick, with a huge smile on his face, went to find Alex.
The study area hadn't been
touched, everything was just the way it had been the previous
day. What exactly the University authorities had been told was
unclear, but they were obviously playing along. Alex was avidly
examining the writing on the board when Nick walked up behind
her and waited for her to finish. The way the young woman had
her hands out just in front of the script told the ex-SEAL that
she was getting something from it, so he patiently watched as
she worked. The professor seemed interested as well and he smiled
at Nick as they both stood there.
all the researcher said as she finally stepped back.
"Anything we can use?"
were the first words out of the other Legacy member's mouth.
By nature the male half of
the team was a very practical man. He accepted that his colleagues
had abilities he could not quite understand, but he put them
up there as tools, just like the gun he carried under his coat.
"Nothing we don't already
know," Alex returned calmly, "all I get is confusion.
What I can't understand is why he thought you knew something.
All the signals from this word," she pointed at the letters
which spelt Guardian, "are undirected, but these,"
she indicated the others, "have a definite purpose. He
really believed you were the key, but it's as if the information
is protected in some way."
"But what could you know
that would be of relevance to the Guardian?" Sam interjected
evenly. "I would have thought it more likely that someone
from the university had knowledge that would be useful to the
"You just hit the crux
of the matter," the researcher admitted slowly, "but
somehow, I don't think we're going to find the answer here."
She wasn't about to give up
just yet, but there didn't seem to be any clues around. Nick
began looking at the scattered books to see if there was anything
they could tell them.
Back on Angel Island, Philip
was having about as much luck as his friends. He'd been going
through some old manuscripts that had been vaguely translated
when the expedition to find the box had been launched. He was
making sure that nothing had been missed, but the previous scholar
had done a thorough job. He was nearly at the end of the job,
and there was no new information to add to the database. The
work had kept him busy, but it seemed that it was basically
a waste of time. The young man was a little annoyed about this,
and Jas noticed as soon as she walked into the room.
"Nothing to go on, I take
it," she said as she walked up behind where he was sitting
at the main table.
"Not even a hint,"
the Irishman said, sitting back in his chair and catching her
hand as she draped it over his shoulder.
He blew a frustrated column
of air through his hair and stroked her fingers unconsciously.
"The old translation may
just be notes," he told her slowly, "but it has all
the important details. What's really frustrating is I had the
strongest feeling that there's something to find."
"My poor baby," Jasmine
said sweetly, and lent against him, "maybe you should take
a break. Something might occur to you if you stop thinking about
She smiled as he looked up
at her through his thick lashes. The young looking woman was
suddenly struck by the strong lines of his face, and the intensity
in his pale eyes. The half smile that played at his mouth at
her suggestion was all consuming, and she found herself caught
by an overwhelming desire to kiss him.
"You're probably right,"
he said lightly, and broke the spell, "I've been staring
at this too long."
Re-diverting the unbidden thoughts
that rose in her mind, Jasmine decided that Philip's neck definitely
looked tense. Much to his surprise, but growing pleasure the
young man felt his companion's fingers find a knotted muscle
from where he had been writing.
[[That is exactly the right
spot,]] he couldn't be bothered to speak, and his thoughts reached
[[I'm always right, love,]]
was Jas' reply.
The gentle pressure of his
companion's digits almost made Philip forget where he was. In
fact, for a man who was not used to tactile expression of affection
in anything but very private circumstances, his total lack of
resistance was quite surprising. His head relaxed forward and
all the tension flowed out of his shoulders. The knowledge that
he was supposed to be working just never entered his head.
Slowly he was becoming very
aware of Jasmine's scent, a very light perfume and the underlying
smell that was uniquely her. She was close behind him and the
hairs on the back of his neck bristled where her fingers stroked.
Philip was drifting in a very pleasant world indeed, and the
thoughts he had running through his head were definitely not
Suddenly his musings were interrupted,
and the sigil they had all dreamt leapt into his head with almost
painful clarity. His eyes shot open from where they had been
half closed and he jumped in the chair. A book on the top shelf
of one of the side walls leapt off the shelf, and a screwed
up piece of scrap paper on the table burst into flames. Jasmine
yelped and doused the little fire with a cold cup of coffee
Philip had brought with him from breakfast. The ex-priest looked
a little stunned.
