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Born of Magic's Fire by Tasha


Part 19 | Bottom

Part 18

The night stretched into early morning quite peacefully for the San Francisco Legacy house. It was only as the sun slowly began to appear over the horizon that the calm was shattered. The event which occurred woke every last sleeper in the castle, and bed clothes flew as more than one confused mind lurched for consciousness. Rachel was the first out of bed as she followed the instinctive urge that her daughter needed her. The man who had been holding her in his arms only a few moments before did not comment on her reaction, but hurriedly pulled on his clothes, and followed her into the hallway.

Further round the house, Philip was half dressed before he realised that he'd even moved. He came to a halt as the buttons on his jeans refused to do up under his frantic fingers. It was only then that he caught sight of Jas staring at him worriedly. There was no question in her face, she knew what was going on, she was just anxious about her lovers stark reaction. They held each other's gaze for a moment, and then she moved to join him.

Alex and Nick appeared from their rooms at the same moment, both looking rumpled, but very alert. The psychic knew what had woken her, but it was obvious by the expression her companion wore, that he didn't really know why he had so hurriedly climbed into his clothes.

"Let's go find the others," was all the female of the two said, and they headed off down the hall.

The seven people came together at the top of the stairs. Only Rachel was still in a robe, her instinct to reach her daughter far greater than her need for clothes. It was obvious that Kat had experienced the same clarity of vision as the other three sensitives in the house, and she clung to her mother as if for dear life.

"What was *that*?" Nick asked the question that was bothering him.

Philip and Alex let Derek provide the answer.

"That was the someone trying to destroy the circle at the University," the tall man responded simply. "The fact that we have the box in this house has connected us to it, and in consequence we all seem to have felt it."

"Felt it!" Nick was obviously upset by the experience, he wasn't used to events making themselves know in quite such a fundamental way. "That was not what I call a pleasant alarm call."

Nobody was arguing with that assessment.

"Quite," even Derek agreed, "and I doubt very much if it was without reason."

It was obvious that his mind was moving in deeper circles than his ex-SEAL compatriot, and it was mirrored on the faces of those who had seen exactly what had happened. There was going to be trouble, and Derek, Kat, Alex and Philip all knew it all to clearly. The visions of fire were all too close for comfort.

"Nick, Philip and Jasmine," the Precept began to make decisions, "go to the University, they're going to need as much help as they can get. Alex and I will move the box to a more secure location."

He looked at Rachel for a moment, and the white face of her daughter.

"I think Kat may be safer away from here," were his final words.

They dispersed quickly, there was no time to waste.

The helicopter was long gone with it's three occupants, and the launch stood ready to take Rachel and Kat back to the mainland, when the first repercussions of the morning's events were felt. The front door didn't so much open as exploded inwards, removing itself from it's top set of hinges completely. The creature which entered through the opening was Guardian, or at least a parody of the entity which Nick had seen in the study room.

It's form seemed to be even more amorphous than before, holding to the male shape only for fractions of a second. The dark lines that defined it were ragged and incomplete, flowing into vivid splashes of colour which seemed somehow alien to the creature. It was almost as if it was coming apart at the seams.

Rachel and Kat had been about to descend the stairs when the explosion forced them backwards. It took the psychiatrist only a second to grab her daughter's hand and flee back up the corridor towards the control room. Derek and Alex had just moved the box to the basement, but they would make for the technological haven if they could. The war had come to the house.

At the University there was chaos. The police and the fire department were everywhere, searching for the cause of what could only be described as a bomb. The initial outflow of power from the circle when it was attached had shattered windows from one end of the campus to the other. The creature that had raged through the main building after that had left was resembled a battlefield. Thanks to the early hour of the incident no one had been hurt, but the authorities wanted someone to blame for all the destruction. One more helicopter in addition to the police, the traffic radio and the news people was not noticed.

Those who knew what had happened all headed for the same place, and thanks to the delays from well meaning police, most of the players reached the pitch at the same time. The Legacy team caught up with Holland hurrying up the hill, and they met Rhyanna and Sam as they reached the clearing. For all those in tune with the area, it hurt to be there, and the younger witch could not hold back her tears at the scene. Two of the trees were completely shattered, attacked by a chain saw they had both been too weak to take the following explosion. There was nothing left of them except ragged stumps and splinters. Each of the other guardian oaks had a raw, glistening patch where their name sigil's should have been. The saboteur had obviously taken to heart the chaos the loss of one symbol had caused and decided to multiply it one hundred fold. The power the trees had knitted together in such beautiful harmony, now wailed about in a heart wrenching cacophony.

