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"Was it something important?" Agent Roberts asked when he saw Obby approaching.
"Yeah. He's trying to figure out what he's going to do if he keeps on existing when the barrier spells are over." Obby explained.
"What did you tell him?"
"Nothing yet. I don't even know if I'm going to still exist. I don't want to make a promise that I can't keep." Obby said honestly.
"Good. I'm glad that you're being level headed in all this." Agent Roberts said seriously, then fell silent.
Obby waited anxiously for Shawn to come up with some brilliant idea to make everything all better.
"It sounds to me like there are several things that we're not sure of at this point. We don't know how D and Beth are going to react. For that matter, we can't even be sure of what G and Paul are going to do."
Obby slowly nodded his agreement to the assessment.
"How about this? Why don't we just tell Lex that no matter how anyone else feels, he can stay with us at our house?"
"Our house?" Obby asked to confirm.
"Yeah. I just naturally assumed that you'd be staying with me... at least until Otis steals you away." Agent Roberts finished with a tender teasing grin.
"I might visit Otis on our days off sometimes, but I plan on staying with you for as long as you want me around." Obby said frankly.
"Our days off? Do you plan on working with me?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.
"Yeah. I think we'll be a great team. Besides that, you know that if I'm around I've always got your back."
"I guess that's true." Agent Roberts chuckled, then became more serious as he said, "Go tell Lex that he will have a place with us. If he ends up staying with D and Beth, we'll be happy for him, but if things end up not working out, he won't ever have to worry about being left all on his own."
"Thanks Shawn! I love you!" Obby said as he hugged Agent Roberts enthusiastically.
"I love you, too." Agent Roberts quietly admitted as he gently returned the hug.
At some point Obby must have decided that the hug was over because he enthusiastically bounded away, back toward Lex.
"You're a good person, Obby. Don't ever change." Agent Roberts said as he watched with a distant smile.
* * * * *
"Shawn said that you can live with us!" Obby happily announced.
"Oh, uh... thank you." Lex said reluctantly.
"Don't you want to? It'll be great! I bet we'll have all kinds of fun together!" Obby urged him to understand.
After a moment of examining Obby's hopeful expression, Lex finally responded, "We probably will have fun together. But I was just hoping that Agent Roberts would talk to G's dad about letting me stay with them."
"No. Shawn wouldn't do that to you." Obby said seriously, then continued, "If what G's dad says is going to mean anything at all, you're going to have to be the one to ask him about it. Shawn or Paul or G or even me asking him wouldn't be the same. Just remember that no matter what he says, you'll have a place to stay and people who will want you."
"I don't know when I'll get a chance to talk to him about it..." Lex began to say, but was interrupted.
"Lex! We're about to start the next push!" Corabeth called out.
"Okay. I'll be right there." Lex automatically called back.
Obby watched with concern as Lex hurried away.
* * * * *
"Mr. Hansen? Are you about ready with that? Because we're not too far from tying this thing off." Paul called out from the table where the Magi were working.
"Hold on for just another minute if you can. I need to see where everyone is in relation to where they need to be." Mr. Hansen responded.
"All you Zodiac people, if you feel any urge to move to another part of the room, now would be the best time to do it." Agent Roberts announced.
A few questioning looks flashed amongst the group but the only ones to move were Kirwin, closer to his grandfather's side and Cain, to take a step closer to his brother.
"Unbeknownst to the actors, the words unsaid and the songs unsung, the play has been enacted. Thus the universe maintains what is and what should be. Tis done." Mr. Hansen called in a booming voice.
"What? Seriously? That's it?" Agent Roberts asked toward Agent Fastbeck.
"Did you ever wonder why mundane people don't believe that there really are witches?" Agent Fastbeck responded.
"Yeah. But all that buildup and production for a two second speech? How does that work?" Agent Roberts asked aloud, to whomever was listening.
"The ceremony was the point. The buildup and production were component parts of the actual spell. The two second speech was just the little bow on top to pull it all together." Mr. Hansen explained.
"So, it's done? There's no big fireworks or complicated spells or anything left to do?" Agent Roberts asked to be sure.
"You've seen all that there is to see." Mr. Hansen assured him, then quickly added, "I need to get back to Jarrell. I don't want to leave him on his own with the cherubs for too long."
"That sounds like a good idea. I'll keep an eye on things around here while you're doing that. Go ahead." Agent Roberts assured him.
He watched as Mr. Hansen joined Mr. Couleigh and the cherubs in their spellcasting.
"So, does that mean that we don't have to do anything else to help?" Obby asked as he approached.
"You don't have to do anything else to anchor the barriers, but you might be able to help in other ways." Agent Roberts said thoughtfully.
"I thought I was going to get to do something important to help people." Obby said in an obviously disappointed voice.
"Even though you didn't get to do anything big and flashy, you still helped. And I don't know if you've thought of this, but thanks to the spell that Filipe cast on you, he slightly altered who and what you are."
"I don't understand." Obby said honestly.
"When you look at who and what you are, you wear several different labels. Most of those you didn't get a choice in. Some you did. What Filipe did was give you a whole new label which you can wear proudly."
"I'm Pisces, an avatar of the astrological house." Obby said thoughtfully.
