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Brynnhollow

Book 7: Unsung

© 2019 by MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

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Chapter 11

"What are you looking for?" Corabeth asked cautiously.

After another long moment of searching, Lex quietly responded, "I still exist."

"What?"

"I'm finished casting my illusion. I've done what I was created to do. I wasn't sure if when I finished, if I'd just stop existing." Lex awkwardly explained.

"We still need to cast the barrier spell. Do you want to help us with that?" Corabeth asked with a demure hopeful smile.

Lex responded with a full-fledged smile of his own as he answered, "I'd love to."

* * * * *

"How's it going?" Agent Roberts quietly asked.

"I have no idea." Agent Fastbeck answered honestly.

"I'm glad it's not just me." Agent Roberts said with nervous laughter.

"I suppose we'd better stay close to our doors in case we're needed."

"It might not be a bad idea to stick close to Rhuru-wra in case he needs you to translate for him."

"He's so blissed out on the magical flow right now that I doubt that he wants to talk to anyone." Agent Fastbeck said honestly, then added more quietly, "Filipe, on the other hand, looks like he might benefit from some words of encouragement."

Agent Roberts glanced in Filipe's direction before saying, "With all the magic zinging around here, it's easy to forget that emotionally supporting the kids has become part of our job."

"If that's the case, then we might want to keep a close eye on Corabeth. I'm not entirely sure what's going on there, but I suspect that we have all the ingredients for a fairly potent heartbreak." Agent Fastbeck said frankly.

"Because of the charm that I wear, all I see when I look at G's illusion is a smudge in reality. I guess that makes it difficult for me to imagine someone forming an emotional attachment to it." Agent Roberts said frankly.

"Just watch Corabeth when she's talking to him if you have any doubt about how seriously she's taking it." Agent Fastbeck suggested.

Agent Roberts watched for a moment, then winced when he saw Corabeth delightedly giggle at something that Lex had just said.

He glanced at Agent Fastbeck who was awaiting his reaction and quietly said, "Yeah. This is gonna hurt."

"It might be better if you're the one to talk to Filipe. I get the feeling that he has a lot of respect for you." Agent Fastbeck said frankly.

"Yeah. The feeling's mutual. I'll leave Corabeth to you. Just let me know if there's anything I can do to make it easier on her."

"Just be available to help pick up the pieces. I think that's as much as any of us can do right now."

* * * * *

"Is this a good time to talk?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously as he approached.

"What? Oh, yeah. Sure." Filipe said distractedly.

"Are you alright?"

"I'm fine. I just never channeled that much magic before. I didn't think it'd scare me so much." Filipe quietly admitted.

"What are you afraid of?" Agent Roberts asked gently.

"I don't know." Filipe muttered.

"Are you afraid of disappointing people or are you more afraid of being hurt?" Agent Roberts pressed.

"Well, I don't want to disappoint anyone, but that's not what's scaring me. There's so much magic and everything's going so fast. I just don't know if I'm strong enough to keep up with it." Filipe reluctantly admitted.

"I don't have enough experience with magic to tell you that you don't need to worry. The most I can do is remind you that the teachers 'do' have the experience to be able to judge if something is safe or not." Agent Roberts said carefully.

"I knew that. I guess that I'm just worried about nothing." Filipe quietly muttered.

Agent Roberts pulled Filipe into a hug as he said, "You're worried about something that's very real and very dangerous. There's nothing at all unreasonable about what you're feeling. As long as you're honest and tell your teachers if you're having any problems, then I trust that they won't allow you to do anything that's too dangerous."

"Yeah. I've been able to sense Professor Everstone's presence within the spell. He's been keeping track of what I'm doing the whole time that I'm spellcasting." Filipe admitted.

Agent Roberts released him, then looked him in the eyes before saying, "Remember that if you need another hug, I'll have one ready and waiting for you."

"Thanks Agent Roberts. I think maybe that's what I was needing. I feel a lot better now." Filipe said with an honest smile.

Agent Roberts stood and watched as Filipe turned and rejoined Professor Everstone and Dr. Williams in the spellcasting.

* * * * *

"How are you doing, Dad?" Paul asked very carefully.

"It's a little strange for me. Most of the time when I'm called upon to do something magical, it's because it's something that needs to be done with great delicacy and precision. This time I'm just being asked to help out with the heavy lifting."

"Are you sorry that you volunteered to help us?"

