“No Greater Love”
“No Greater Love”
*************************************** Chapter 9 *Meka & John* ***************************************
*Meka & John*
The air above the Montrose estate in Louisville whirred with activity as Hornet Insectoids buzzed around the property. They were difficult to see as the air around them seemed to blur and distort, like a novice witch attempting her first veil. On the grounds below squads of Mantis-like Insectoids patrolled the perimeter, just inside were new sets of eerily glowing green wards.
Closer to Victor’s house other Insectoids were hard at work building up a layered dome of a paper-like material to go over the house. To one side a group of four beings watched the industry of the growing colony. Each was uniquely different from the others, looking more insect than human and all four were female. Abruptly, the female that looked like a giant hornet lifted her head looking to the sky. Then her body blurred and shifted.
She straightened up and chitin turned to soft human looking skin. Insect like legs retracted into a now more human looking body. In a few seconds a naked, human, woman, four and a half feet tall, with long yellow and black hair stood facing a giant spider, ant, and mantis. Taking their cue from the hornet queen each female shifted into their human form.
“What news from your daughters?” The spider-insectoid, with long black hair, asked. Her voice had a strange quality, one that was distinctly non-human.
“The humans of this world approach. They come in transports, self-propelled metal carriages. I’ve ordered my daughters back, closer to the colony.” The hornet queen’s voice carried a buzzing quality and her human eyes looked multifaceted for a moment before returning to the human normal. “They would like to try their stings on those transports, but as discussed, there is much we must learn from the humans.”
The mantis-insectoid looked over at the ant-insectoid, her light green hair moving around her head. “Perhaps a few of my kind and yours would be best. If we wish to take them alive?”
The ant queen shook her head. “Most of my daughters are working on the underground part of the colony and helping the hornets build the outer nest layer. We are not best suited for this work.”
The spider-insectoid smirked, “My kind will catch the humans.”
“Excellent, any word from our allies?” The mantis asked, looking at the spider queen.
“They are employing agents to steal the key to the great gate. Once that is done the swarm shall enter this realm.” And then looking toward the entrance to the estate she said, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go see to the capture of our first humans. Perhaps we’ll get lucky and find a few males.” With that the insectoid shifted to full spider form and hurried forward in a series of enormous leaps. On her third jump she vanished from sight behind a flawless veil.
The Knight-Lieutenant moved to stand next to Knight-Captain Esistiel Talvathar, and with a quick salute he made his report. “The troop is in position. We are standing by for the signal to begin the assault.”
Talvathar nodded, “The barrier between the Realms grows thin. I believe that with the Horn alone I can now open a way back to Winter. Lord Drake promised this would be so and he has kept his word.”
“And yet, I do not trust this human.” Lieutenant Daugir Talvaul growled. “He holds Princess Laicistiel Aeradiir and has ransomed our allegiance to the Queen.”
“Peace, cousin. Our time will come, just see to it that you’re ready to act when the time is right.” Abruptly, a red-star cluster burst into the night and both Winter Aelves grinned. “That’s it, the signal. Mount up!” Esistiel commanded. Putting her words to action Esistiel leapt into her saddle and lifted the silver horn from where it hung. Putting it to her mouth she blew a powerful blast and the temperature around them seemed to drop.
A deeply chilled ground fog sprang up and rolled from between the trees. At a walk Esistiel led her warriors forward moving out from between the trees to look across the paved road at a tall building, shimmering slightly, behind a set of wards that Esistiel was sure most humans couldn’t see.
The new office building nestled behind a line of trees on the corner of Clayton Ave and Faulkner Dr. sat at the edge of the Highland Golf and Tennis center and was the home of the St. Louis Great Coven. The purchase of the property on the edge the Golf course and so close to Forrest Park had been something of a scandal in the St. Louis business community. But when you’re a secret organization with access to magic and tremendous wealth getting your way is something you’re used too.