"Right. And it's completely up to you if you want to wear that label proudly and do something with it or just ignore it like it never happened."
"I don't really know what it means to 'be Pisces'." Obby reluctantly admitted.
"To be honest, neither do I." Agent Roberts told him with a smile, then continued, "But I think that we've made a few really good friends recently who might be able to help you find out about that."
"Yeah. If I can find out what it means, then I can try to be the best Pisces that there ever was."
"As long as you're willing to put in the work, I'll be right behind you to support you, however you need me."
"Thanks Shawn. I don't know much about it, but I think that maybe I'm the luckiest shadow in the world."
"I don't know either. You may be."
* * * * *
"The weave is done! All the barriers have been intertwined." Paul announced triumphantly.
"So that's it? You're finished?" Agent Roberts asked uncertainly.
"No. The Magi are still releasing the stored magic for the barrier creation, but we've finished weaving together the loci." Milo patiently explained.
"But that's easy compared to the weaving. We don't have to do much more than let it happen." Paul helpfully added.
"We are also responsible for the regulation of flow so as not to overwhelm the spellcasters." Reaper reminded his companions.
"Pfft." Paul responded with a slight roll of his eyes.
"One cannot refute a well reasoned argument such as that." Reaper said with an affectionate grin at Paul.
"Didn't you used to have trouble with our language?" Agent Roberts asked Reaper curiously.
"I gain language skills the longer I am exposed to a person or group of people." Reaper calmly explained.
"I just remember talking to you and getting more understanding from your nonverbal cues than from your words." Agent Roberts said with a fond smile at the memory.
"It was during that time that we found understanding between us. We didn't have words getting in the way of what we were trying to say to each other."
"You know, when all of this is done, I'm still going to be stationed in Waxell. I'll be able to stop by the Protectorate and visit every now and then."
"I believe we would all like that."
"Good. Then it sounds like we have a plan."
"I hope you're planning to keep in touch with us too." Paul interjected.
"From the way things are looking, I might not need to. I think we're going to end up with shared custody of Lex, which means that we'll be seeing each other all the time."
"What about Lex?" Paul asked cautiously.
"I get the feeling that he's uncertain about what's going to happen to him when the barrier spells are all finished."
"Since he was conjured to cast the Brynnhollow barrier spell, I would guess that he will automatically terminate when the spell does." Paul said slowly.
"When the 'casting' ends, or when the 'barrier' ends?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.
"Oh..." Paul quietly responded.
"How likely is it that you just made an immortal creature who is capable of spellcasting?"
"Me? I didn't do it! This was completely G!" Paul was quick to point out.
"I was using 'you' in the plural sense to include both you and your brother."
"Oh, okay." Paul said quietly, then cautiously asked, "Have you ever heard of a Sylph?"
"No. I can't say that I have." Agent Roberts slowly answered.
"It's an air spirit, sometimes called a sprite."
"Okay." Agent Roberts slowly responded
"Despite how it manifested, I think that might actually be what G created."
"Okay." Agent Roberts responded again.
"Sylphs are pure elemental spirits and they're usually not too friendly toward people."
"Are Sylphs always created by accident, being the leftover byproduct of someone else's pet project?"
"I don't know... maybe. I haven't read too much about them." Paul reluctantly admitted.
"Well, if that's the case, I can see why they might not want to play nice with you. If I were them, I wouldn't want to be a party to you condemning someone else to the same fate, either."
"You have no proof that that's what happened."
"True. But I don't know if you're seeing the severity of what your reactions will mean to Lex." Agent Roberts said frankly, then explained, "No matter how your family looks at him, it's how he looks at himself that has the potential to be the most devastating. To find out that he's unwanted or a mistake might be too much for him to bear."
"But there's still a chance that he'll stop existing when the spellcasting of the barrier ends." Paul quickly interjected.
"I'm not arguing that. What I'm saying is that it's horrible and wrong that anyone would wish for that outcome for him. Maybe it's just me being a silly human... I admit that I don't know as much as you do about the secret realities of the world."
"I don't know about that. But I think I understand what you're saying about Lex... or at least I'm beginning to."
"Good. Then I'll let you get back to the business of saving the world and all of that." Agent Roberts said with a teasing smile.
"Not the whole world, just a few special parts of it." Paul responded with enough of a smile to let Agent Roberts know that they were good.
* * * * *
"Agent Fastbeck? Can you open the Southseid door for us? I believe that we're going to need every advantage toward harmonization that we can muster for this next part." Professor Everstone asked suddenly.
"Yes. Of course." Agent Fastbeck said quickly as he rushed toward the Southseid archway and called out, "In the name of Cernunnos who oversees and protects, accept the guardians of light into your sanctuary."
"Agent Roberts, it looks like we're going to need that too." Miss Oaken hurriedly called.
Before even taking a step, Agent Roberts began saying, "In the name of the horned god of the animals, I humbly ask that we be granted entry to this, your sanctuary. We are the harbingers of the next age."
Without asking or being told, Archdruid Highley began walking toward the Nevermore doorway as he calmly said, "In the days of tribute, in the months of seeing, in the years of trial, in the centuries of pain, we persevere. I humbly ask that you grant entry to one who serves. I am the keeper."