"Not at all. It's just a different perspective for me. It's actually kind of nice to stand back and watch things happen from more of a distance. While I don't feel 'helpless', since I know that any concern I had would be seriously addressed, I also don't feel 'responsible' for managing the project, so I can stand back and observe."

"There's a chance that this may end up being the biggest, most important thing that I ever do. I'm glad that you're here to share it with me... with us. G's glad that you're here too." Paul quickly added.

"I appear to be the least of his worries at the moment." D said frankly.

Paul followed his gaze, then broke into an understanding smile as he said, "That's not G, he's beside Milo. That's Lex."

"It's not surprising that they look the same, but their mannerisms... How can they behave so much alike?" D asked curiously as he glanced toward Milo to verify that G was there.

"G already had Lex crafted and rigged, thanks to his sorcery classes. I'm guessing that when he was suddenly flooded with more magic than he's ever had before, it must've awakened some kind of ability that he inherited from you or Grandpa J." Paul said speculatively.

"Do you really think so?" D asked as he looked at Lex and Corabeth more intently.

"Yeah. It looks to me like he was able to animate his illusion in a way that he doesn't have to pay attention to it while it's running."

"Well, good. If that's how it is, then I'm not quite as worried about him chatting up that girl."

"Dad, this may not be what you first thought it was, but it could go wrong sooo many ways, I can't even tell you."

"No one looks like they're trying to intentionally hurt or use anyone and I suppose that there's always a chance that it will work out..." The dubious look from Paul prompted him to amend, "...and if that happens we'll make sure to buy V some ice skates for his trip home."

Paul couldn't help but smile as he nodded his agreement, then he hesitantly asked, "So, what do you think we should do?"

"Sometimes there's nothing you can do but stand back and watch the dumpster fire burn itself out."

* * * * *

After a particularly long and difficult passage of spellcasting, Corabeth quietly asked, "Is Lex short for Alexander?"

"No, Lexington."

"Like, the city?"

"Like the gargoyle." Lex said with a smile, then explained, "I guess when I was first created I wasn't very nice to look at. Paul wanted to give me a name instead of calling me 'it' or 'the illusion', so he suggested calling me Lex after a cartoon gargoyle."

"You're certainly not a gargoyle now. Would you rather have another name?" Corabeth asked curiously.

"No. I don't think so." Lex said thoughtfully, then explained, "Even though I was named after something ugly, there was more to it. G could tell that the Lex character was one that Paul enjoyed and admired. If anything, I'd like to be able to live up to the name that Paul gave me and become someone respectable and decent no matter what my physical appearance is like... well, depending on whether or not I'll get the chance. I could still just stop existing at any moment."

"If you think about it, considering what we're doing and the amount of magic involved, any of us could stop existing at any moment." Corabeth said frankly.

"I'll do whatever I can to see that that doesn't happen." Lex said sincerely as he looked deeply into her eyes.

"Break's over you two." Miss Oaken said before going back to casting the barrier spell.

After a shy smile shared between them, Corabeth and Lex returned to casting their spells.

* * * * *

"Is this a good time?" Agent Roberts cautiously asked as he approached.

"Actually, yes. I've established a steady rhythm in the base weave, so while I have to keep careful watch on my magical flow, I can split my concentration enough to hold a conversation." Paul said carefully.

"I saw you talking to your dad for a few minutes, so I thought it might be okay." Agent Roberts admitted.

"Was there something in particular that you wanted to discuss, or were you just lonely?"

"So, I see that you get snarky when you're under pressure."

"Not really. I just have the feeling that you're here for a reason so I was giving you an easy way to bypass the chit-chat."

"Oh? Well, thanks. I wanted to get your insights on G's clone. I need to assess him as a potential threat and thought that you might be a good resource to draw upon."

"I can probably tell you whatever you want to know about Lex's abilities or limitations, but I'm not going to be able to help you when it comes down to his state of mind or what kind of a person he is. He was a blank slate when I knew him, a puppet with his strings cut."

"I guess I'll have to work on that part next, but... how bad is it? How powerful is he?" Agent Roberts hesitantly asked.

"Honestly, at this point in time, he could probably stand toe-to-toe with any witch here. Where he's most disadvantaged is in training. He doesn't know any spells, any strategy and he doesn't have any instincts to fall back on."

"But he isn't even real. How can he be that powerful?"