Yet that was not the most telling sign of what had happened, nor the most pitiful sight to see. At the centre of the circle was a figure. No longer radiant blue, but more a dull glassy colour she lay huddled around the altar stone. Dark, jagged streaks ran down her perfect form, and the wide, white orbs that took the place of eyes, were filled with blackness.

"She's dying," Holland voiced what they could all see just as Nick mobile phone decided to ring.

Philip's whole being cried out for him to help, but Jasmine's hand was very firm on his arm. The destruction was too great, to try and put right all the damage would undoubtedly kill him. Yet he couldn't stop himself from walking forward to see if he could at least do something. When he saw what was sprayed onto the front of the tree they had been behind his whole body went cold. There on the bark in red spray paint was the sigil the Legacy had been investigating, in two halves. His eyes flicked from the sign to the injured entity and back again as all the pieces fell into place in his mind. He had to try and help, there was no longer any choice.

"If she dies," he said to those who had followed him into the circle, "all hell breaks loose, literally."

But as he went to move, it was not Jasmine's hand that stopped him, it was Holland's. There was a look of complete certainty on her face as she stepped past him.

"You can't help her," she said calmly as she wiped away her tears, "but I can."

Slowly, the young woman knelt down beside the crippled being, and looked into it's slowly dulling orbs. All around just watched, and Nick was too busy on the phone to realise what was happening. Holland reached out her hands and placed them on the female's arms, then she gave herself up to it. The only one of them outside the circle nearly dropped his mobile when he heard his girlfriend scream. By the time he made it through the trees he was far too late to stop it, as he too watched, mesmerised as the slight blue glow receded into Holland's skin.

The deep gashed of darkness on the entity had become real, although superficial wounds on the witch, and she just knelt there for along time. This was, however, something Philip could deal with, and he moved quickly. Within seconds the injuries were completely gone and Holland was as well as could be expected, of course except that she wasn't exactly Holland anymore.

"Thank you," she said quietly as the ex-priest's touch left her.

Then she opened her eyes and clear white light was revealed.

"I must find him," the peculiar mix of spirit and woman told them all.

This time, however, her power was not as great as before and she was confined by a corporal body, she could not just vanish. Nick was looking totally aghast, but her words brought him back to the reality of the situation. This was no time for personal feelings, the problem was much bigger than that.

"He's on Angel Island," the ex-SEAL provided quickly, "that was Rachel on the phone, she and Kat are holed up in the control room."

"Take me," were the only words which came out of Holland's mouth.

They left Rhyanna and Sam to try and do something about the circle as they piled back into the helicopter and headed towards the castle. As they walked through what had been the front door, they met Alex and Derek in the hallway. The house was surprisingly quiet.

"He went this way," the entity was not wasting any time with human niceties, she was completely focused on what had to be done.

Even as the Precept of the house stared, she walked straight past him towards the stairs.

"Wait," he said as she began to climb, "what can we do?"

"Nothing," she responded without pausing. "He is confused, unsure, I must rejoin with him and all will be as it was."

The looks that passed between the Legacy members as she disappeared didn't look quite so sure. Philip took the opportunity to explain the conclusions he had made.

"The box contains the sigil to bind a demon," he told them rapidly. "The male half of the entity is the destructive power, tamed by the binding, the personification of which is the female half. She channels his energy into being the guardian of the thing which actually keeps him caged. While she exists he probably still feels the pull of that, which is why he's come here."

Derek did not look surprised as he realised the logical course of thought that had brought Philip to his rationalisation. He also chose to agree.

"I think our best course of action may be to leave," the Precept decided quickly, "and to take the artefact with us."

"Rachel and Kat are in the control room," Nick provided helpfully, "I'll go and get them." The ex-SEAL desperately needed something to keep him occupied, or he knew he was going to do something stupid.

"We all will," Derek put in rapidly, "I do not want the group split up. We'll collect the box last. Guardian seems confused as to where it is, if we move it, that might change."

Nobody disagreed and they all piled up the stairs very quietly.

The look on Rachel's face said she was thanking every deity in heaven when the rest of the Legacy members appeared. Her relief was almost tangible.

"We're leaving," was all Derek said as he rapidly typed some commands at the master terminal.

The plan might have been to make sure there were no people left to witness what going to happen, but the security system would hopefully do that for them. It was Nick who found he had to ask a question.

"What about Holland?" it was obvious that he was holding back the anger which always threatened him when he felt powerless in a situation.

The ex-SEAL already knew the answer, but he had to ask anyway. The expression on the faces around him could have told him if he needed to be sure, but Derek spoke anyway.