"Do you want for me to tell Otis to open the Waxell door too?" Obby quietly asked.
"It might be better to ask V. I'm not sure if opening the door would make things better or worse for what he's trying to do." Agent Roberts responded with a smile.
Obby seemed to 'go flat' into a pool at Agent Roberts' feet, then stretched across the room, as though Shawn had been cast in a spotlight.
Once the shadow reached V, it separated from Agent Roberts and began to form into a three-dimensional being. Agent Roberts had to admit that not only was it a visually interesting method of travel, but it also seemed to be quite a bit faster than walking.
"The magic, it's slowing down. Is that what's supposed to be happening?" Ares asked with concern.
"I have no idea. I'll have to ask." Agent Roberts responded, then turned toward the group of spellcasters and asked, "Is the magic supposed to be drying up?"
"Yes and no. We're at the end of the barrier and finishing things up, but it's not us who are reducing the magical flow. Talk to the Magi." D said quickly before turning his full concentration back to the barrier spell.
"Paul? Is your magic faltering or are you intentionally bringing it down?" Agent Roberts asked, having to fight himself not to step away from the doorway.
"Some of both. Mr. Bentley Brown seems to be slipping, but everyone feels like they're just about done anyway. It looks like it might be a race to the finish." Paul said with difficulty as he was obviously struggling to maintain the magical flow.
"Mr. Bentley Brown? Is there anything I can do to help you? Is there anything you need?" Agent Roberts asked anxiously.
"Yes. As much as I hate to admit it, I need someone to physically support me. If you can find someone who can just help me to hold the chalice, I believe that I will be able to finish doing what has been asked of me." Mr. Bentley Brown carefully said.
"Does it have to be a witch?" Agent Roberts asked sharply.
"No. Anyone will do." Mr. Bentley Brown assured him.
"Obby! I've got a job for you!" Agent Roberts called loudly.
"I'm right here! Do you need me for something?" Obby asked from Otis' side.
"Yes. I need for you to help Mr. Bentley Brown. Help him to keep the magic flowing until the barrier spells are complete." Agent Roberts called loudly across the room to him.
"If you've got someone to spare, I could use some help too." G reluctantly admitted.
"Lex? You got this?" Agent Roberts called immediately.
"They need my help casting the spell." Lex responded uncertainly.
"We can compensate. Go help G." D said decisively.
"How's everyone doing? Zanner? Do you need any help?" Agent Roberts thought to ask.
"Naw. I could do this all day." Zanner said contentedly.
"Anyone else?" Agent Roberts called more loudly.
"We're just about to pull this thing into the station, making sure to tie up the last little bits and bobs. We wouldn't want for those who follow behind us to have reason to criticize our professionalism." Professor Everstone announced.
"The seal!" Milo suddenly gasped.
"Oh fuck! Why didn't anyone warn us about that?!" Paul whined.
"Such an event should have been foreseen when it was discovered that the magic of the gods had been employed." Reaper said regretfully.
"What is it? What's going on?" Agent Roberts cautiously asked.
"The seal to end the spell and tie everything together, it's a life price." Paul said gravely.
"Someone has to die to finish the spell?" Agent Roberts asked with astonishment.
"It would seem so. Without the sacrifice, the spell will not be ended and the barriers could be amended at any time by anyone with the slightest magical ability." Reaper quietly explained.
"What can we do?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously, dreading the answer.
"Abandon the project, forsaking everything we've done to date, or give it the sacrifice that it demands. Those are our options." Professor Everstone said simply.
"What are you going to do?"
"What are you going to allow me to do? Considering the situation that we're in, I won't do anything without the FBI's sanction."
"I know what my knee-jerk reaction is, but at the same time, I don't want to lose everything that we've worked so hard to achieve."
"Maybe this is what I was really created for." Lex said as he released G's hands holding the Mikael Spear and took a step toward the table of the Magi.
"What?" G asked in surprise.
"I know that you didn't create me to be sacrificed, but still, maybe this is why I'm here. This could be my entire purpose for being." Lex carefully explained.
"No." Obby said firmly as he moved forward to stand eye-to-eye with the teenage looking illusion.
Lex found himself speechless in astonishment as he stared at the shadow before him.
"I won't stand by and let anyone else sacrifice themselves. I couldn't live with myself if I did." Obby said firmly.
"Neither one of you are going to sacrifice yourself. You can't. You're not alive." Professor Everstone said firmly to stop the back and forth.
Obby and Lex both looked at the Professor with matching wounded expressions.
"What I mean to say is that you aren't alive in a way that can be used to satisfy the conditions of the spell." Professor Everstone hurried to explain.
"Then I suppose it falls to us." Agent Fastbeck said simply, accepting the Professor's announcement at face value.
Agent Roberts nodded his agreement without hesitation.
"Part of our job is to protect the civilians who pay our salary, sometimes that goes so far as paying the ultimate price." Agent Fastbeck explained, mostly toward Otis and the Tennyson family, to let it be known that they would not be asked to sacrifice themselves.
"Hold on Conrad. You've got Andrea and the boys to watch out for. They need you." Agent Roberts said quietly, doing his best to sound emotionless and detached.