The two people looked at each
"The book," they
both decided at exactly the same time.
It didn't take them long to
reach the corner where the volume had fallen. It was from one
of the more obscure sections of the library, a part which no
one had thought to check yet, since there were so many other
books that had been more likely to give useful information.
It had fallen open to a page with a large heading in beautifully
ornate Latin script.
Philip translated slowly.
As if he were almost afraid
of it, the young man picked up the volume and scanned down the
page. Gathering the gist of the writing he turned the leaf and
there on the next sheet was an illustration, not unlike the
sign from the visions. He read the note underneath it with excited
"To bring harmony to a
tormented soul," he said carefully, "this device may
be formed in many ways. Turn the evil from it's destruction
and give it a greater purpose to that of the light: from demon
to benefactor, and it's power may be harnessed. Yet beware any
who break the pact, for there lies chaos."
The pair looked at each other
"Derek," they both
concluded: it seemed that great minds were in concord.
of Part 12
It was difficult not to notice
that Nick was grinning from ear to ear as he and Alex strolled
towards the circle. The Professor had gone on ahead as soon
as he'd spotted the small gathering of people in the distance,
and now the ex-SEAL's companion could contain her curiosity
"What are you looking
so happy about?" she asked lightly as they walked. "We're
not exactly having the greatest morning."
"Speak for yourself,"
Nick replied with a grin, "I'm having a great day. I landed
a date with Holland."
Alex's eyebrows rose sharply,
but she couldn't keep the gleeful expression out of her features.
Her surprise was evident.
"We're in the middle of
a case like this, and you still have the time to get a date?"
amusement was the dominant emotion in her tone.
"When you've got it, you've
got it," Nick replied, his male ego well puffed up.
Then they had to change the
topic of conversation as they wandered into audio range of the
members of the coven. Alex just shook her head and laughed,
then the business face was back in place as work took over.
As they approached, three of the six people waiting smiled at
them, two looked vaguely unsure and the last wasn't trying to
hide the fact that they were uncomfortable with the whole thing.
"Everybody, this is Nick
and Alex," Sam introduced cheerfully, "Nick, Alex,
these are Holland, Caroline, Marie and Paul, you already know
Holland grinned at Nick as
the greetings passed without incident, she seemed more comfortable
with the idea of the Legacy people, every second.
"It was just a small gathering
the other night," Rhyanna took over the explanations as
they walked into the circle itself, "we were only performing
a small fertility ritual for the new shrubs. It's something
we like to do when they do anything on campus."
She waved at her colleagues,
indicating that they should take up the places they had held
at the ceremony. The ex-Legacy operative and her husband stood
at either side of the central stone whilst the other four took
up positions at the half points of the compass. Holland and
Marie were NE and NW, whilst Paul and Caroline had SE and SW
"We were just about to
ask the circle to divert some of it's power to the new trees
when the figure appeared just there," Rhyanna pointed to
the southern tree. "Nobody even saw him arrive," the
woman continued evenly, "suddenly he was just there."
Alex wandered across to the
indicated position and turned round to face the assembly.
"Here?" she asked
to make sure she wasn't trying to find something in the wrong
"Yes," the other
woman replied, "and he was dressed all in black with a
hood. There was no way we could make out anything about him."
"He didn't even seem to
have an aura," Holland added her angle, "it was so
There was nothing coming from
the spot except the natural energy of the circle as far as the
researcher was concerned, but she wasn't giving up yet. Nick
had taken to watching the others as their attention centred
on his colleague, so he remained silent.
"You've both called the
figure a `he'," Alex observed evenly, "is that an
accurate description or a figure of speech."
The younger of the two women
who had spoken before looked at Rhyanna to answer this one.
They had had long discussions about the incident since it had
occurred and the older was equipped to speak for most of them.
the more experienced witch explained carefully, "we all
feel that it was a male presence. The thing is, there's no way
to be sure, since all other indicators seem to have been incorrect."
There was Legacy training talking
in that statement. The first thing operatives learned was not
to take anything at face value.
"Okay," Nick had
done enough watching for his taste, "let's go over the
facts. How tall was this person? Were they broad or slim? Did
they say anything?"