"That's just because he's being fueled directly by the magic of the air element. If it weren't for that, he'd be sharing G's natural magic. He probably wouldn't be able to maintain sentience with that low of a magical flow."

"So, theoretically speaking, what would one have to do to interrupt the connection between Lex and his power source?"

"That's hard to say... if it were me, I can think of a few things that I could try that might have a chance of working. If we're talking about you... let's just say that this is one of those circumstances where being a mundane human is a real disadvantage."

"I know you don't want to hear this, but I need to know, will it help my situation if G is distracted or somehow incapacitated?"

"No. Lex is acting completely independently. G is already distracted enough with drawing up the air element that if it mattered, you'd be seeing the strain on G and faltering in Lex." Paul said seriously, then added in a lower voice, "And if you do anything to hurt G, you'll have me to deal with..."

"Save your nightmare fuel, I'm not going to hurt him. I just needed to understand the connection between him and Lex in case Lex starts misbehaving." Agent Roberts said frankly.

Paul looked at him appraisingly for a moment, then quietly said, "Most people, even witches, are afraid of demons, especially when they're upset. Sometimes it bothers me when I see their automatic reactions to me. I'm still not sure how I feel about you not being afraid of me."

Agent Roberts smiled at the statement, then said, "Please take it as a sign of my admiration and respect. I trust you enough to know that you wouldn't attack me or anyone without good cause."

"Okay." Paul acknowledged, then continued, "Even though G may not be showing it right now, Lex is more than just a spell to him. He's put a lot of time and care into crafting him and making him look as life-like as possible. Having him essentially 'come to life' like this... it's almost like Pinocchio."

"You don't have to explain that part to me. I think I have a sense of how he feels." Agent Roberts said simply.

"Do you really think so?" Paul asked curiously.

"Have you met my shadow?" Agent Roberts asked with a smile.

"Oh, yeah. I guess you might be able to sympathize with what G is feeling." Paul admitted, then thought to ask, "Where is your shadow, anyway?"

"Dry humping Otis, over by the Waxell door." Agent Roberts said with a pained expression.

"Is that okay?" Paul cautiously asked as he followed his gaze.

"Otis doesn't seem to mind, and they really haven't done anything 'Hard-R', so..."

"... just let them have their fun?" Paul ventured.

"As Conrad said, 'Sometimes there's nothing you can do but stand back and watch the dumpster fire burn itself out.'" Agent Roberts said simply.

Just then, Otis glanced in Paul and Agent Roberts' direction and broke into a feverish blush.

As Paul and Agent Roberts watched, Otis whispered something, then Obby also turned to face them.

"Just keep in mind that there are children present." Agent Roberts called in their general direction.

Otis blushed even harder, but Obby seemed to take Shawn's words to heart and nodded his confirmation.

"If you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my multi-dimensional knitting." Paul said frankly.

"Of course, I wouldn't want to be responsible for you dropping a stitch."

Paul's smile faded into a look of concentration as he raised his hands and started doing a series of the most intricate spellcasting gestures that Agent Roberts had seen to date.

* * * * *

"Do you have a minute?"

"I don't really have an assigned task, so I have more minutes than I know what to do with." Agent Roberts said frankly.

"Although I have an assigned task, it's what one would describe as the 'grunt work' of the spell. That being the case, there isn't much for me to do while the parameters are being defined." D explained.

"What can I do for you?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.

"It was just a thought, really. I heard somewhere that you can see through spells and illusions, is that right?" D asked curiously.

"Yes. Thanks to a pendant that the kids made for me, I'm able to see through most illusions and spells." Agent Roberts confirmed.

"I was just curious to know how you perceive this room that we're in." D said simply.

"How do you mean?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.

"How big was this room when you first walked in here?"

"I don't know, about ten or twelve feet square, I guess."

"And how many people do we have in here?"

Agent Roberts looked around, then quietly said, "I see what you mean. The inside of the Vinculum chamber seems to expand to accommodate the number of people inside. It never feels 'cramped', but it also never feels 'spacious'."

"I just wondered what you saw when you looked at it." D reiterated.

"I don't think I actually focused on it before, I just accepted the reality of what I expected to see." Agent Roberts said slowly as he looked around.

"And now that you 'are' focusing on it?" D prompted.

"Let's just say that I would have been a lot more comfortable not taking a closer look."

"Why? What do you see?" D asked curiously.