"No. I'm your supervisor. There's no way..." Agent Fastbeck began to say, but was interrupted.
"None of you will have to sacrifice yourselves!" Milo fought to say loudly enough to be heard.
"Don't even think about it Milo. Even though there are times that you're a colossal pain in the ass, there's no way we're going to let you kill yourself so just get that thought right out of your head." Agent Roberts said firmly.
"Actually, I wasn't planning on it. My choir of shades is a collection of disembodied human souls. When they were alive, they were completely devoted to the archdruid and to Nevermore. Upon their deaths, I preserved a shred of each of them in hopes that they could resolve their past issues and find the redemption that they were unable to achieve in life. I know that they would be honored to give this last little bit of themselves up in order to protect the children of angels as well as all of you." Milo explained.
"Will they know what's happening to them?" Obby asked into the silence that followed as he looked at the collection of shadows with concern.
"I doubt it, but I will do everything that I can to convey that what they're doing is going to be for a good cause." Milo fought to impart calmly.
"They're your friends, aren't they? Your family." Jhaartael asked quietly.
"During my darkest hours, they filled a void. It's only right that I now release them so that they can find their peace. In a way, this will be me keeping my promise to them." Milo explained to his father.
"So, what do we still have to do to finish this off?" V asked seriously.
"I believe that if everyone will join me in making a final push to complete the various spells that we have outstanding, that Milo will be able to make his sacrifice and bring the whole thing to conclusion." Professor Everstone said calmly and rationally.
"No one has to die?" Obby asked in confusion.
"No. Everyone gets to have a long happy life." Agent Roberts assured him as he pulled Obby into a hug.
"Do you think G's dad saw what Lex did?" Obby quickly asked.
"I'm sure that he did." Agent Roberts assured him, then added more quietly, "We've let Lex know that we support him and that he won't be left on his own. Now the rest is up to him."
"But shouldn't we do something to let G's dad know what Lex is worried about?" Obby asked with concern.
"We've done as much as we can do. Lex will have to take care of the rest of it himself." Agent Roberts quietly explained.
"I don't know if I can just do nothing while Lex is so worried and scared." Obby said as he pulled out of the hug.
"Why don't you go over and see how Otis and the Tennysons are doing? I need to stay by the Brynnhollow door."
"Do you want me to tell them anything from you?"
"No. Just find out how they're doing and let me know if there's anything I can do to help them."
"Okay. I love you Shawn." Obby said happily before scurrying away.
"I love you too." Agent Roberts said quietly after him with a slight affectionate smile.
* * * * *
"Mister Ingram, are you able to determine for yourself when the sacrifice will need to be made?" Professor Everstone asked seriously.
"My name is Miklos Szabla and as long as I'm attuned to the Magi, I am capable of tracking the progress of all the other spells." Milo said confidently.
"Does that include the anchor spell that Mr. Hansen did?" Professor Everstone asked cautiously.
"Yes. Not only did I see what he was doing, but I also verified that he did it correctly. There is no doubt, the Vinculum is securely anchored and when the barriers are complete, they will be also." Milo confirmed.
"I am sure that Dr. Williams and Filipe will be as glad to have this over with as I will be. The Southseid barrier team is ready to seal their barrier spell. We're waiting on notice of the other teams being likewise prepared."
"The Nevermore team is ready. The Protectorate barrier has been remade and is awaiting confirmation before proceeding with completion." Mr. Hansen said soberly alongside Mr. Couleigh and the cherubs.
"Lex, if G can do without you for a minute, we could really use your help to finish this off." D said from between Miss Oaken and Corabeth.
"Are you okay?" Lex asked G to be sure.
"Yeah. You'll help me out most by ending this." G said as he struggled to maintain his grip on the Mikael Spear.
As soon as Lex was physically at D's side, between him and Corabeth, Miss Oaken called aloud, "This barrier, this illusion, this inheritance from ages past, become the home and hearth, succor and solace of our precious loved ones in the future, passed unto the descendants of the Brynn!"
There was a long silent moment as her words hung in the air, then as they were beginning to fade, Professor Everstone loudly said, "The protected society, the isolated community becoming a world unto itself, a civilization apart, perhaps one day discovering the secrets that have eluded their neighbors. In this, we offer protection from those who would cause you harm. My kindred fellows, the Wudewas, with all that we are and all that we have, we wish you well."
Again, there was a moment for the words to sink in. Finally, Mr. Hansen said in a clear firm voice, "In defense of history, in defense of myth, in defense of truths which best remain unknown for the time being, We reinstall the barrier that not only protects but also limits. In this we show our love, our respect and confirm that these people have value to the world."
When the invocation was complete, Reaper quietly whispered, "Thank you."
"So it is done. The barriers have been made. What were three have now become one. Each being stronger and having more features to protect our precious ones." Paul said to the group.
"We have used the magic left for us, expressly for this purpose. It is our hope that we will be judged to have used it wisely." Reaper said, using Paul's same tone and inflection.
"All that is left is to make the seal so that no one can undo what we have done. To that end and with this spell I call upon the powers that be, the forces that guide the universe and most specifically upon Cernunnos, the Horned God of Animals, to witness this spell and offer their wishes that it be so." Milo said in an increasing voice.