As usual he went straight for
the point, and it earned him a scowl from Marie, who was not
hiding the fact that she didn't like outsiders. The ex-SEAL
just chose to ignore the hostility and continued.
Caroline provided calmly, "not particularly large, and
he or she never said anything, they just attacked the tree and
threw the blood. I was one of the closest to them, but I really
can't tell you much about them."
"We were working by the
light of torches," Rhyanna took the chance to explain,
"and when the ritual was desecrated they all went out.
We were all focused on the circle, when it was attacked and
the power lines interrupted as well. It threw us into confusion.
I'm afraid we will be of little help."
That was becoming a distinct
possibility, but Alex was an optimist, and she was hoping that
this reconstruction might jog a few memories. Just a small piece
of information would be better than the nothing they had at
the moment. She cleared her mind and tried to tune into the
area, even a trace of something would be good. Yet it was like
trying to read from a blackboard that had been cleaned, it was
as if the place had been washed of the events. Philip had mentioned
the fact that he felt nothing from the clearing that would indicate
it's history, and Alex was having the same problem. She was
beginning to think that the continual energy movement in the
circle was wiping away any trace of what had been.
"I assumed you've tried
something to find the person who did this," she said eventually,
giving up on a psychic connection to whatever happened.
"As soon as we came back
to ourselves," Marie sounded offended by the question,
"we tried to scry out an answer, but our methods were blocked
by powerful anti-spells. Whoever committed this horrible act,"
she was obviously very worked up about the incident, "they
were prepared for anything we could do."
"That suggests they knew
your capabilities," Nick was quick on the take up, "could
it have been someone you trust?"
The indignant look on the woman's
face said that he was about to get a mouthful, but Rhyanna stepped
"The coven members are
chosen very carefully," she said calmly, "and no one
else is privy to our knowledge. There are fourteen of us at
the moment, and we've only had two people leave the group. Both
of those were faculty members who were offered research posts
at other universities, and they went with our blessing. We honestly
know of nobody who would want to do this."
The Legacy members did not
comment on this, traitors was not a subject with which they
were unfamiliar. Pointing fingers just now would do nobody any
good. The reconstruction was not going well, and as the pair
looked at each other it was obvious that they were coming to
the conclusions that it wasn't going to produce anything. They
asked a few more questions, moved around a bit, and gauged people's
reactions, until finally they decided they'd been proved right.
Eventually Nick said, "We'd
like to talk to your whole membership, individually, if that's
possible, including the two members who've left. This may go
back some time, and it's impossible to tell what information
could be of use."
Holland smiled at him supportively,
even as Marie glared for the hundredth time. Nobody chose to
voice an objection, and slowly they headed back towards the
The book sat opened on Derek's
desk, and the precept viewed it's contents without comment.
Both Philip and Jasmine stood the other side of the office and
waited for him to make his own translation. The indication of
his interest in the volume was the quiet excitement in his eyes:
the one part of his face he had trouble controlling.
"It looks like you've
found it," Derek finally said, and looked up at his companions.
"This form could have been altered slightly to be the sigil
that we've all been dreaming about."
It was the first time the older
man had actually admitted that he'd been seeing the same things
as the rest of his house. That made it a very significant statement.
It was because of this that Philip chose to jump in with both
"Could it have anything
to do with the current case?" he asked quickly.
The precept was silent for
a moment as he thought through his answer. The idea had occurred
to him, just as it had occurred to his companion, but wild notions
were not what the Legacy was about.
he admitted slowly, "but I can't say I've Seen anything
to give an indication one way or the other. The box may hold
an artefact used to bind a demon, but we can't tell without
breaking the seals. If it does, then our task is clear, we make
sure no one has the chance to bring about the chaos this book
speaks of. If not, then our joint premonitions are to do with
something completely different and we need to be vigilant on
more than one level."
The idea had been acknowledged,
and equally it had been questioned, now all they needed was
proof in one direction. There were other lines of enquiry and
Derek's mind went to those now.
"The other translation,"
he moved on smoothly, "was there anything to indicate what's
in the box?"
Philip shook his head.
"The only details of any
use were in the notes," he supplied with a small shrug,
"if we're going to find anything else, we need another
source. I'd just finished looking through it when we found the
A grin appeared on Jasmine's
face at the mention of finding the volume and Derek noticed
immediately. The woman obviously found something about the reference
funny, and the precept could not reign in his curiosity for
"How exactly did you find
it?" he enquired calmly.