Max looked at the building from the parking lot of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium. Using a set of binoculars, she studied the building. It was just after midnight and the most Coven employees had left several hours ago, except for security. Max sat back on the Harley Iron 883 and waited. She knew it was almost time. Waiting was something that Max didn’t enjoy, but had become accustomed to many years ago when she’d been male and had learned the assassin’s craft.
Thinking back to the night before Max ran her soft tongue over her darkly painted lips. The pale makeup with dark lipstick and black mascara felt more like a form of urban camouflage than some feminine device to attract male attention. Not that Max needed much help attracting male attention with her petite feminine body squeezed into tight leather pants, leather and steel bustier, and a black studded leather jacket and heavy biker boots. The look screamed sexy femme fatale and when Max had checked herself out in the mirror before leaving Ben’s place she’d been pleased. Even the eye patch added to the roguish look.
The thought of the young guardian warlock, a lifeless husk with a large stupid grin on his face sent a thrill through Max. Everything about his corpse had gone soft and cold as she’d drained his life, everything except the enormous cock Max had been riding. Even after he’d died his dick had remained hard. Eli had explained this was one of the telltale signs that Tantric magic had been used to steal a life.
Eli had taken a great deal of time, over the last two days, teaching Max the basics of the black form of Tantric magic. Ben had been the first man Max had used her new skills on. Even now she could feel the buzzing of Ben’s life energy humming just below her womb in her manna-well. She could also feel the tiny knot of knowledge she’d ripped from Ben as he’d been in the throes of ecstasy.
Max pulled up that knowledge and feeling satisfied reached into the saddle bag attached to the motorcycle and drew out a signal flare. The time for stealth was over. Soon all of humanity would know that magic existed and that humans weren’t alone in the universe. The flare rocketed up 200’ and then burst into a red-star cluster but Max didn’t bother to look. She tossed aside the launcher started the bike and smoked the back tire as she raced toward the Great Coven headquarters.
Entering the Coven parking lot Max touched the hilt of the Kopis she’d strapped to the outside of her right boot. The crystal in it glowed and for a brief second Max felt again the disappointment at her failed attempt to bond Ben’s crystal. Eli had explained that normally a Witch or Warlock could only bond to one crystal. There were a few exceptions to this rule. The most common was that the parents of a witch might will their crystal’s bond to their child on their death bed.
There were also dark spells that would allow a bond to be forcibly transferred but most of those were outlawed. Not that Eli cared about that, but the spells to transfer a bond by force were complex and, according to Eli, beyond Max’s current skills. Max gritted her teeth, at this thought. After Ben’s death Max had spent over an hour trying to figure out how to take Ben’s crystal and had finally given up.
‘I may not have his crystal, but I have what I need tonight.’ Max thought as she brought her bike to a skidding stop in front of the Great Coven building. Max lifted a gloved hand and traced a symbol in the air and pulling magic through the crystal attached to the Kopis spoke the Key that dropped the wards protecting the building.
Almost at once the front doors flew open and a pair of armed security guards rushed out. Both men appeared to be overweight and neither looked ready to fight. Instead, they looked more curious about the slim, leather clad, biker-girl who’d parked on the sidewalk in front of the Great Coven.
“Miss, you can’t park that here. The building is closed, if this is coven business you need to come back tomorrow at 9 am.” The first guard said. Then the second added, “And who gave you the Ward-Key? That’s need-to-know information only.” With that the second guard dropped a hand to the holstered sidearm on his right hip.
Max turned slightly giving both guards an enhanced view of the shape of her bust, while shielding her left hand from the guards’ sight. With her right hand, she covered the crystal that was glowing a malevolent ruby and smiled at the guards.
“No one gave it to me. I used tantric magic to rip it from Special Agent Ben Lavin’s brain.”
For a moment both guards seemed too stunned to know what to do, and that’s when Max moved. Her right hand came up and she spoke the power word for fire. Twin jets of flame shot from the palm of her hand toward the guards.
Each had a personal shield which flared blocking the attack but both staggered back stunned by the speed and brutality of the assault. Max swung her left leg over the bike and drew her semi-auto from the holster on her left hip as she moved. Now using two hands she started shooting. Max focused on the second guard first, since he appeared to be the smarter of the two. Her first couple of shots was deflected by the man’s shield and he fumbled to draw his weapon.