"Do it." Jhaartael whispered to his son anxiously.
"So I form the seal and let the magics be done." Milo said in a voice of finality.
"Let what has been created here be allowed to remain." Reaper said next.
"By the will of witches, demons, faeries and angels, let it be so." Paul intoned with finality.
Agent Roberts' eyes tracked to a movement and he saw the members of Milo's choir stirring, as though they were being thrashed by a wind that only they could feel.
Within seconds, the shadows began flowing, one by one, toward the table where the Magi had been working.
As each arrived, Milo would look at them sadly and silently mouth a word or two before releasing them to experience the next expression of their death.
After the last of the shadows had been dispatched, Agent Roberts broke the silence by quietly asking, "Is that it? Are we done?"
"For the most part, yes." Professor Everstone wearily answered.
"I still have to go back to the Protectorate and fold it out of our space." Mr. Hansen said unenthusiastically.
"Don't worry. Filipe and I will go along to help you." Mr. Couleigh promised.
"If you'll show me a little of what you do, maybe I could do some of it myself." Filipe quickly suggested.
"Are you sure that you're up to it?" Mr. Hansen asked with a tender smile.
"I'm up to trying. I just want to be some help, if I can." Filipe explained sincerely.
Mr. Hansen turned his attention mainly toward Professor Everstone and asked, "Is there anything else that you need us here for?"
After a moment to consider, Professor Everstone finally answered, "No I believe that all has been resolved."
"What about them?" Mr. Couleigh asked as he tilted his head in the direction of the cherubs.
"I have no use for them. Reaper?" Professor Everstone finally asked.
"Summoned, you came and fulfilled your vow of loyalty to my father and his word. I declare before all that you have completed your task to my satisfaction. Go in peace." Reaper said slowly and formally.
"Filthy animals!" One of the cherubs spat before hurling itself through the Nevermore archway. The other soon followed.
"Good riddance." Mr. Couleigh said after them.
"They did what they were called upon to do. What more would you ask?" Reaper asked curiously.
"Some civility would be nice." Mr. Couleigh immediately responded.
"Yes. Wouldn't it though." Reaper said wistfully, then smiled at Mr. Couleigh with his corpse-like face.
Agent Roberts' attention was drawn by Miss Oaken and Corabeth speaking rather urgently with Warren and his family.
"Is there a problem?" Agent Roberts asked as he approached the gathering.
"No. We were just asking if they had functioning 'facilities' in the house." Miss Oaken asked uncomfortably.
"Oh." Agent Roberts said with surprise, then turned to Warren and asked, "Do you?"
"Yes. Kirwin is saying goodbye to his new friends, then he's going to conduct them to the house. When he's ready, I'll help my dad back to his car." Warren explained.
"Are you sorry that we drew you into all this?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.
"I can see now, whether knowingly or not, that I've been dodging this all of my life. Now that I'm in on the big secret... I can see why my ancestors made the pact. This is something that our family can be proud of."
"So you don't mind that Kirwin's a part of it?"
"No. Absolutely not. He's doing something important. Although I probably won't ever take much of an active role in all of this, I won't have any problem with cheering for my father or my son from the sidelines."
"Come on!" Kirwin quickly said as he passed by on his way from the group surrounding V.
Miss Oaken and Corabeth immediately followed without comment.
Agent Roberts took that opportunity to excuse himself and move to where V and the Brynnhollow boys were gathered.
"So, is there anything else that you need to do while you're here?" Agent Roberts asked V as he approached.
"Are you trying to get rid of me?" V asked playfully, his tone of voice revealing that he didn't believe it to be so.
"No. I was just curious to know if you had something else that you wanted to accomplish while you're here."
"When things settle a bit more, I'd like to have a few minutes to talk with my son. No matter how much time we end up having, I doubt that it will ever feel like it's enough. Even so, there are one or two things that I feel must be said." V said frankly.
"He has a good family that loves him. Just don't get in the way of that." Agent Roberts cautioned.
"Just because I'm a demon doesn't mean that I would intentionally undermine my own son's happiness." V said firmly.
"This has nothing to do with you being a demon. I'm just making sure that you're aware of something that could hurt your son. In trying to make up for lost time, don't do things to diminish what he already has."
"It's good that my son has people who will watch after his best interests. It's better than I would have dreamed for him."
"Do you want to see what we learned how to do?" The youngest of the boys asked suddenly.
Agent Roberts couldn't help but smile, since it was obvious that Tannis had held back his question until he simply couldn't contain it any longer.
"What have you learned?" Agent Roberts asked indulgently.
"Remember that you're inside. Don't make it too big." V cautioned.
Agent Roberts was surprised to note that Xaphan moved to V's side, as if to take part in the judging of the boys' performances.
"Look." Tannis said happily, then did a series of abrupt hand gestures.
Although Agent Roberts wasn't a witch and had no training in witchcraft whatsoever, he had seen enough to know that the hand gestures needed to be performed with more precision and grace.
Apparently, what Tannis did turned out to be good enough because the result was what appeared to be a little knot of weeds growing into a ball in his open palm.