"She must have known what she was doing," Philip had given his superior a very quick run down of what had happened at the circle on the way to the control room, "we have to leave her behind. If everything goes to plan she'll be here when we come back, if not there is nothing we can do for her and we are no good to anyone trapped here. If we can get the binding away from here we may have a chance at helping her cause."

For once in his life Nick did not comment, he just turned back to the entrance, his pain written on his face. Very soon they all walked through the hologram, for what could be the last time, resolute in what they had to do. It was as they were about to leave the library that Philip realised they didn't have the book, it had been placed back on the shelf. With a quick word to his companions he hurried over to pick it up. He was facing away from the door when it opened with an almighty crash, but he didn't have to be psychic to know what had entered the room. Every person in the library froze.

The deep black holes in what was sometimes a head, fixed each of them under it's gaze. It power had grown, and it seemed to have found a taste for games as it held all the humans in it's thrall. Derek was the closest and the creature almost glided towards him. As he looked into it's eyes the Precept felt it reach for his mind. It wanted his knowledge, and after a fearful second he knew it wanted his soul. This being was closer to the demon it had once been than it was to the entity the had been Guardian, and it revelled in it's power. Only Derek and Alex knew where the box actually was, and the head of the house knew he had to keep that information away from the invader. He threw up every mental trick he knew as the energy raged through his mind. He would have cried out if he could, but every muscle was held immobile, only his thoughts gave him any protection. Then, just as it could have touched him, the entity paused, it's attention drawn away by someone just behind Derek.

What the precept could not see was the fire in Nick's eyes as he looked at the beast, the pure hatred that radiated through his soul. The ex-SEAL's anger was what had distracted Guardian, it burned more brightly than anything else in the room. The half demon liked anger, it could use it. In a flash the burning radiance was gone, straight into Nick, who began to laugh like a mad thing. The creature's power was still in the room, but it seemed more interested in the body it had just taken over, freeing the others from their paralysis. Yet, there was nothing they could do. Alex tried, but even as she moved to try and help her friend, it just looked at her with cold back orbs, and threw her across the room with the power of it's mind. The laugh was mocking them, and it seemed to go on and on, never ceasing. The noise clawed at them, daring each of them to try anything, spiralling from deep chuckles to hysterical pitch ... and then it just stopped. One second there was sound, the next the entity had lost interest in it's triad completely.

The expression on Nick's face was one of shock which evolved into malicious pleasure. It no longer remotely cared about it's human victims, it had found something in Nick's mind that gave it far more interesting things to do.

"She's here," it said, and ignoring all else, ran for the door.

The remaining Legacy members were left to put themselves back together. Jasmine helped Alex off the floor while Rachel juggled a terrified Kat, and a less than one hundred percent Derek. The last person in the room would have tried to help as well, except at that moment he was totally overcome by a vision. The book he was carrying dropped onto the table with a heavy thud as images he did not want to see flooded through his mind.

"Oh, sweet Jesus," he said as the ideas piled into his thoughts, "he's going to kill her ... he knows."

That brought even Derek back to his senses, but Philip wasn't finished yet.

"And there's someone else here ... the cause of all this," the ex- priest struggled to push the vision to the back of his mind and regain control, "they're going after the box."

What no-body in the room could know was that they were too late to prevent that as a dark figure moved up the hallway. The saboteur had already been in the basement, it had seen Derek and Alex take the box down, and now it was just waiting for the entity to find the key to ending it's imprisonment.

Philip's mind threw up one last image, that of an altar cloth adorned with the sigil, torn in two, and he knew what he had to do.

"I can buy us some time," he said with complete certainty, "but the binding must be recast."

Without another word he ran out of the room, towards where he knew his Precept had taken the artefact. After only a moments hesitation, and a quick glance at Alex, Jasmine followed her lover. The young looking woman didn't know if there was anything she could do, but she had to be with him. Neither had time to notice the robed figure which lurked outside the door. The other three adults were left with the book, and a task the *had* to complete. There was no time to waste, and Derek pushed away the headache that threatened to burst his skull and picked up the book. The relevant page was marked and it didn't take him long to find the section.

End of Part 18
Part 19

Guardian had been all over the top of the house and the entity inside Holland had no way to know exactly where he was. She was inside one of the bedrooms, investigating the upturned chest of draws when he made himself known. As he entered the room at a slow walk, she turned and looked at him, then she smiled.

"Come beloved," she said and opened her arms, "it's time to go home."

He just began to laugh.