By the time it cleared the holster Max’s third round smashed through his shield breaking it. Her fourth and fifth rounds took him in the head and chest sending him tumbling over backwards.
Max staggered back as the first guard had finally pulled his crystal up out of his cargo pocket and had unleashed a Force strike on Max. Max’s body shield had absorbed the blow, a strike that would have sent a four-thousand-pound car tumbling. Angry now, Max drew and threw her Kopis in a smooth underhand motion with her right hand, while holding the pistol in her left. The blade tumbled twice before its edge bit into the guard’s shield slicing through it and cutting deeply into his shoulder.
“Aaghhh . . .” The guard dropped his crystal and spun around under the force of the blow.
“Return.” Max said, and the short sword ripped itself free of the guard and flew back to Max’s hand. Max took her time moving forward while the guard writhed on the ground almost delirious with pain. Max put one platform-boot on the guard’s chest and emptied the rest of the mag into him.
The thunder of hooves caused Max to look up. Winter Aelves were arriving from all directions. With the wards down the Fae would make quick work of the doors. From what Max had learned there were probably a half dozen guards in the building, not including the two Max had just killed. It was the Fae’s job to hunt and kill them. Max hurried forward, her job was to break open the inner vault and find the Key to the Great Gate. Lord Drake and his mother Tia had made it perfectly clear to Max. She’d either succeed tonight with this task or she’d be dead. With her new body, powers, and the skills she was learning, Max had no intention of dying.
Walking up to the cabin felt surreal. John kept looking for signs of life. Smoke from the chimney, laundry on the clothes line, or the sound of laughter . . . anything that might indicate someone was living here. The quiet felt eerily wrong. John stepped up onto the porch and pounded his tiny fist against the wood. The sound echoed from within and after trying a second-time John checked the latch.
The door opened easily and he stepped into the cabin. The room beyond the door served as some kind of sitting room. Looking around John could tell it was a much-used space with a hard wood floor, log walls, and a great unmatched stone fireplace. Stepping into the room John ran his dainty fingers over the back of a rocking chair with a half-completed quilt draped over one arm. The chair faced the fireplace giving John the impression that whoever owned this place liked to sit in front of the fire and work on the quilt. To one side was a small two-person love seat that looked comfortable enough to curl up on and take a nap.
Drawn to the fireplace John made sure not to track dirt on the handmade rug stretched out before it. Dropping to one knee, John peered into the fireplace taking a closer look. “There was a fire here, but it burnt itself out and no one cleaned up the ashes.” He shifted around partly burnt logs with one of the long iron fireplace pokers. “Like someone set it, started it, and then left.”
‘I didn’t know you knew so much about fires?’
“I was a boy scout, and then an infantry soldier for eight years. I’ve seen a campfire or two.” John leaned in closer looking at the back of the fireplace, “It looks like this opens up to heat this room and a room behind it.”
Standing up John returned the tool to the stand next to the fireplace and spotted a doorway to the right. The doorway led to a short hallway and then the room behind the fireplace. The room turned out to be the kitchen and along the opposite wall John spotted a staircase. The kitchen was rustic and right out of Southern Living. Moving over the hardwood floor around the backside of the unmatched stone fireplace, John checked out the iron pot-belly stove-oven. It was cold with nothing in it. The oak counter top and a deep sink with an iron hand pump, looked like something from the eighteen hundreds, and unable to resist John tried the pump. It took a couple of tries but soon cool clean water came pouring out. To the left stood a pair of handcrafted cabinets and opening one John discovered that it was filled with canned fruit and vegetables.
“Why do I feel like the Seer is still living in the 1950s?”
‘Because there isn’t any sign of electricity?’
Then John saw the one thing that seemed out of place. The modern looking refrigerator. The odd thing about it was the ruins painted on the front and the crystal set into the door. When he opened it a crystal inside lit up and John saw that it was full of normal looking items, milk, soda, vegetables, eggs, fruit, yogurt, leftovers in modern-looking Tupperware . . . and John noticed the inside was cold. “She used magic to keep this cold?”
