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Book 4: Bacaidhean

By MultiMapper
Copyright ©2002-2018 MultiMapper.
All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter 10

"Mr. Bentley Brown has already stated that the origin of The Third Grail has been lost over the millennia. Since none present have any knowledge regarding the creation of the barrier, it would seem that the only course of action open to us would be regarding Agent Fastbeck." Professor Everstone said carefully.

"Can we call him and ask him to come back?" Paul asked slowly, keeping the majority of his attention focused on the barrier in front of him.

"Even though he and I both have sat phones, they only work under specific conditions. There's no way that I could get a message to him before he got back to Waxell." Agent Roberts said regretfully.

"Can your familiars bring him back?" G asked curiously.

"I can't communicate with them over a distance in this realm. If they were back in the Meayithan Realm, I could summon them, but there's nothing I can do since they're already here." Paul said regretfully.

"From the limited interactions I've had with Agent Fastbeck, I would venture to say that even if he were present, he might not be able to provide the answers we're seeking." Professor Everstone said thoughtfully.

"Why would that be?" Miss Oaken asked curiously.

"He hasn't given any indication of an awareness of events outside of what is happening here and now. If it weren't for him being able to open the barrier, there wouldn't be any reason for us to believe that he was anything more than an average human." Professor Everstone carefully explained.

"That, and him being able to turn into a swan." Filipe added as an aside.

"And talk to the Wudewas." Zanner interjected.

"He's sounding less and less average by the minute." Mr. Hansen said frankly.

"Actually, now that you mention it, I believe that you are correct." Professor Everstone said slowly, then continued, "Let's pursue this line of inquiry. What else do we know about the abilities that Agent Fastbeck possesses?"

Although Agent Roberts was loathed to reveal what might well be considered a secret, he reluctantly said, "He told me a little about that, he said that he was carrying a sliver of Aengus MacOg. From the way I understand it, that's the only reason that he can talk to the Wudewas."

"Of course! The black swan! I should have made the connection sooner." Professor Everstone said excitedly.

"What is it, Professor?" Mr. Hansen asked curiously.

"Aengus MacOg was... or possibly is... a god. Or, at least that's how we've always referred to him and his kind."

"Are you saying that Agent Fastbeck is possessed by a god?" Paul asked dubiously.

"No. Not precisely. It's difficult to explain. The god people have been known to bestow their 'blessing' on a person. That usually entails them instilling a glimmer of their essence into that vessel to serve a specific purpose."

"But Agent Fastbeck said that he was the only person who could do it. No one else could get the 'gift' to talk to the Wudewas." Agent Roberts explained.

"I believe that his ability to change into a black swan may be at the heart of that. The legends state that Aengus MacOg also took on the form of a black swan. Perhaps Agent Fastbeck's existing ability is what made him a suitable vessel for the power." Professor Everstone said speculatively.

"If what you're saying is right, what does that mean for us here and now, I mean, with the barrier?" Paul asked seriously.

"If that were to be true, then it would mean that the unknown magic you detected is the magic of gods. It has been speculated that their magic is of another order of magnitude in comparison to ours. While we can manipulate the world around us using the power of the elements, they can manipulate the elements themselves."

"So when I see that weird magic turning into elemental water, that's really what's happening? Rather than calling on the water of the earth, he made his own unique water that behaves exactly the way he wants it to?"

"That is within the realm of possibility, although I should say that the god people were known to have a rather strict hierarchy, which related directly to their power levels. While Aengus MacOg might have had a hand in what was done here, I doubt that he would have undertaken such a task using only his own magic or under his own authority."

"So he was sent here by someone else?" Filipe asked cautiously.

"It is simply speculation on my part. I have no way of knowing for sure. But if the stories of old are any indication, then there may be an even greater power at play here." Professor Everstone said ominously.

"When Agent Fastbeck opened the barrier, he didn't call on Aengus MacOg to let him in, he called on Cernunnos." Agent Roberts said thoughtfully.