"From my point of view, we're standing on nothing, floating in a void. It's endless in all directions. The only interruptions in the nothingness are the doorways. Everything else is just a faded dream." Agent Roberts said quietly.

"Sorry I asked. I just thought that it would be interesting to hear your insights on what the Vinculum Chamber really is." D quietly explained.

"As far as I can tell, it's a room that exists several places at once." Agent Roberts said simply, then explained, "The areas of space where you'd expect to find the different iterations of the chamber are being used to store the pooled magic from the different barriers. This room that we're in is stretched to exist in the places where those other rooms are expected to be. The only reason any of this works is because of the stretching and skewing of the gazebo behind the Old Tennyson Place."

"Yes. That's a good way of putting it." D said with a smile, then remorsefully added, "Sorry about dispelling your illusion. I was just interested to know how you rationalized what you were witnessing here."

"No problem. Whether it's comfortable or not, I'd much rather deal with reality." Agent Roberts said frankly.

"I suspect that that is one of the reasons that you're where you are today." D said simply.

"Just how much do you have to do with 'where I am today'?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.

"Very little. While I had some input in the decision to place Conrad here, I was only vaguely aware of your recruitment." D said simply.

"So you didn't have anything to do with me getting assigned to Waxell?" Agent Roberts cautiously asked.

"No. I was consulted about the situation at the South Seid barrier. All I knew about you before meeting you in person was in relation to that." D said frankly.

"I don't know why, but I had the feeling that your involvement was a little deeper than what I was seeing." Agent Roberts said frankly.

"Yeah. I give off that vibe. I think it's sort of a defense mechanism." D quietly admitted.

"Don't change a thing. Stick with what works." Agent Roberts chuckled.

"It sounds like Miss Oaken is going to need me to reinforce her barrier structure. If this keeps me tied up for too long, would you help keep an eye on the boys for me?"

"Does that include Lex?"

"I'll leave that to your discretion."

Agent Roberts nodded once, then watched as D joined Miss Oaken, Corabeth and Lex in their spellcasting.

* * * * *

"Are you mad at me?"

Agent Roberts didn't immediately recognize the voice and turned quickly.

"I didn't know if maybe I should be doing something to help you or your friends." Obby asked worriedly.

"As far as I know, everyone is already doing what needs to be done." Agent Roberts said honestly.

"Otis and I got to talking and he said that he didn't know if maybe since I'm not... you know... a person like you and him, that maybe there's something that I should be doing to help out." Obby said anxiously.

"The only one I can think of who might be able to use your help is Milo. He's the one with shadow magic, so it's possible that he could channel your magic or use your support in some way."

"I think that if he needed me for something, he'd ask me. I've tried to be nice to him and I don't think he's afraid of me now... as much. Do you think he's scared of me?" Obby asked worriedly.

"Maybe he was at first, but I don't get the feeling that he's afraid of you now. I'm pretty sure that if there were something you could do to help him that he'd ask you."

"But you're not mad at me?" Obby asked to confirm.

"No. I'm not mad at you at all." Agent Roberts assured him, then thought to add, "I'm glad that you're able to talk now."

"I can't always understand what you're saying when I'm flat, but I can always hear and understand you when you talk to me in the mirror. If I stop being able to talk, you can ask me yes and no questions in the mirror whenever you want."

"What about you and Otis? Is there anything I need to know about that?"

"Otis is nice and I like him. He actually wanted me to come over here and make sure that you're okay. He says that all he has to do is stay by the door and that I can keep him company while he does that."

"That sounds like a really good idea. You two just remember that there are kids around. Don't do anything too enthusiastic in front of them." Agent Roberts finished with a smile.

"We're probably just going to talk and maybe hold each other. Otis is nice to talk to. He's funny." Obby said warmly.

"I'm glad that you've found someone that you like to spend time with. That's much better than standing around, waiting for something to do."

"You can come over and talk with us! Otis won't mind. I think he likes you too." Obby said quickly.

"It's best if I stay by my own door." Agent Roberts said quietly, then added, "Besides, at this stage of things, I should probably keep my distance. If you and Otis end up seeing a lot of each other, then maybe I can hang out with you two later."

"Thank you... can I call you Shawn?"

"Sure. That's my name." Agent Roberts said with a grin, then thought to ask, "Is it okay if I keep calling you Obby?"

"You can call me anything you want. So far, I've been calling myself Obby, but I was thinking... I mean, if you wouldn't mind, I thought that maybe Obby could be short for Obbert."