‘Looks like. I’ve never seen those spells, but it looks like she charged the crystals and they keep the inside cold. She probably has to recharge them once a month.’
John nodded, “Very clever.” He turned around and moved to the heavy oak table that took up most of the middle of the kitchen. He picked up an all metal cup and examined it. The dried remains of what smelled like coffee covered the bottom of the cup in a dark crust. Setting it down John picked up a fork noting the remains of something that vaguely looked like eggs still clung to it. Then he ran a small feminine finger through the thick layer of dust on the table and returned the spoon.
“It’s like someone was eating, got interrupted, and then never returned.”
‘I don’t think anyone’s been here for a while.’
Turning around John moved to the stairs, “Let’s have a look upstairs.” The search turned up a pair of bedrooms, both neatly made, but nothing interesting. It was obvious that no one had been here in weeks and that the woman who lived here had left, suddenly. Returning to the kitchen John saw that it had a back door and once through spotted the two out-buildings behind the cabin.
“I think that must be a chicken coup.” John pointed at the long low building. Then he looked at the second building. “Looks like a small barn, maybe a tool barn?”
‘Why would Cassandra need a tool barn? I don’t see any fields. Just a poorly tended vegetable garden.’
John started walking toward the mystery building. “One way to find out.” As they approached John felt a shifting tingle run over his skin.
‘What was that? Another ward?’
“It felt kinda like when I shake hands with another gifted. Only I don’t see anyone.”
‘Just be careful.’
John pulled the backpack off his back and sat it down drawing out the battle rod with his crystal attached to one end. Then after a moment pulled out the semi-auto and tucked it into his waist band. “Just want to make sure that I’m ready for anything.” He muttered. Then John grabbed the barn door and gave the handle a pull. After a slight resistance, the heavy door groaned and opened, as if reluctant to reveal the contents of the barn. The afternoon sunlight streamed in through the open door and when he stepped in he saw his new feminine shadow dance in front of him. He paused to look around, the shadows within the barn held a deeper darkness and he blinked several times unable to see anything beyond a few feet.
‘Come-on, let’s make some light.’
“I’m on it.” John replied lifting the the rod, “Lux!”
Instantly, John’s signature blue-white light blazed up from the crystal pushing the shadows back and John jumped in surprise. “Cassandra?”
For a moment, no one moved then John heard Meka sigh within his mind. ‘Take a closer look. I think she’s been petrified.’
John stepped into the barn and examined the stone statue. The figure of a woman wearing a loose-fitting robe and sandals remained utterly still. John reached out and touched the robe, “The magic may have turned her body to stone, but it didn’t touch what she was wearing.” Slowly, John walked around the statue noting that she was slightly taller than he was, at the moment, and that it was difficult to figure out how old she was with her marble skin.
‘John, STOP!’ At the mental shout John froze. ‘Look down.’
For the first-time John noticed that the concrete floor of the barn had been modified. Lifting his battle rod John caused the light to brighten. “Wow, this barn, the whole thing, it was her sanctum.” Under the blue-white light John saw a chamber that had been designed for magic. From the shelves filled with books, magical tools, and artifacts, to the workbenches with beakers, phials, and pots. At the far end of the barn John saw an area set up with deep rugs, a fireplace, and a pair of comfortable chairs, obviously used for reading. The barn screamed sanctum.
‘Look at the floor.’
John did and realized he was standing in a pentagram cut into the concrete and right next to his foot he saw an all-black stone the size of a golf ball. “What is it?”
‘Don’t touch it!’ Meka’s warning stopped John as he’d already started to bend over.
‘Because, unless I’m wrong, I think that stone was the attack vector. Whatever it is, does, or did . . . I think it was responsible for what happened to Cassandra.’
John took several steps backward until he was out of the circle and considered the scene. The woman was standing facing it, her back slightly bent, one hand still extended toward it, as though she were in the act of straightening up when the spell hit her.
“I think you’re right.”