"Ah, it, um," the
ex-priest seemed a little awkward about the explanation, "jumped
off the shelf."
That just made Jas laugh, she
knew exactly which bit of the incident was making Philip turn
a gentle shade of pink, so she decided to rescue him. The young
man's mind was obviously on what had gone on before the book
had moved, so his companion chose to do the explaining herself.
"Actually," the young-looking
woman chimed in helpfully, "Philip knocked it off the shelf,
he just wasn't anywhere near it at the time. He had another
vision and it triggered a reaction, and don't worry, I put out
Derek's eyebrows rose, and
the look on the younger man's face said he thought his own defence
would have been better. Still, since it was confession time,
he might as well tell the rest of it.
"I knew I'd seen something
like the symbol before," the ex-priest told his companions.
"I translated a passage out of this book a few years ago,
I must have seen it then. My subconscious knew it was here,
it just took a while for the rest of me to catch up."
Much to his surprise, his precept
actually smiled at that. Philip seemed quite capable of blaming
himself for just about anything and the trait was coming out
"Well at least you remembered
eventually," was the comment from Derek. "Write out
a full translation of this for the others return, and then see
if you can find any links between this and our box."
"Will do," the young
man replied with a smile, he seemed relieved to have something
At five thirty Alex and Nick
rolled through the door with a pile of notes, but not a lot
of information. Anything of interest had been faxed or rung
through earlier. Even when Derek had sent them a copy of Philip's
interpretation of the data from the book and suggested they
make discrete enquiries, it hadn't dug anything up. The pair
had spoken to eight of the coven members, and even shown them
the sigil, only to find that they knew as little as the Legacy.
Only two major conclusions could be firmly decided from an entire
afternoon's work: most of the people they had spoken to were
wary of them but settled down as soon as their good intentions
were revealed; and two of those they had seen were openly hostile.
The problem was, Marie and Walter did not try and hide their
dislike of the Legacy, but they showed no signs of treacherous
activities towards their colleagues. In actual fact, their whole
attitude suggested that it was born of a protective instinct
towards their coven.
Any initial reports were not
going to be particularly revealing, and Nick had other things
on his mind the moment he put his notes down. There was no doubt
what he was thinking about as he disappeared upstairs towards
a long hot shower. So intent on his purpose was the ex-SEAL,
that he nearly bowled Philip over as his friend came out of
the library and headed down stairs.
"He in a hurry or something?"
the young man asked as he reached Alex.
researcher replied with a smile, "Nick has a date."
"Holland," was Philip's
comment, and he grinned, "well that one was easy to spot."
"Tell me about it,"
was the light reply, "he's been fidgeting for the last
hour. It was all I could do to get him to stay for the last
All the ex-priest did was laugh,
it was so like Nick to let his hormones rule his life.
"See you shortly for dinner?"
Philip eventually asked as the two continued up and down the
"Nothing, short of a tidal
wave would stop me," Alex told him genuinely.
of Part 13
The last thing anyone heard
of Nick that evening was the sound of the mustang as it roared
down the drive. He'd stuck his head round the corner to say
goodbye, been told that he was going to visit one of the ex-coven
members the next morning with Philip, and then he'd vanished.
There were a couple of comments about objectivity from Derek
as his friend and colleague disappeared, but for once he was
speaking in jest. It was the same as it had been the previous
evening: no matter that there had been little progress during
the day, the air around the dinner table was almost jovial.
There was a very brief discussion of work, and then the house
actually turned to leisure activities. This was quite an achievement
for a Legacy group in the middle of a case as big as this one.
On the journey to the restaurant,
Nick had begun to try and decide what had gotten into him to
make him ask Holland out on a date. It wasn't exactly standard
working practice to become involved with a woman, who for all
he knew, was part of a conspiracy to wipe-out her own coven.
For that matter, it wasn't exactly Nick's habit to date witches.
The moment he saw the young woman in question, waiting for him
outside the main building, however, he remembered exactly why
he'd chosen this course of action.
Holland looked stunning: she'd
twisted back the sides of her hair, fastening them at the back
with a small clasp, and the light outside the restaurant picked
up her delicate features beautifully. The white lacey dress
she wore made Nick's heart beat just that little bit faster.