"The horned god of animals. Yes, he would certainly qualify as a superior power." Professor Everstone said with a nod.

"I've called on Cernunnos to lend power to my nature spells." Paul said suddenly.

"Yes. Most calls to the god people tend to fall upon deaf ears, but when they decide to take an interest in the goings on in this realm, something like this with Agent Fastbeck is typically the result." Professor Everstone said carefully.

"So, if we call on Cernunnos, he won't answer?" Filipe asked slowly.

"If we were foolish enough to gain the attention of Cernunnos, or Aengus MacOg, for that matter, it is unlikely that we would survive the experience. The god people do what they do in their own time and for their own reasons. They have little patience for the likes of us."

"But Agent Fastbeck calls on Cernunnos every time he opens the barrier." Agent Roberts said simply.

"The essence of Aengus MacOg calls to his superior, more asking his permission and showing respect than actually requesting him to do anything. Agent Fastbeck is only a vessel in such an interaction."

"So, we shouldn't call on Cernunnos when we need a nature power boost for our spells?" Paul asked uncertainly.

"The call you make opens you up to receive power from the nature of this realm. Even though you call upon Cernunnos by name, he doesn't grant you power. If he ever did, you would probably disintegrate immediately. The direct power of Cernunnos can't be diluted enough for any of us to be able to channel it."

"But a lesser god, like Aengus MacOg can put a little spark of his power in someone like Agent Fastbeck, so that he can do what needs to be done." Corabeth slowly reasoned.

"It's possible. But we're attempting to assign motives to the actions of the gods. That's a fool's errand in the best of times. If we are correct in assuming that the barrier was constructed by Aengus MacOg at the behest of Cernunnos, then we need to decide if we're going to attempt to do what we came here for."

"Can we even do anything? I mean, we can't undo 'god' magic, can we?" Paul asked uncertainly.

"Before we ask if we can, perhaps we need to ask ourselves if we should." Professor Everstone responded reasonably.

"How's that?" Paul asked cautiously.

"Can we build on the foundation that's already here?" Professor Everstone asked simply.

"You mean, ignore the 'god' magic and just look at the barrier from the elemental forces on up?"

"We could at least do an evaluation. If it turns out not to be possible, then we can investigate alternatives."

"Yeah. I'm up for it. How about you guys?" Paul asked as he looked at Zanner beside him and G at his other side.

"I'll leave the brain thing to you. I'm just here to bail you out if you get in too deep." G said frankly.

"And I'm here to make sure you have enough power to get the job done." Zanner added.

"How about you Filipe? You wanna help me with this?" Paul asked with a grin.

"Yeah. Deciphering this is at least a two man job."

"Dex? Are you in? We're not doing this unless everyone's on board."

"Yes. I'm fine. I could do this all day." Dex responded with a tranquil smile.

"Okay. Then it's time to get serious." Paul said to his companions, then glanced to the adults and added, "This might take a while."

Agent Roberts looked around and noticed that everyone was focused on the boys, ready to react at the first sign of trouble.

"Zanner, I don't know how this thing's going to react when I touch it. Try to hold it in place." Paul said carefully.

"I'll be ready." Zanner assured him.

"G, if things go wrong, I'm counting on you to pull me and Filipe out."

"Don't worry, I've got your backs."

"I'm going in." Paul said before falling silent.

* * * * *

Agent Roberts watched and waited, feeling helpless to do anything if things suddenly went badly.

Paul began to mutter something that Agent Roberts couldn't quite make out.

"English, Paul. We need to be able to understand the words of the spell." Professor Everstone said encouragingly.

"...the ever flowing pure water is tasked to support those who will rise, should the first children fail. They are the enduring hope of the realm. They are the future that may one day come to pass..."

"That's very nice, but what can you tell us about the construction of the barrier?"