‘Try using Witch-sight.’
Feeling a little irritated at Meka’s natural tendency to take charge John closed his eyes and reached inside. Every “awakened” witch or warlock has the ability, inherent within them, to view the world as it exists in magic. There were plenty of theories about Witch-sight. Some argued that it was the “True” sight. Others that it was nothing more than an ability to view magic as it existed in its true form. Using Witch-sight to view a crime scene involving magic was a standard practice taught to the Guardians.
Finding the knot of energy just behind and between his eyes John pushed the energy forward until he could feel his eyes tingle and then he opened them. As soon as he did he gasped. The room was awash with color. Objects glowed with magical energy but even more stunning was the current of energy under John’s feet. It made him want to hot-step to the chair at the other end of the room and climb up. The ley-line that ran under the barn was one of the strongest he’d ever seen!
“Oh, wow, no wonder she likes this place.”
‘Yeah, with that much magic available, I doubt I’d need a focus to cast most spells.’ Then John felt Meka’s attention shift, ‘John there’s something odd about that line.’ John could feel Meka thinking. ‘Why didn’t we feel it when we got here? Now that we know it’s there, we can feel it. It’s almost like Cassandra somehow warded it so visitors wouldn’t notice.’
“Maybe she liked her privacy?” John looked down to investigate the stone at Cassandra’s feet.
‘Likes her privacy? John this is magic I’ve never heard of, and very powerful. Cassandra is more than just a Seer. She’s a powerful witch. That’s Elder level magic!’
There was a very faint purple-red sort of glow to the stone and John cautiously moved forward. “I think the energy that powered the spell was stored in that thing and is mostly used up.”
‘You’re probably right. Still, don’t touch it. Just get close enough for me to look at it.’
John stopped just short of the stone and then squatted down looking intently at it. The glow seemed to shift and instead of just seeing the glow it looked like it was covered in threads of multi-colored light that wove over the surface of the stone and through it. The threads created a matrix of woven light. “Wow, what just happened?”
‘I just cast a spell that lets me see the patterns of magic. Why? What do you see?’
“I don’t know any spells to assist in magical research, but suddenly what I was looking at changed.”
‘That’s interesting. I figured out while we were in the woods that I could pull magic into me from our crystal and that I could still cast minor-spells. Now with that ley-line I don’t even have to use the crystal. I had no idea that the spell would affect us both.’
“What do you think it means?”
‘That we’re joined more deeply than I’d thought at first. Other than that, I’ve got no idea. Now, be quiet I need to focus.’
John could feel Meka studying the stone and tried to be still, but he had no idea what he was looking at and quickly got bored. After several minutes, he couldn’t take it anymore, “What are you thinking?”
‘That it’s time for me to take control of our body. I need to fully investigate this and doing it as a passenger isn’t working.’
“What about the warning that Cassandra only accepts female guests?”
‘I think we’re through the wards and that if we can rescue her she won’t mind. Now give me control.’
“Fine. But we’re changing clothes first.” With that John went out and grabbed the backpack from where he’d left it. Seeing that no one was around he stripped out of his clothes. The feeling of cool air on his sensitive skin caused his flesh to prickle up and he shivered.
‘Come on, I can get dressed. Give me control.’
John straightened up and relaxed moving mentally back allowing Meka to surge forward. His whole body shivered and shifted and then Meka stretched. Gone was the sensation of breasts moving on his chest, instead John felt his back pop and the heavy swing of his flaccid cock between his legs.
“I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the way your schlong feels when it’s just hanging there like that.”
‘Well, if things go according to plan we’ll have you back in your body soon.’
“One can hope.” Meka reached into the backpack and started pulling out men’s clothes. “You know, I was due to start next week.”
“HA! Start, as in, my time of the month, the curse, my visitor, my period, you dork. I was just wondering if you’d end up having it for me.”
‘What?! Look I’m NOT having your period. We need to finish up here, get back to Louisville and report in to Victor on what we’ve found.’
“Hehehehe . . . settle down. You sound like a little girl. It’s just a little blood, you get used to it.”