The brown suede pumps and waistcoat added a welcome spot of
Nick looked down at him self
one last time before he stepped out from behind a parked van.
The jeans were black and neatly pressed; the shirt was formal
enough for sitting in a restaurant, but casual enough not to
be dressy; the boots were polished, but practical; and the leather
jacket was sharp. He was preened and ready to meet the lady,
even if he did say so himself.
With warm, cheerful smile in
place he walked out from the protective cover and wandered towards
Holland. His expression was met with like as she saw him, and
then came the awkward moment between the first sighting and
when he was actually in range so something could be said.
"You're looking wonderful
this evening," the words came out of Nick's mouth the moment
he thought he could be heard.
That brought an even broader
smile from his companion, and she let her own gaze track up
and down him, once.
"You're not so bad yourself,"
she said cheerfully.
"So far so good,"
Nick's wit came into play. "Shall we?" he asked with
a charming half bow as he indicated the door.
"I think we shall,"
was the equally light reply.
Now Allen's wasn't one of the
top restaurants in town, you didn't find poor graduate students
in most of those, but it was the best of the rest. The table
was beautifully laid out with deep blue linen, there were two
candles burning brightly, and the settings were immaculate.
Nick knew this was going to be a good evening the moment he
laid eyes on the decor.
An hour and a half, and two
courses later, he knew he'd been right and the ex-SEAL and his
companion were well into a cheerful conversation about their
respective encounters with the supernatural.
"You wouldn't believe
the size of this thing," Nick was in the middle of saying
when their waiter appeared beside the table.
"Was everything satisfactory?"
the young man asked politely as both patrons turned to look
"It was wonderful,"
Holland returned brightly as their plates were efficiently removed.
"Would the sir, and madam
like to see the desert trolley?" was the next question.
Nick grinned as he watched
the battle that ensued on his companion's face, it was obvious
that there was a struggle of will going on inside her head.
She looked to the ex-SEAL to make the decision, but he refused
to rescue her from this one.
"Oh, go on then,"
she said finally.
The waiter left with a knowing
smile on his face.
"No fair," Holland
complained as they waited for the ridiculously large trolley
to be wheeled over, "you could have said no for me."
That made Nick laugh.
"And deprive you of that
chocolate gateaux?" he said lightly. "I saw your eyes
follow it all the way across the room when that table over there
"That doesn't mean you're
supposed to let me get anywhere near it," she scolded him
with mock disdain. "I'm an addict, you're not supposed
to encourage me."
The desserts arrived beside
the table and the waitress in charge of them gave Holland an
"You know you want to,"
Nick teased mercilessly, "order it."
"I'm considering hating
you," the young woman shot back.
A minute later, there was a
large slice of rich chocolate gateaux on Holland's side of the
table, and Nick was staring at what claimed to be cappuccino
mousse. The witch had insisted that if she was going to fall
into the pit of self-indulgence, then so was her date, and the
ex-SEAL had a thing for coffee.
"You were saying, before
we were so rudely interrupted by desert," Holland prompted
"Oh yeah," Nick remembered
rapidly, "this Aztec demon ..."
By the time the coffee and
liqueurs had been consumed the couple had reached the stage
where their hands had met in the middle of the table. This arrangement
had been achieved by a slight subterfuge on Nick's part that
Holland had quite willingly fallen for. They had been talking
about how the young woman had discovered that she was a little
different from average, and how her grandmother had told fortunes.
Nick had then asked to have his palm read, he had never withdrawn
the limb, mostly because Holland had never let go.
It may not have been PC, but
when they went to leave, Nick most adamantly insisted that he
pay for everything, and when the size of postgraduate scholarships
came into the discussion, his companion had to agree. If the
truth be told, she rather enjoyed being spoiled.
"The night is still young,"
the ex-SEAL said lightly as they walked into the yellow of a
summer evening, "would madam care to go for a drive?"
Holland was giving this careful
consideration, until she saw the Mustang.
"Wow," she said immediately,
"that is quite a car."
She hadn't seen him drive into
the parking lot and the red convertible had a profound affect
on her thoughts on a summer night jaunt. There were just some
cars that had to be enjoyed, and this was one of them.