"Tannis doesn't have a fire ability, so I did my best to teach him some of the earth lore, insofar as I am familiar with it."
"Agent Roberts, put your hand up." Tannis said quickly.
Although reluctant to do so, Agent Roberts finally acceded to the boy's demand.
In the space of a heartbeat, a small thin vine shot out of the ball in Tannis' hand and wrapped itself around Agent Roberts' wrist.
"That's really something." Agent Roberts said as he automatically fought to disentangle himself.
"V says that it won't let loose of you until I tell it to." Tannis said happily.
"Would you get it to let loose of me now?" Agent Roberts asked hopefully.
"Yeah." Tannis said, and as he did, the vine fell away.
"Jim and Deimos? Do you want to show Agent Roberts what you've learned before he has to move on to something else?" V asked warmly.
"Xaphan taught us this." Deimos said as he held up one hand and his fingertips seemed to spew forth flames.
"That's a Yan-gant-y-tan fire spell that even I didn't know. And while it might not look like all that much on the surface, it's an incredibly versatile spell. I'm sure that they'll have many occasions to use it." V said frankly.
"I can't show you my spell. It's kinda gross." Cain said regretfully.
"Yes. But once you've been able to refine your gift with practice, you may well end up with a more versatile gift than your brother or your friends. It will be up to you to make it happen." V said sagely.
"Deimos doesn't have to work for it." Cain grumbled.
"Yes. And that makes it all the more likely that he will not progress much beyond the point where he finds himself right now."
"It looks like Paul is breaking away from the Magi. This might be a good chance for you to get to talk to him."
"Thank you, Agent Roberts. I appreciate all your help." V said quickly before hurrying to his son's side.
* * * * *
"Have you got a minute?" Lex asked nervously.
"Yeah. I'm finished here. What can I do for you?" D asked curiously.
"The spell is over and I'm still here." Lex said simply.
"Do you want me to ask G to end it?" D guessed.
"No! I want to keep on living... I just... what do I do now?" Lex finished in a small lost tone.
"It looks like Paul and V are having a little heart-to-heart talk right now. How about when they're done, we get G and Paul together and discuss what we want to do next?"
"Agent Roberts and Obby already said that I can live with them if you don't want me at your house." Lex hurried to explain.
"Just hold on and we'll talk about it."
* * * * *
"Are you going to tell me that you're going to have to leave?" Paul asked reluctantly.
"You know that I can't stay." V regretfully responded.
"Yeah. I know."
"I'm proud of you Paul. I wish that I could have been a part of your life up to now, but things weren't fated to be that way."
"I understand... well, most of it. I know about what happened and that Mom had to make some decisions while she still could. I don't know if she was right or wrong for doing it, but either way, I get that she was trying to do the right thing as she understood it."
"Mah Zah and Ginh Zah can get messages to me if you ever need to get ahold of me that way." V quietly told him.
"I might do that if I need something important. But I don't think I'll be sending regular messages with them."
"Oh. I see."
"I'm going to wait until I can make a fully traversable portal for myself, then I'll go and visit you and tell you all that stuff in person."
"You have your mother's talent for portals?"
"I have some of it. I'm not sure what hers is really like. She hasn't used it around me very much. But either way, as soon as I've learned a little more and have gotten a little stronger with my magic, I should be able to go and visit you whenever I want."
"I'll look forward to that time." V said peacefully.
"I'm really glad that I got to meet you. I wish we could visit longer, but it looks like everyone is getting ready to go."
"We've said what needs to be said for now. I'll look forward to your visit. When that day comes, we'll have a feast and we can tell each other long stories." V finished with a chuckle.
"I probably won't be able to eat your food. We'll have to wait and see how that works out. But as for the rest of it, I can't wait." Paul finished with a smile.
V pulled Paul into a firm hug which he held for a long loving minute before finally letting go.
As Paul watched, V walked to Agent Roberts and after a brief incantation, the Brynnhollow door transformed into a breathtaking hellscape view of the Meayithan Realm.
* * * * *
After seeing V off, Agent Roberts decided to walk around and take stock of how everyone else was doing.
"Are you going to be alright to get back to your cars on your own? Are you going to need a guide?" Agent Roberts asked with concern.
"I feel confident that we will be able to make it back to your home safely." Professor Everstone said warmly.
"If you're sure. I wouldn't want to take the chance of anyone getting lost at this stage of things."
"We will be fine." Professor Everstone said confidently.
* * * * *
"You're going to be staying in Waxell, aren't you?" Ares asked cautiously.
"Yes. As far as I know."
"Good. Once things have settled down, I'd like it very much if you'd come to visit. After everything that we've been through, I wouldn't want for us to lose the bonds that we've formed... and the kids really look up to you. I think it'd be great if you were around for that, too."
"You want for me to be an example for your kids?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I just think it's good for them to have a role model from outside Brynnhollow to give them a sense of perspective about the whole thing." Ares said simply.
"Isn't Conrad already doing that?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.
"I can't really say. I just know that the kids want to learn new things and do their best to impress you. I'd like to encourage that." Ares said frankly.
"That's good enough for me. Just let me know when and I'll be there." Agent Roberts happily agreed.