‘God, I hope not!’
Meka finished dressing and stuffed John’s feminine clothes into the backpack before returning to the barn. “Hhmmmm,” Lifting a hand Meka said, “Lumière.” This time a crystal set in the ceiling flared to life bathing the whole barn in Meka’s signature purple-white light.
“That’s better.” Then added, “Hey, look over there!” Against the far wall Meka spotted a pair of arches on elevated pedestals.
‘They look like traveling gates.’
“Mhmm, that explains how she was able to live here without any means of travel.”
‘I don’t know. It wouldn’t surprise me if we find a generator and a short-wave radio. That way she could call and arrange for someone to fly out from Anchorage and help her from time to time.’
Meka sounded skeptical. Then she turned to the statue of Cassandra and the mystery of the stone at her feet. Meka moved closer and started casting spells and once again John felt his vision shift to a different type of sight that let him see the threads and patterns of magic. Only this time Meka kept on casting. John couldn’t tell exactly what she was doing but several times his vision seemed to tilt and shift, the image of the stone zoomed in and then spun around as Meka examined it from all sides. He felt his nose tingle and realized that each color of magic, within the thread matrix, had an odor. Meka was now using her nose to examine the puzzle as well as her eyes.
‘What are you doing?’
“Working . . . now, shush.”
After a while John got bored, he couldn’t tell what Meka was up to and asking her questions while she was trying to concentrate just annoyed her. Instead, John focused on trying to use his connection to the crystal to draw in magic. To his surprise, magic flowed freely into him. Not as strongly as when he was in control of their body but enough to allow him to cast a spell or two. Except that most of the magic he knew was for combat or for tracking down a rogue witch, warlock, sorcerer, or wizard.
Then he felt something buzzing in the back of his mind. When he focused on it he realized it was the ley line. Opening himself to it he felt magic rush into his body only the magic had an interesting flavor, like strawberries and cream. Then his vision expanded and the world in front of him faded away.
Everything was dark. A silvery light blossomed and John saw what must be a door had opened and a full moon poured its light into the room. A shadowy figure walked in, partly blocking the light, “Loinnir,” a woman’s voice rang out with a musical quality and an Irish accent.
Over head the crystal came alive with an emerald-sliver glow. The overhead light dispelling the shadows and John saw that this woman must be Cassandra. Her long hair cascaded in a waterfall of auburn locks over her flowing green robe, the exact same robe the statue wore. John couldn’t tell how old she was since she had an ageless beauty. She could have been thirty or a hundred for all he could tell. When she entered the barn the door closed behind her shutting out the moon light.
She moved to the middle of the barn and reached into a pocket of her robe and pulled out a stone. The stone glowed with a soft green light and she sat it on the floor. “Now, what has my son sent me.” Pulling out a small knife she brought it to her finger and stopped. Her posture changed and she peered around. At last her eyes seemed to settle on John.
‘Who are you, lass?’
John almost jumped when he realized that Cassandra could see him, and then felt startled yet again when he realized she saw him as Meka. ‘I’m a friend. I was sent by Gwendolyn, whatever you do, don’t activate that stone!’
For several seconds Cassandra looked at John, waiting. Then she shook her head, ‘It’s obvious you’re an untrained Seer. Don’t worry, girl, in time you’ll learn to project your thoughts. You may stay and watch, but after tonight I want you to find me. I live in Alaska, if you go to Anchorage and ask for Cassandra Ó Flannagáin, there will be people at the Coven who will help you find me. I would like to know who you are. I might even agree to train you. In this age, we have so few Seers.’
Then Cassandra used the knife to prick a finger. A drop of blood welled up and she sat the knife on the work bench before moving into the circle and bending over she pressed her finger into the stone. At once the stone seemed to pulse shifting from green to an angry red color. As Cassandra straightened up the stone pulsed a second time and sent out a burst of malevolent energy. For a moment John was blinded and then he saw Cassandra, just as they’d found her, turned to stone.