"This is weird. Being a barrier, I'd expect this to be all about earth, but there's a whole lot of stuff to do with the manipulation of water here. I think from the look of it, that it's bringing water in, cleansing it, then sending it back out for some reason."

"Don't allow yourself to be diverted. Seek out the initialization of the barrier."

"Zanner? Are you finding anything?"

"I can't see like you do. And even when I merge with one of the spell threads, I don't understand what I'm seeing."

"If you find anything that looks promising, let me know. I'll take a closer look at it."

"Paul, would you look at this?" Filipe asked cautiously.

"Yeah. What have you got?"

"It looks to me like this is 'water into air', but I don't know why anyone would even want to do that."

"Mist, humidity, rain... I think it has something to do with the water being pure and magically empowered to prolong life and prevent illness."

"Don't forget about the barrier." Professor Everstone quietly reminded them.

"This part is actually built into the barrier spell. It's to keep the people inside healthy. Whatever we do to update or improve the barrier, we've got to make sure that we don't mess this part up."

"Have you encountered any of the structural components of the barrier?"

"Not yet. I thought that I'd start poking around in some of the earth manipulation spells next, since it's not likely that they'd choose to use air as a foundation."

"There wouldn't be much for you to look at anyway. Air is cycled in and out, but nothing else is really happening to it except that stuff with the water." G said frankly, then quickly added, "Maybe you'll be able to see something that I'm missing."

"I'll look at it with you, but I doubt that there's anything other than that to see."

"Mr. Darroch." Professor Everstone said firmly to gain Paul's attention.

Both brothers responded in unison, "Yeah?"

"Focus on the barrier. Once we have what we came for, we may have time to investigate the other mysteries of this thing."

"Yes Professor." Paul said dutifully, then asked, "Zanner, have you come up with anything?"

"Not really. Over there, near the god magic, I saw something that looked to me almost like pillars. Maybe that has something to do with the foundation." Zanner said weakly.

"It sounds like it's worth taking a look at." Paul said simply.

* * * * *

Agent Roberts watched with concern as Paul fell silent.

All the boys were concentrating and it seemed that although their bodies were present, their minds had gone elsewhere.

"Dex, are you alright?" Agent Roberts quietly asked.

"I'm great. Don't worry. This isn't something dangerous for me."

"Paul. Tell me what you're seeing." Professor Everstone said firmly.

"I think we found what we're looking for, but this is pure nature. I haven't learned enough about it to understand the interplay of the forces at work." Paul said slowly.

"Zanner, this sounds like your area of expertise. Would you attempt to see the contents of the spell?" Professor Everstone asked carefully.

"This may be bigger than I can handle, but I'll try." Zanner said nervously.

"If it gets to be too much, I'll pull you back." Dex quietly assured him.

"Hold on. I think I see something." Paul said suddenly.

Everyone watched and waited for Paul to reveal what he had discovered.

Eventually, Paul said, "Whoever made this thing set it up to be worked on. The 'god' magic is underneath, but the nature magic is laid out on top of it so that we can get to whatever we need to and make changes to it."

"Can you interpret the function of the spell before you?"

"Maybe, but it'd be better if Zanner did it. He understands the nature magic a lot better than I do. I can see the big picture, but I get lost in the nitty gritty of the spell."

"Zanner, are you ready?"

"Yeah. And I think that Paul's right. Joining with the spell, I'm finding things right where I'd expect them to be."

"This could take a while. It looks like we're going to have to join with each of the pillars and decipher them." Paul said slowly.

"By 'we' I'm guessing that you mean 'me'." Zanner stated simply.

"Well, yeah." Paul admitted.

"If we're ever to see an end to this, we need to get started." Professor Everstone said firmly.

"Yes Professor." Zanner responded.

"The rest of you, be sure that you're listening for the spells involved in your specialty. Once we're done here, we will be discussing proposed modifications."

"Is anyone going to be writing this down?" G asked curiously.

"What we will be hearing is an interpretation. We will be documenting the procedures and concepts, but not the verbatim spelling."