* * * * *
"Did you need me for something?" Paul asked as he approached.
"Yes. In just a second. You're brother just had one last thing to say to Mr. Bentley Brown before he leaves."
"How's it going, Lex? Are you getting along okay?" Paul asked curiously.
"Yes. I think so. I'm just not sure about what to do next." Lex said quietly.
"Eat, drink, sleep, relax, do whatever else you need to do to make up for all the stress of today." Paul said frankly.
"What did you need me for?" G asked as he bounded over to his father and brother.
"Lex was just wondering what's going to happen to him now that the spell is over." D said simply.
"Okay." G said hesitantly.
"You're the one who created him, so he's your responsibility. I'll help you with the decisions that you'll be making, but you'll have to be the one to make them." D said seriously.
"Are you saying that I just made you a grandfather?" G asked his father uncertainly.
"I've got a newborn at home, I'm not quite ready for that." D chuckled, then continued, "But it's important for us to decide right now where Lex stands as part of our family."
"I don't know what you're asking me. Do you want for me to move out and get a job so that I can support him?" G asked uncertainly, obviously not believing it to be so.
"Is Lex my son, my grandson, is he a he or an it? Does he get his own room or share yours? When we get back to the house, does he get his own car, or does he borrow one of yours?" D asked seriously.
"Yeah. You said that you were getting us cars for our birthdays, didn't you?" Paul said happily.
"So, guys, tell me honestly, where does Lex stand in our family?"
"I can go live with Agent Roberts and Obby if it's going to be too much trouble for you." Lex quickly interjected.
"No way." Paul immediately responded.
D smiled at his son's reaction, then said, "Lex, we all want for you to be part of our family. We're just trying to figure out which part."
"If G doesn't want you to stay in his room, you can stay in mine... well, except that I'm usually over at G's anyway." Paul said thoughtfully.
"Or you can come over to my room and hang out with me and Paul. We wouldn't mind you being there." G offered.
"Would that be okay?" Lex asked Paul uncertainly.
"Yeah. It'll be great. Especially if you'll side with me when we vote about which anime to watch next. Some of those things are really awful."
"Paul, would you have any problem with losing the view of the back yard from your bedroom window?"
"I have a view?"
"I'll take that as a no."
"Are you saying that you're going to adopt me?" Lex asked cautiously.
"Yes. In some sense of the word. Although I don't plan on going before a judge again anytime soon if I don't absolutely have to."
"But are you sure that you want me living with your family?" Lex asked uncertainly.
"Of course." D answered dismissively, then asked, "What's your full name?"
"Lexington." Lex cautiously answered.
"That's it?" D asked to be sure.
"Yes. Paul said..." Lex began to say, but was interrupted.
"Okay. So Lexington is a fine first name. I have no problem with that." D said thoughtfully.
"Okay." Lex haltingly agreed.
"Of course your last name is going to be Darroch, so that way there's no doubt that you're part of our family."
Lex's eyes began to fill with tears as a smile spread across his face.
"And as your father-to-be, I'm going to exercise my prerogative to choose your middle name." D continued.
Lex was speechless and could only nod his agreement.
"Tamhas, after my uncle. Lexington Tamhas Darroch. What do you think about that?" D asked with a smile of accomplishment.
"I love it! It's great!" Lex said as his tears freely fell.
"Good. Then let's get things wrapped up so that we can get out of here. I'm hungry and I need some sleep."
"Do you have your car?"
"I have a rental."
"Which door did you come through to get here?" Paul asked curiously.
"That one, the one that goes to the haunted house." D said as he pointed.
"If you've got room for all of us, we can go whenever you want. G and I know the way to Agent Roberts' house, so there's nothing holding us back." Paul said frankly.
"Let's just make sure that no one needs us for anything else, and then we can go."
* * * * *
"Agent Roberts?" D asked as he approached, followed by G, Lex, Paul and a variety of lesser demons.
"If you don't have anything else for us to do, we're about to be on our way." D said frankly.
"I think we're all good here." Agent Roberts said honestly, then looked past D and quietly asked, "How did things work out for you, Lex?"
"D said that I could be like his son and live with him." Lex said shyly.
"Lex, you call me 'Dad'." D said firmly to his newest son, then added more gently, "And you aren't going to be 'like' my son. You 'are' my son."
"Okay... Dad." Lex said past the mile-wide grin that he couldn't suppress.
"If you're going back to the house, I'll see you there in a little while. Obby and I are probably going to be hanging around here until everyone has found their way to wherever they're going. Since I can open all the doorways, it makes sense if I'm the last one to leave."
"So you don't mind us being at your house?" D asked to verify.
"No. I don't mind at all. But you should be aware that I don't have any food. If you're hungry, you might want to get some food along the way."
"Do you think that diner in Waxell is still open?" D asked cautiously.
"No. And I doubt that the market is either. You'll probably need to go into Gooseneck or Grover's Station." Agent Roberts said regretfully.
"I suppose that we'll do what we have to do." D said unenthusiastically.
"I can get Warren or Otis to go with you if you like. They know the area better than I do." Agent Roberts said frankly.