The scene at the bottom of the cellar steps was enough to stop even Philip's hurried flight. The saboteur had been busy whilst they had been upstairs and the basement bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the ex-priest's vision. The altar was a block of stone from an old archaeological did, and two burning candles were stood on two different sized candle sticks, but the cloth that covered the granite was all too familiar. The box from the coven lay open and discarded on the floor, it was no longer of any importance. The piece of linen which it had hidden for centuries was plain for all the world to see. As Jasmine came to a halt behind her lover, what was all the more obvious was the fact the cloth was splitting in two from one end, and it was taking the granite beneath with it.

"I think I can slow it down," Philip said, all his confidence leaving him as he surveyed the problem.

As if to spite him, there was a tearing sound as another centimetre of the fabric gave way, succeeded by a grinding as the altar followed suit. Jasmine thought she heard Philip whisper a prayer as her walked forward, but she could do nothing to help him. Almost like a condemned man before the gas chamber, he knelt down, and taking a deep breath he placed one had on each side of the divide. It was like being cleaved in two, as forces he could not hope to contend with tore away from each other. He could not heal this, he was not even sure he could hold it. It was beyond agony as the energies played with his very being, but with all his strength he willed them to be united.

All Jasmine saw was the heart wrenching sob that the effort drew from her lover. She could almost feel his pain, and yet all she could do was watch.

Derek was halfway down the first page when he heard Rachel gasp. The Precept looked up to find himself on the wrong end of a gun. The robed intruder had pulled back his hood, it was James Moulton, a thirty-something coven member, and probably the most unlikely culprit. Alex could barely believe she was seeing the same man she had spoken to previously. He had been the sweetest, kindest, most helpful person, which was very different from the smug faced man with a gun that now stared at her.

"Don't look so shocked, Ms Moreau," he said with a broad smile, "I have two distinct personalities. You met nice James, I've crafted him since I was a child, ever since I realised that my true nature made people nervous. He's very useful when people like you and Rhyanna play mind games."

He turned his manic smile towards Derek.

"You won't be needing that, Dr Rayne" he continued and waved the gun at the book. "When I saw that you knew about the sigil I thought you'd try something like this, so I decided to be here. The destruction will be something to see: the power of hell unleashed."

"And you really think that you'll survive that?" the Precept decided to try a little logic.

James just raised an eyebrow.

"I don't much care," he said calmly, "I was born to serve the darkness, and that is what I shall do. I'm quite enjoying myself to tell you the truth. Now be a good prisoner and step away from the table."

He seemed quite rational, but it was quite obvious he was out of his mind.

"Do you know ..." Derek started, he had no choice but to try and talk his way out of the situation.

It was the wrong thing to do. With absolutely no warning, James lowered the gun slightly and fired. He didn't even blink. The shot caught Derek in the abdomen and threw him backwards like a rag doll.

"No!" Rachel cried and went to her lover's aid.

Alex just grabbed Kat's hand and made a dive for the hologram wall. A shot followed them, but the emergency door close shut them inside before another could be fired. There was, however, just a chance that the door might be opened again, so the young woman fled for Derek's office, and the tunnels to the outside, dragging a voiceless Kat behind her.

Rachel knelt on the floor, her lover's head in her lap. The fall had knocked Derek cold, which left her alone with a madman. Even with all her years of training she could not hold back the tears.

"Why?" she demanded almost hysterically.

"Because I've always wanted to do that," was the calm reply.

The look on Holland's face turned from one of calm acceptance to one of fear, as the entity realised that she could no longer control her other half.

"My turn," Guardian said with Nick's voice. "Time to pay for the centuries of bondage."

"Beloved?" there was pure terror in the witch's voice as the awakening demon stalked her slowly.

"I heard about the coven when I was nineteen," James had taken Rachel's question to mean that he could tell her his life story, "and I thought it would be amusing to play with the white witches. I even managed to manipulate one into killing herself a few years ago," he seemed very proud of this fact. "There I was, nice little James, wouldn't hurt a fly, and they couldn't even see what I was doing to them. When I began to investigate the box I was most pleased to find out it's potential."

The doctor was all but ignoring him, she was more interested in preventing the flow of blood from the hole in Derek. He was still out cold, but that didn't stop his body pumping it's life into a growing stain on his shirt. The only thing Rachel had to hand was a handkerchief she had slipped into her pocket that morning, and it was gradually turning deep red as she pressed it against the wound. The only thing she had to be thankful for was the fact that Alex had escaped with Kat. The rest of her mind was taken up by the desperate realisation that she had to get Derek to a hospital soon or he was going to die. Stomach wounds took longer to kill than a straight shot to the heart, but he was going to bleed to death if something wasn't done. She wanted to scream as the mundane tone in James' voice as he just talked, and it took every ounce of will power she had not to fly at him.