"The pillar that I'm looking at has to do with the enforcement of the barrier. I'm going to tell you what I see, but be sure to ask questions if I don't explain it right. I don't know too much about this stuff." Zanner warned.

"Corabeth, step forward and listen carefully. It sounds as though this might have to do with your contribution to the barrier spell."

Corabeth moved from Miss Oaken's side and prepared herself.

What followed was incomprehensible gibberish to Agent Roberts' ears.

Everyone else seemed to be following along, but Agent Roberts couldn't make head or tail of one thing that they were saying.

When Zanner finally fell silent, Agent Roberts hesitantly asked, "Is that what we were looking for?"

"Yes. At least part of it." Professor Everstone answered, then turned before asking, "G? Were you following along?"

"Yeah. I got it. I'm just not sure what I'm going to do with it." G said frankly.

"We'll discuss that once we've explored the other pillars. Be sure to pay special attention to the sorcery components. Their modifications or possible recreation will be entirely up to you."

"Before we decide anything, I need to tell you about the modifications suggested by my technomagic teacher." Paul interjected.

"I'll be sure to remind you while we're developing our strategy." Professor Everstone promised.

* * * * *

Although Agent Roberts didn't understand a thing that they were talking about, he was nonetheless riveted by the detailed descriptions of the creation of the original barrier spell.

All of them, teachers and students alike, listened carefully and participated in the information gathering expedition.

Mr. Bentley Brown seemed to be paying his full attention to the goings on, but did not participate. Agent Roberts, for his part, kept careful watch on the boys to be sure that they weren't showing signs of exhaustion.

Although he was concerned that any of them, especially Dex, might be overwhelmed by the magical forces that they were channeling, repeated assurances that what they were currently doing wasn't dangerous allowed him to remain in place and not question every step that they were taking.

* * * * *

"Agent Roberts?" Professor Everstone said, drawing him out of his contemplation.

"Yes Professor?"

"It had originally been my intention for us to return to the tents and discuss our findings thus far. But I have come to realize that we all might benefit from some time to digest the information that we've uncovered. Would you be adverse to us returning to Waxell and having our discussion at your home?" Professor Everstone asked carefully.

"No. I wouldn't have any problem at all with that. But how would you feel about us going to the tents and having dinner before we hike out? We already brought the food with us and besides, I wouldn't want for the kids to feel like they're starving all the way home. It might distract them from being able to think about your mission."

"Yes. Now that you mention it, I'm feeling a bit peckish myself. I could do with a bite to eat."

A rather insistant 'meow' sounded from beside the group, drawing both Professor Everstone and Agent Roberts' attention.

"Yes. They've finished. You won't be interrupting anything important." Professor Everstone said to the kitten and puppy at the edge of the gathering.

"I didn't notice that you were back. Did Agent Fastbeck make it back to his car okay?" Paul asked as he turned in place.

The cat gave one serious 'meow' in response followed by a low purr.

"Good. Give me a minute to completely withdraw from the barrier, then I'll send you back." Paul said seriously.

After a moment of looking at the tiny adorable creatures, Agent Roberts couldn't help but ask, "These are demons?"

"Yeah. They just change themselves to look like natural creatures while they're visiting our realm." Paul responded, then turned his attention to Filipe and asked, "Are you completely back?"

"I think so. It would be easy to get lost in there." Filipe said as he slowly blinked his eyes.

"I know what you mean. The complexity of the water spells is what's really baffling me. It doesn't make any sense."

"I've got the opposite problem. It's the 'lack' of air spells that's making me feel like I'm missing something big." G said frankly.

"Yeah. Every time we went into something new I kept expecting to finally find something to do with air, but I just kept on finding more water." Paul confirmed.

"At least the earth is like it's supposed to be." Zanner said as he seemed to come back to himself.

"I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. With as weird as the other stuff is, the thing that looks perfectly normal makes me the most nervous." Paul said honestly.