"I know it well enough from my previous visit. Don't worry, we'll see you back at the house. If anyone else asks, we'll be bringing food enough for everyone, so they won't have to worry about it." D finished with a smile.
"Good thinking. I'll be sure to let them know."
* * * * *
"How are you doing, Milo?" Agent Roberts asked quietly.
"I did okay, didn't I?" Milo asked cautiously.
"Yes. Absolutely. You did great!" Agent Roberts assured him, then quietly added, "I just wanted to be sure that you're going to be okay."
"Yeah. I should be." Milo cautiously responded, then added, "I'm about to take my dad back to my place so that we can visit for a while."
"That sounds great. I'll leave you guys to it." Agent Roberts said with a smile, then made sure to add, "You can get in touch with me at the Waxell FBI field office if you ever need me for anything at all."
"That's good to know. Thanks." Milo said appreciatively, then quickly added, "You know where to find me if you ever need me."
"That's right. And don't be surprised if I come to visit through the Vinculum Chamber, too."
"Oh yeah. I didn't think about you using that after the barrier spells are over." Milo said honestly.
"I think that Agent Fastbeck and I will probably be keeping tabs on how things are going at all three colonies. That would seem to be the fastest and easiest way for us to visit all of them."
"Yes. That makes sense." Milo easily agreed.
"Besides all of that, I'm pretty sure that Obby is going to want to stop by for visits."
"Both of you will always be welcome." Milo assured him.
"Good. Then I'll leave you to your dad. I hope you have a good visit." Agent Roberts finished pleasantly.
* * * * *
Linnaeus and Den made a point of saying goodbye to everyone in the chamber before finally exiting with Reaper through the Nevermore doorway.
"Are you about ready to pack it in?" Agent Fastbeck asked as he approached.
"Yes. As soon as you and Rhuru-wra have finished, all that will be left is to close the doors of the Vinculum. Do you want to stop by my house for a debrief with everyone after you're done here?"
"Not unless you really need me for something. I'd rather spend some time with Andrea and the people of Brynnhollow so I can answer whatever questions they might have."
"That's probably for the best. If anything of concern to you comes up at the debriefing, I'll pass it on to you when I see you at work."
"So, are you sorry yet that you accepted the transfer to the Waxell office?"
"Dealing with all the strangeness can be a little challenging, but getting to know all the different people from completely different societies makes it more than worth it. I honestly think that we have some of the best jobs in the world."
* * * * *
As Agent Roberts walked up to his car, a voice asked, "Do you feel like talking?"
Looking where the voice had come from, Agent Roberts could barely begin to make out the shape of a man.
"I can leave you alone if you need time to think." Obby quickly offered.
"No. That's fine. I might need some quiet time later, but I think I'd rather have some company right now."
"I can still talk." Obby said happily.
"I noticed. I'm not sure why that is, but I'm not unhappy about it." Agent Roberts said before climbing into the driver's side of his car.
He unlocked the passenger door from the control panel on his own door, then got comfortable while Obby got into the passenger seat.
"I thought you'd be with Otis."
"He left with Warren. I wanted to go with you." Obby said casually.
Agent Roberts nodded that he had heard.
Once Agent Roberts had started the car, Obby quietly asked, "Are you okay with me and Otis?"
"Of course." Agent Roberts said without hesitation.
"You don't think Milo's mad at me about it, do you?" Obby asked anxiously.
"I seriously doubt it. If he had any desire to have an exclusive relationship with you, I'm sure that he would have said something about it before this."
"Good. I didn't think he was, but I can't always tell how people are feeling just by looking at them."
"It takes practice." Agent Roberts assured him.
"You're still a lot better at it than I am. Thanks for letting me ask you about it." Obby said gratefully.
"What about you and Lex? What's going on there?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.
"We're friends... I think you meant for that to happen, from the way you asked me to talk to him." Obby finished speculatively.
"I thought that since you two had things in common that you might get along." Agent Roberts admitted.
"But Lex is interested in that girl... Corabeth. And he looks like he's a lot younger than me. I couldn't ever think of him like I think about Otis. That would be creepy." Obby said thoughtfully.
"You're probably right." Agent Roberts easily agreed.
* * * * *
"Shawn?" Obby asked into the silence that had fallen over the car.
"Hmm?" Agent Roberts responded.
"Now that the barriers are fixed and everyone's going back home, what are we going to do?"
"I don't know. But considering the way things have gone so far, it wouldn't surprise me if another adventure turned up fairly soon."
Well, as Nero Wolfe often said, "Satisfactory!"
I honestly hope we will hear from one or more of the various inhabitants of the individual groups. As we have probably all noticed there have been several different interconnection stories.
Each story can be read separately, but reading all the stories, is seriously encouraged. If you started out reading one other story, reading the others will fill in gaps that you might have found in the tales you have read.
This has been quite a substantial task for MultiMapper, and bringing this chapter to an end will free him up to work on some of his many other stories whose people have been left hanging on, waiting for some attention.
I hope to see some of my friends, such as our Shadesider friends, to name just one.
Also, Please let MM know you have been reading and enjoying his stories.
Remember that Many of your online author friends', only reward for writing these wonderful stories is your comments and or suggestions.
Thank You very much for this wonderful adventure along with the others.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher