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Born of Magic's Fire by Tasha

 

Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Bottom |
Part 11

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 surprised.

[[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 on time."

Nick looked intrigued, but for some reason, Philip just appeared annoyed.

"Where's Derek?" 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 Philip?"

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 tether.


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 comment.

"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 finished.

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 desk.

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 to."

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 anyone before."

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 safe."

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 anxieties.


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.

"You're forgiven," he said and they both knew that there was a lot of the old person in the new one.

End of Part 11
Part 12

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 the house.

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 mentioned."

"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 this morning?"

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 again.

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 well ..."

"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.

"Fascinating," was 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 entity."

"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 it."

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 her directly.

[[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 work related.

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 other slowly.

"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.

"Binding demons," 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 anticipation.

"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 again.

"Derek," they both concluded: it seemed that great minds were in concord.

End of Part 12
Part 13

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 no longer.

"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 my wife."

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 respectively.

"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 place.

"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 strange."

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.

"It's instinctive," 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.

"Medium height," 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 in quickly.

"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 campus buildings.


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 feet.

"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.

"It's possible," 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 book."

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 long.

"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 the fire."

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 again.

"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 to do.


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.

"Something," the 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 interview."

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 stairs.

"Nothing, short of a tidal wave would stop me," Alex told him genuinely.

End of Part 13
Part 14

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 colour.

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 at him.

"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 ordered it."

"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 understanding glance.

"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 cheerfully.

"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 the stars."


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 apart.

"From love to lover," she said as her face lost it's humour, "is this what you really want?"

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 to do."

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 chest.

End of Part 14

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N.B. This story can be read without the ADULT sections which do not have alternative versions.