"I know this great spot
just out of town," she said brightly, "you can see
She was right, a leisurely
drive later, not even all the lights of San Francisco could
blot out the stars as the sky darkened. It was a totally clear
evening, and it seemed almost magical as one by one the small
pinpoints of life appeared in the growing deep blue. Nick's
arm slowly wound it's way around Holland's shoulders as they
watched the night move in, and she did not object. Neither was
quite sure when it happened, but they found themselves leaning
very close together. It was but a tiny step to the long, passionate
kiss that followed.
It had been an enjoyable evening,
so enjoyable in fact that Rachel and Kat had managed to miss
the last public ferry, and so had opted to stay the night. The
younger of the two saw this as a wonderful adventure on a school
night, and it had taken stories from both Alex and her mother
to get her to fall asleep. That had been a couple of hours ago,
and now the rest of the household had also retired to bed. Some
were finding it easier to sleep than others.
Philip was sitting on his bed,
staring at the far wall. He had been reading, but the thoughts
going round in his head had distracted him enough to make it
impossible. Eventually he'd put the book aside and decided to
sift through the jumble in his mind. It was the feelings and
urges that had coursed through him in the library earlier that
day which were bothering him. The things he had been contemplating
had seemed so natural, and yet part of him had been afraid of
them. Ever since he'd first admitted that he loved Jasmine such
things had occurred to him, but never with quite such force.
Thinking about it, he realised
that even when he'd considered more of a physical relationship
with the woman he cared more for in the world than anyone else,
it had been just that, a thought. The real point that was distracting
him now, was that it was no longer so benign, this was something
he truly wanted. Before, the abstinence they had shown seemed
to be mutual, the question was, what would Jas say?
All this was turning round
and round in his mind and it would not let him rest. Finally,
after a good twenty minutes of soul searching he climbed off
the bed, reached for a robe, and went to find out the answer.
Jasmine's room was right next
door and it only took him a few seconds to wander down the landing,
but as he reached the slightly open portal, all courage suddenly
left him. What if she was asleep? What if she thought he was
being premature? What if she didn't want anything to do with
this? All the questions assailed him at the same time and he
froze. If anyone else had come out of their rooms at that moment
they would have found one very worried looking young man, staring
at an oak door.
"Come in, love,"
the sweet voice came from within the room: she knew he was there.
There was no chance to turn
back now, but Philip found he was terribly afraid. It took every
ounce of will he had, just to reach for the door handle. He
stepped over the threshold almost tentatively, and although
he realised he was hovering, he could not make it any further.
Jasmine was sitting on the
bed cross legged, her raven hair flowing over slight shoulders
that were draped in a silk robe. A beautiful smile played across
her features, and she looked at him with eyes that already seemed
to know his purpose. Slowly, with the grace of a nymph she climbed
off the bed and walked towards him.
"You are welcome here,
darling," she said as she reached him, "there is no
need to fear whatever you find."
With one hand she took hold
of his right arm, and with the other she pushed the door closed,
then she led him further into the room.
"I ...," Philip started
as she gazed up into his face, but her fingers reached out and
touched his lips, silencing him.
"I know why you are here,
my love," she said quietly, "I feel it too."
Her delicate fingers held one
of his hands in a gentle grip and she squeezed reassuringly.
With her free hand she pulled at the belt of her robe and the
soft silk parted slowly. It fell open to reveal pale, milky
white skin, Jasmine was not wearing a stitch underneath. For
a moment she let him just look at her, his eyes tracing curves
downwards, and then she took his hand and placed it over her
heart. Holding it there so he could feel the strong beat, she
took a step forward so they were no more that a few centimetres
"From love to lover,"
she said as her face lost it's humour, "is this what you
He went to speak, but again
she stopped him.
"There are forces in this
house tonight that draw us together," she told him calmly,
"forces that are affecting everyone here. Look deep inside,
my love, and find what you truly feel, not what they urge you
If Philip had considered it
he would have realised that not everything going on in the Legacy
house was perfectly normal, but that really didn't change how
he felt. It was more that it had brought the truth to light
than anything else.
"I love you," was
what he finally said.
Her expression turned to one
of pure joy and she pulled him close, burying her face in his
of Part 14
N.B. This story can be
read without the ADULT sections which do not have alternative