A little bark drew Agent Roberts' attention back to the kitten and puppy.

"Why don't you show Agent Roberts what you really look like and I'll open the portal for you." Paul said with a smile at the pair.

"Your portal isn't going to interact with the barrier, is it?" Miss Oaken asked cautiously.

"No. It shouldn't." Paul said simply as he made a casual gesture toward the ground.

Agent Roberts watched as the puppy and kitten transformed into lizard creatures with bat-like wings and glowing red eyes.

"I'll see you guys later. Thanks for helping Agent Fastbeck." Paul said as a gray blur of mist formed in the center of a glowing spell diagram.

The two little demons entered the gray mist, then disappeared.

"Hold on." Paul said slowly as he held his hand out before him.

"Is something wrong?" Miss Oaken asked with concern as she moved to his side.

"I'm not sure. There's something else here. It's like a portal, but it's not... whatever it is, it's too far away for me to get a good look at it."

"Do you think it would help if you joined with the barrier again?" Miss Oaken suggested.

"No. Being connected to the barrier is what kept me from seeing it before. This is... something else."

"That's what you said about the 'god' power. Is it something like that?" Agent Roberts asked carefully as he noticed drops of rain beginning to pelt him.

"I don't know... maybe. I can't get a clear enough sense of it to know for sure. But when I opened the portal for Mah Zah and Ginh Zah, I could feel it close by... underground, I think."

"So, are you saying that this other thing that you're sensing is something separate from the barrier?" Professor Everstone asked slowly.

"Yes. That's the one thing that I can tell you for sure about it. I mean, it might 'connect' with the barrier, but it's not 'part of' the barrier. It's a whole other thing."

"Perhaps you could consider the possibilities and decide how to investigate further when we return tomorrow." Professor Everstone suggested helpfully.

"Yeah. That's probably a good idea. My brain is slagged right now. Maybe if I can look at it when I'm rested I'll be able to make more sense of it." Paul agreed.

"Then, if everyone's ready, let's go back to the tents and have our dinner." Agent Roberts said to the group, noticing that the rain wasn't hitting Paul at all.

"Paul, if you've done all that you need to with the water element, I'd like to take the chalice now." Mr. Bentley Brown said seriously.

"What? Oh, yeah." Paul said absently, then looked at Mr. Bentley Brown and continued, "Thank you. I wouldn't have been able to join with the water element and get into the barrier without it."

Mr. Bentley Brown accepted the chalice, then said, "It was my pleasure to see The Third Grail used in a manner suitable for a relic of its importance."

"Professor Everstone, do you want your spear back?" G asked cautiously.

"Yes. I can imagine that holding such power might be a bit taxing for you." Professor Everstone said as he held out his hand to accept the spear.

"It's not too bad. I mean, I could do it if I needed to. But it'll be nice not to have to try and control that thing all the time."

"If everyone is ready, I'll lead the way." Agent Roberts called to the group.

"I'll go with you." Filipe said as he hurried to Agent Roberts' side.

As Agent Roberts watched, Filipe cast a simple spell and the rain suddenly stopped falling on them.

"Thanks." Agent Roberts said with a smile, then started leading the way.

* * * * *

When they arrived, everyone automatically went into the larger of the two tents.

Agent Roberts watched curiously as the table and benches appeared, rising up out of the floor, just as they had done before. This time, however, Paul hadn't so much as lifted a finger to cause that to happen.

At Agent Roberts inquisitive look, Paul explained, "Once I've done a spell the first time, I can usually pull it back up from memory. There's some magic that doesn't work on, but it works for most of the stuff that I do."

"Be that as it may, I believe that we should enjoy our meals, then begin the hike back to the cars. Although the prospect of staying here to rest for a bit does hold some appeal, hiking out in the dark does not." Professor Everstone said as he placed his backpack on one of the benches.

"What are we going to be doing tomorrow?" Filipe asked as he rifled through his backpack to find his dinner.