“Hehehehehe!” The sound of laughter caused John to look around and he spotted a young man standing to one side, just out of the circle. Laughing he strutted forward stopping directly in front of Cassandra.
“It worked! Just as Lord Drake thought!” Then he spat into Cassandra’s petrified face, “Didn’t see this coming, did you, bitch? Tia said, that Seers have a blind spot when it comes blood kin. I told you back in 39’ that I’d end you. I never dreamed it would take me this long. Hehehehehe. Too bad we didn’t have a chance to talk, I’d have loved to explain that your precious son, Eli, died begging to be spared, in the body of an overweight, middle-aged, woman.” For a moment, he continued to look at Cassandra and then he reached up to touch her face rubbing the spittle into her eyes. “You killed Deidrick and I killed your son. Most would say that the score is settled, I disagree. If you can hear me, in there, know this, when the war is over I’ll be back. I’ll free you, from your prison and see to a proper punishment.”
Then he turned around and moved to the chairs at the far end of the chamber. Sitting on a stand between the two chairs was a mirror, “Ah, the Mirror of Far-Seeing. It looks just like Mistress Tia said it would. Tia might not be in your class, Cassandra, as a Seer,” The warlock said, looking back over his shoulder at Cassandra, “But this little artifact should help.”
‘Stop!’ John shouted and flew at the warlock only to pass harmlessly through him. ‘Fuck!’ he raged.
The thief moved to the gates and examined both before nodding. “St. Louis and London; Berlin would have been better, but London will do.” Touching a crystal hanging from a chain around his neck he spoke a word of power and the symbol above the gate to the right flared with red energy. Then the woman wearing Eli’s body looked over at Cassandra, “Until later, ‘mother.’” Then he stepped through the gate and vanished.
For several seconds John just stared at the gate and then the crystal overhead died and the vision faded.
Once again John found himself in the barn only he was now a passenger in his body. While he’d been out Meka had moved to stand on the opposite side of the statue of Cassandra and the weird magic sight was gone.
‘Hey, you’ll never believe what just happened.’
“You took a nap? I tried talking to you but you were out.”
‘I was? How long was I gone?’
“I’m not sure. I mean I was focused on my examination of the crystal and the spell. I wanted to ask your opinion about what might have been used as the trigger, but you were gone.”
John felt puzzled, ‘Wow, it only felt like a few minutes to me.’
“Sleep can be that way. I’ve figured out that the stone contained a spell that was designed to turn any living mammal within its field, once activated, to stone. However, it was a trap, because the spell was disguised to look like a magic-jar spell.” At John’s silence Meka continued, “You know, a spell designed to fold space so that it could hold several objects in it that were larger than the space that the object occupies in our universe.”
‘Yeah, that makes no sense.’
John could feel Meka roll her eyes. “It lets me take a bowling ball and by folding space, put it in my coin purse.”
“Oh, okay. How does that create a trap?”
“I think Cassandra thought she’d gotten a gift from someone she trusted and was trying to open it and instead got hit with the petrify spell.” Then Meka shook her head, “Now, if I only knew the Key to activating the spell I could start to figure out how to unravel it and restore her.”
‘It was blood.’
“What? Blood? How can you be sure?”
‘I wasn’t asleep, I had a vision. I saw Cassandra activate the spell that turned her to stone. She used a small knife to cut her finger and the blood to activated the stone.’
“Hmmmm . . . a blood lock? That means it was sealed by a blood relative and only another could unlock it.”
‘Do you think you can reverse it?’
“Maybe.” Meka moved over to where the chair was and sat down. “First let’s talk to Gwendolyn.”
‘Before you call her, there’s another thing. You weren’t wrong about the magic jar spell. When she activated the stone, it set off two spells one after the other. The first turned Cassandra to stone. The second released a guy who’d been hidden within the stone. He called her, mom, and he took a mirror that had been sitting over there, called the Mirror of Far-Seeing or something like that . . . He used one of Cassandra’s gates to travel to London and escape.’
“Damn!” Meka said before lifting his cane, “Gwendolyn!” the crystal glowed with Meka’s signature soft purple-white light.
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