"That sounds reasonable. Where did you come up with that?"

"I thought that Obbert sounded enough like 'Roberts' so that people would get that we're kind of related, but different enough to say that we're not related the same way that most people are."

"I can't argue with that."

"I'm glad you're not mad. I like my name. I like being me."

"All I want for you is to be happy." Agent Roberts said with a smile, then continued, "You'd better get back to Otis now. You wouldn't want for him to feel unloved."

"I don't want for anyone to feel unloved. That sounds horrible. I mean, like, the worst thing ever." Obby said grimly.

Agent Roberts pulled Obby into a hug and whispered, "Don't worry. It's just a figure of speech. Go take care of Otis."

"Okay." Obby said as he returned the hug.

* * * * *

"How are things going with the spellcasting?" Agent Fastbeck asked as he approached.

"I always expect it to be more exciting than it is." Agent Roberts said frankly.

"Sometimes it is..." Agent Fastbeck weakly defended.

"And then there's now." Agent Roberts said as he looked around at all the people muttering and struggling to manipulate unseen forces all around them.

While the whole scene was intense and dramatic at first, that seemed to wear off after a while until only the mind-numbing sameness of it remained.

"We could check in on V and the boys. I mean, leaving young teenagers in the company of literal demons might be looked upon as being irresponsible." Agent Roberts said simply.

"Ares is here. We don't have to be responsible for the boys at all. If V... I don't know... corrupts them or something, as the parent and guardian Ares will be held to account. Any decision regarding what is appropriate for the boys to be involved in is his to make. The most we can do is verify that he knows about everything that's going on and approves of it." Agent Fastbeck said frankly.

Agent Roberts slowly nodded, then cautiously said, "I suppose that it's only natural for us to try and find a purpose for being here since our original purpose was served once we conducted them to the Southseid site."

"We're representing the interests of the FBI by making sure that these people are doing what they claim to be doing. Even though we've chosen to help them, it's always been within the framework of what's allowable. If at any point, any of these people had posed a legitimate threat to the United States government or her people, we would have reacted to mitigate the situation." Agent Fastbeck said seriously.

"Right. I'm glad that it hasn't come to that. I really like these people." Agent Roberts quietly admitted.

"I know." Agent Fastbeck assured him, "If there had been an incident I would have been conflicted, to say the least."

"Where is Andrea right now?" Agent Roberts asked knowingly.

"She's busy overseeing things in Brynnhollow." Agent Fastbeck said with a slight smile at the thought of her.

"What was that?"

"What?"

"Over there, through the Waxell doorway."

"Someone's out there."

"Kirwin! Otis! Do you want to help me with something?" Agent Roberts asked as he started walking toward the Waxell doorway.

Agent Fastbeck took a step to follow, but then decided that it would be better if he remained behind to keep an eye on things.

"Is there a problem?" V asked Agent Fastbeck as he approached.

"It's too early to be sure. Someone's snooping around outside the Waxell doorway. Just make sure you stay out of sight until we can assess the situation."

Within a heartbeat, V was basically the same size as Deimos and was significantly smaller than Jim.

"You don't have to worry about me, I can blend in." V assured him, then added, "And you don't have to worry about me stepping outside. I couldn't step through that doorway if I wanted to."

"I wasn't worried." Agent Fastbeck said simply.

"Maybe not now, but you might have been at some point. But you can save your worry for other things. Me and my helpers are content to balance the forces of fire against the forces trying to create a barrier where it isn't needed." V said frankly.

"Good. That's just what we need for you to be doing." Agent Fastbeck assured him.

* * * * *

"Dad?" Kirwin asked as he, Agent Roberts and Otis stepped out of the gazebo. Agent Roberts noticed that just as Otis had joined him, that Obby had 'attached' to him and become like a normal shadow.

"Kirwin? I was getting worried. How are you? Is your grandfather alright?" Warren asked anxiously.

"We're both fine." Kirwin immediately informed him.

"They're really okay." Otis interjected.

"Otis? What are you doing out here?" Warren asked confusedly.

"I asked him to come along, just in case he was needed for our investigation." Agent Roberts quickly said as he noticed that the dusk had nearly given away to night.

"I got the impression that you would just be stopping by for a few minutes to check on something." Warren said slowly.

"Yeah. It turns out that we found what we were looking for..."

"Don't tell me you found bodies buried out here." Warren interrupted.

"No. Not at all." Agent Roberts said with surprise at the suggestion.

"With the creepy feeling that's always surrounded this place I just knew that there was probably a mass grave or something out here. I bet the walls of that house are stuffed with dead hobos or something..." Warren nervously muttered.

"I need to check on something. I'll be right back." Kirwin said firmly, then turned back toward the gazebo and started walking before anyone could object or question what he was doing.

"I hate this place. It should have been burned to the ground a hundred years ago." Warren growled.

"This is your heritage, your family history. Be thankful for what you have. I would love to have a physical representation of the generational history of my family. What I've got instead is half-remembered tales of people that might not have actually existed. I can't even imagine how much family history is lost to me because no one bothered to preserve it." Agent Roberts explained.

"You wouldn't feel that way if your family history surrounded a cancerous monument to fear like this." Warren challenged.

"I believe that having something is better than having nothing, but I think that we may have to agree to disagree on that point." Agent Roberts finished with a weary smile.

"Warren, come here." Steven's voice called.

Agent Roberts turned and saw Steven, being supported by his walker, framed in the archway of the gazebo.

"Dad? What are you doing?" Warren asked as Kirwin hurried past his grandfather and back to his father's side.

"Just come here so I can explain." Steven said firmly.

"Are you sure about this?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.

"Yes. This is not only the right thing for our situation, but also for Warren himself." Steven said confidently.

"What's going on?" Warren asked anxiously.

"C'mon, Dad!" Kirwin said as he took Warren's hand and began to urge him toward the gazebo.

"I think that if you just go along, you'll have all your questions answered." Agent Roberts said frankly.

"But I didn't ask. I never wanted to know. I don't want to have anything to do with this place." Warren protested.

"Has he always been like this?" Agent Roberts asked Steven as he fought the urge to throw the stubborn man over his shoulder and carry him to the gazebo.

"He's his mother's son." Steven said wearily.

"It appears that our options are very limited right now. If you expose him to something that he can't handle we could conceivably be forced to take a drastic action, no matter how much we might not want to." Agent Roberts said with dark urgency under his words.

"This may be our only chance to unite as a family, our last chance. I understand what you're saying and I'll accept responsibility for whatever happens." Steven said solemnly.

"Then I hope that something good comes from doing this." Agent Roberts said honestly.

There was a momentary pause, then light rain started falling.

"Warren, you're a grown man. We can't make you do anything against your will. Right now I'm asking, as your father, if you will come with us and share in this very important part of our lives." Steven asked hopefully.

"All three of us should be part of this." Kirwin interjected.

"That's right. If you refuse, this chance will be lost forever." Steven added.

"I'm not agreeing to anything, but what exactly do you want me to do?" Warren cautiously asked.

"Go inside the gazebo and meet some new friends of ours. If you'll do that much and just listen for a few minutes, I don't think either of us will ask anything more of you. However things end up going, we'll consider it settled." Steven said seriously.

"Your friends are inside the gazebo?"

"Yes. You can't see them from out there." Steven said encouragingly.

Warren looked down at his son and quietly asked, "You really want me to do this, don't you?"

"All three of us can be part of something really important and we can help people in ways that nobody else can."

"Is this the thing you and your grandfather keep whispering about?"

"Yeah. Grandpa said that he already asked you and you said that you didn't want to help." Kirwin said frankly.

"I don't remember ever being asked." Warren said honestly.

"I couldn't just come out and ask you. I had to suss out your opinion on things by talking with you in parables and the like."

"You mean those weird bedtime stories that you used to tell me?"

"Yes, that's right. Those bedtime stories were to expose you to ideas and possibilities that you might never consider otherwise." Steven said frankly.

"I still remember the story that you used to tell me about making friends with the angels. That always made me feel so happy." Warren said distantly.

"It turns out that angels are better as a concept..." Steven began to say.

"C'mon Dad. Do this with us and we can talk about things as much as you want later." Kirwin urged.

Warren glanced at Agent Roberts and Otis uncertainly before finally saying, "Okay. I'll go see what you're talking about. But remember that you said that I don't have to stay and participate in whatever this is if I don't want to."

"Give it five minutes. If you decide that you don't want to be a part of it in that time, we won't push for you to stay." Steven assured him.

Agent Roberts glanced at Steven uncertainly.

Steven gave a slight shake of his head, then motioned for his son to step forward to the gazebo archway.

To Be Continued...