"We'll discuss that once we've returned to town. I would like for each of you to ponder what we have been able to discover thus far and consider the steps that need to be undertaken to augment the existing barrier." Professor Everstone said as he set the backpack aside, then took a seat at the table.

"It would help us to know more about how other barriers are constructed and how they've been modified over time. That might give us better ideas for this one." Paul stated reasonably.

"Actually, that would likely cause more problems than it would solve. Barriers are typically engineered to accommodate not only the people they are made to protect, but also the geographical area where they are located. Using another barrier as a guide might well cause you to neglect a major component of the barrier's security because your example did not have a need for that aspect."

"Yeah. The Brynnhollow barrier doesn't have the 'wall of force' built into it, at least as far as I could tell. The major feature of that one was the sorcery to make it look like nothing's there." G said frankly.

"That's true. In fact, it's hard to call that one a barrier at all since you can walk right in or out of it whenever you want to." Paul agreed.

"In preparation for this... endeavor, I was provided some small amount of information about the Brynn barrier. While you are quite correct about the sorcery component, there are other forces at play in that one. A normal human approaching the barrier would be disoriented and misdirected to lead them away. From what I read in the report, a feeling of disquiet permeates the air, discouraging uninvited guests from wanting to explore the area." Professor Everstone said before taking a bite of his sandwich.

"I didn't get any creepy feelings like that." G said slowly.

"We were invited." Paul reminded him.

"What was the other village like? What kind of people were there?" Filipe asked curiously.

"They're really nice people, witches like us... well, except that they've been cursed for umpteen generations. They can't use much magic and they're forced to transform into animals, even when they don't want to." Paul said seriously.

"Did you actually get to see them change?" Filipe asked in wonder.

"Yeah. A few times." Paul said simply between bites of food.

"I saw them too." Agent Roberts volunteered.

At Filipe's curious look, Agent Roberts explained, "After Agent Fastbeck and I came here the first time, we asked for help from the Brynns to track down the people threatening the Southseid colony. They sent a group of people who could change into different types of dogs, to track their scents."

"Was Cain with them?" G asked quickly.

"Yes. As a matter of fact, he was." Agent Roberts responded with a smile, then added, "In fact, he was the one who acted as our guide once they had found this base camp."

"This... you mean you tracked them to right where we're sitting right now?" Paul asked with surprise.

"Yes. And to top it off, Cain and Lowell went with us inside the Southseid barrier." Agent Roberts said with a smile.

"How many times have you been inside the barrier?" Filipe asked curiously.

"Three, including today." Agent Roberts said simply.

"Why didn't you take us with you?" G asked in a wounded tone.

"We all have our own jobs to do. While you went on ahead and set up this camp, the rest of us went to the Southseid colony and told them what we were going to be doing, so that they wouldn't think that they were under attack if they noticed us outside their barrier." Agent Roberts carefully explained.

"We got to go inside." Filipe said simply.

"What was it like?" G asked with anticipation.

"I imagine that it's what it would be like to travel to another realm. The mist was thick around our feet and the humidity hung in the air. It was dark when we first entered, but once we were in their village, the light seemed... blue or gray. Even though it was the middle of the day, it felt like twilight to me." Filipe tried to explain.

"But what were the Wudewas like?" Paul asked cautiously.

"They're hard to describe." Filipe said helplessly, then looked at Agent Roberts for help.

"They're pure nature." Dex said quietly, drawing all attention to him.

"How's that?" Mr. Hansen asked curiously.

"They're beautiful and gentle, peaceful and tame,... at least, until they're not. They're so big and strong that they could turn deadly in an instant... just like the earth." Dex said slowly.

"He's right. But as far as how they look, they're bigfoots. I mean, except that most of the bigfoot pictures I've ever seen are brown and the Wudewas are more gray... but that could just be something to do with the weird light inside the barrier." Zanner rambled to a stop.