"I've always enjoyed playing with people," there could be no rationalisation of the cold hearted man, he was just evil. "My sister's in a mental home," he laughed, "I scared her silly. Of course everyone else thinks she was just unstable and an attack by a burglar sent her over the edge. But then again, I don't think anyone would be particularly surprised to find out what I am, demon worship runs in the family."

Derek chose that moment to stir, and Rachel put her hand over his mouth to make sure he didn't distract James. In his own reverie, the gunman was a lot less likely to start shooting again. The psychiatrist just stared into her lover's eyes and prayed he understood.

The precept was seeing the world through a haze of pain, but he knew the look in his companion's eyes. He gritted his teeth and held her hand.

"The box is older than anyone thinks," James either had not, or chose not to notice the fact that his victim was awake, "it's actually second century Asian in origin. Some holy men trapped a very powerful demon with their spells. Easy to find out when you know who to ask. Turning it into it's own keeper was an interesting trick, but of course it makes the undoing all that more spectacular. Twelve hundred years of power, all about to be let go at the same time. You have to admit it's an amazing thought."

Nick had backed Holland into a corner and was taking great delight in just standing in front of her, staring right into her eyes.

"Afraid?" the awakening demon asked in a terrible whisper.

His hand snaked out with unnatural speed and his fingers closed around her throat. They didn't squeeze, they just held her, threatening to cut off life.

"It's incredible to think that ..." James did not seem to realise he had dropped into a psychotic monologue.

He took a breath to go on when a piercing scream cut through the whole castle. It could have made blood freeze, and it brought a victorious smile to the gunman's face.

"You loose," he said with an unhealthy amount of glee.

The sound echoing through the halls made Jasmine look up as her soul trembled. This was wrong, it was not meant to be like this. It couldn't end, not so soon. A stifled gasp and the crack of granite brought her attention back to the basement and despair threatened to overwhelm her. Philip had managed to slow down the division of the sigil, but he could not stop it, and there were only millimetres of cloth left. There had to be something she could do, something to help. She was watching the man she loved fighting for his life and all those of the others in the house. If he failed before Derek could redo the bonding, they were all lost.

In the end it was a groan of agony from Philip that made her move. She had no power to wield, no magic wand, but she had every emotion in her body. With total dedication she threw herself down behind him, wound her arms around his body, and sent every ounce of love, of caring, of sexual desire, of happiness, of joy, that she could muster, through their telepathic connection.

The agony intensified in Philip's nerves as the emotion poured into him, but it did not take away his strength. The feelings found their kin in him as the raw passion carved it's way through his soul. This was the essence of human existence and it changed what he was trying to do. For the first time since he had touched the cloth, Philip opened his eyes, and they glowed red.

The crumpled form in the corner of the room had nothing left to fight with. When she had realised that there was no hope she had thrown every last measure of power she had at her attacker, and it had just flowed over him. The creature in Nick had picked her up and thrown her across the room in a fit of anger. Holland just lay where she had fallen, the human and spirit alike, waiting for the end. It was incredible, even for the supernatural entity, when a force that could never have been resisted surged into her. Just a passenger in her own body, Holland suddenly found that something took hold of parts of her being and threw them to the surface. The living thing which looked up from the floor was neither the female spirit, nor the human witch, she was both, and she looked on the world with an entirely new perspective. When she looked at the creature that was her enemy, she did not feel the hurt or the defeat, she felt desire.

Guardian was frozen where he stood as a battle raged within him. The demon found his hatred and rage overlaid with alien emotions, and the body he had taken was overcome with some confusing sensations. These new experiences were all encompassing and they threatened to eclipse the purpose which had been so foremost in his mind. There were parts of another existence being thrown upon him, and Guardian did not like that. He fought to push them aside, but the human had powerful chemical messages which the demon had accepted when he stole possession of the form. There was no winning a battle that was already nearly over, and with a dark eyed glare Guardian became something not tame, but not spawn of hell either. This new being was taken by wild urges his human half urged him to follow, and his demon half did not really understand. He stared at his enemy with black eyes that sparked red at the centre.

Holland climbed to her feet slowly, knowing with a strange double sense that the feelings she felt were for Nick, and yet that the other mind that was now part of hers, in a strange way, loved the abomination that resided in his body. He looked almost confused standing there in the centre of the room, and the air of danger about him just excited her more. The female walked up to the male, the circumstances didn't matter, the past, the present, the future: all were irrelevant now. The only thing that was of any interest was him.

"Beloved," she said, and this time there was no question in her voice.

End of Part 19