"Regardless, we've been tasked with the duty of protecting them from outsiders. Were it a group of faeries, ogres or displaced demons, our duty would be the same." Professor Everstone stated firmly.

"Why?" Paul asked curiously.

After a moment to consider, Professor Everstone finally admitted, "I don't understand what you're asking."

"I'm not disagreeing with you, but why would our duty be the same? I don't remember signing up for anything or swearing an oath of loyalty to anyone. Why shouldn't my feelings about the people we're supposed to protect be part of the equation?"

"Within the witch community, there are those who orchestrate things... from above. There are times when they will ask certain of us to perform tasks for the greater good."

"You don't know, do you?" Paul asked as he watched carefully for Professor Everstone's reaction.

"I don't know everything, but what I do know, I cannot discuss."

"Paul." Agent Roberts interjected to gain his attention.

Once Paul had turned to look at him, Agent Roberts carefully said, "The people pulling the strings got me and Agent Fastbeck assigned to help you. They are aware of the Wudewas, the Brynns, you, and others that I've met, but am not at liberty to discuss."

"Do you know who they are? I mean, do they have a name?"

"They probably do, but I don't know what it is. I was told by my superiors to go to your school and meet with your father. From my reading of the situation, your father was told to go to your school to meet with me. That's as much as I know about it." Agent Roberts said frankly.

"Has everyone finished their food? We need to be going." Professor Everstone asked as he looked around.

"What about the tents? Are we leaving them here?" Paul asked as he looked around.

"Yes. And you can leave anything that you brought with you and won't be needing for the hike back. We'll be back here in the morning."

Agent Roberts noticed that Paul seemed to be looking around.

"Did you lose something?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.

"No. I'm just looking for a place that I can put a spell diagram. I want it to be out of the way, but I don't want it to get covered up."

"How big is it?"

"About a foot square."

"With everyone dropping their stuff around the tent, you're probably not going to find a space like that along the wall." Agent Roberts said honestly.

A smile crossed Paul's face, then he said, "I know what I'll do."

Agent Roberts watched as a glowing spell diagram appeared right beside the entry door. Although he was no expert in such things, he noticed that this one was far more complicated than the diagram that Paul had used to summon his demons.

"That's perfect." Paul said then made a quick gesture. In the blink of an eye, the spell diagram was encased in what looked like a wrapped gift box, complete with a red bow.

"I don't think anyone will mess with it now." Paul said with accomplishment.

"What if someone does?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.

"If someone opens the box, it will just be empty. It won't hurt anything." Paul said simply.

"Is everyone ready?" Professor Everstone asked loudly.

"Just a second." Paul said as he hurried across the tent to get his backpack.

"Agent Roberts, would you like to lead the way?" Professor Everstone asked professionally.

"I would be honored, Professor." Agent Roberts responded respectfully.

Before Agent Roberts could even think about the pouring rain outside, Filipe was at his side, enacting the spell to repel the rain from the two of them.

* * * * *

There was little opportunity to talk on the hike back to the cars, but despite the rain, they made good time.

When Agent Roberts led the way out of the heavily wooded area, he immediately went on guard.

He knew that if he attempted to speak to the distant figure that the rain would obscure his voice to the point that he wouldn't be heard.

The others were likewise on guard as they approached the solitary figure holding an umbrella and their anxiety increased when another emerged from a car.

As soon as they had reached the cars, Agent Roberts looked the man with the umbrella in the eyes and said, "Mr. Ingram, what a surprise to see you here."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

OOOOOO a cliffhanger. Now what have we here?

I feel a little befuddled. I can't seem to remember who Mr. Ingram is. This may be just my memory slipping, but That name really doesn't ring a bell for me.

I certainly hope there are more chapters coming soon.

I AM impressed with the progress that has been made so far, although I certainly don't understand it any better than Agent Roberts does.

I guess we will just have to wait till we see the next chapter to find out any more.

MM, I hope you have more for us soon.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher