MISR: {3.2} Nevermore

Chapter 29

Author's Note: Chapters (29-42) of 'Myself... in Shattered Reflection' are identical to 'Parvenu' Book 4.2: Nevermore, Chapters 18-31 There is no hidden 'extra' in one version or the other. They are exactly the same. I promise. -MM

It took a few minutes of driving for Agent Roberts to realize that nothing was weighing heavily on his mind. He had taken all the steps that he conceivably could to ensure the wellbeing of his teammates and he had been able to make peace with his own internal struggle.

For as tightly wound as he usually tended to be, at that moment in time he felt like he was on the right path, doing what needed to be done.

While the sensation was freeing, it was also a bit worrying, in that not being coiled with tension allowed him to focus on his personal life.

Perhaps it was more accurate to say his 'lack' of a personal life.

His days were filled with work. His nights at home... were filled with work. His days off... were filled with work. Keeping the tension ramped up to twelve at all times kept him from noticing that he had nothing resembling a personal life. His first name might as well be 'Agent', because he defined himself entirely by his job title.

Although the thought was somewhat grim, it was just a thought. As it passed, he focused on the job ahead of him and what other preparations he might be able to make, in case Archdruid Highley, Milo or Jen decided to pull another one of their stunts.

* * * * *

Passing through the wrought iron gates brought fresh determination upon Agent Roberts.

He wanted his shadow back.

Even though having it taken away had ended up being a learning experience, that didn't keep him from feeling the lack of it.

The shadow was his and he felt its absence.

While he wasn't filled with rage toward Milo, he was determined.

A glance in his mirror confirmed that Mr. Hansen and the boys were still following.

* * * * *

As Agent Roberts slowly entered the abandoned town, it turned out to be quite a bit less abandoned than it was on their last visit.

At least there were several cars present, lining the streets. There weren't any people in evidence and the buildings looked no less rundown and abandoned than they had the night before.

After passing through the town, Agent Roberts could see a number of cars in the distance, parked in front of the church. His mind raced over the possibilities as he continued on toward his destination.

* * * * *

"What's going on here?" Mr. Hansen asked as he approached Agent Roberts' car.

"Your guess is as good as mine." Agent Roberts said honestly.

"I thought we were supposed to keep the barrier a secret. Why would Archdruid Highley have people here?" Zanner asked anxiously.

"I suppose we'll just have to ask him." Agent Roberts said simply.

"So do you think that we should proceed as planned?" Mr. Hansen asked nervously.

"For now. Yes. But don't be afraid to call a stop to it the moment you believe that anyone is in danger. We're here to restore and renovate the barrier, but if Archdruid Highley starts jerking us around, all bets are off. He and his 'protectorate' can go straight to hell."

"Actually, given the properties of folded space and the proximity of the primary hell dimensions, I'm pretty sure that I could literally do that." Mr. Hansen reluctantly stated.

"Let's consider that 'Plan B'."

* * * * *

Agent Roberts, Mr. Hansen, Zanner and Dex walked as a tight group through the enormous doors of the church.

The pews were filled to capacity, this time with living people. Everyone was silent as they looked to the back of the church, where Agent Roberts and his group were entering.

It took a moment for Agent Roberts' eyes to adjust to the dimmer light inside, but he was finally able to spot Archdruid Highley dressed in ornate robes. He was on a dais at the front of the room.

There were two men on either side of him dressed in robes that were slightly less ornate. Off to the left, Milo and Jen were wearing plain robes.

"Zanner and Dex, please come forward so that I can introduce you to the family." Archdruid Highley said with a grand smile.

Right that moment, Agent Roberts had the overwhelming urge to punch Archdruid Highley in the head. He was reasonably sure that he could even play it off as being Milo's fault for having stolen his shadow. But the most important thing in that moment was to protect Zanner and Dex. It would be considerably harder to do that if he were embroiled in a pointless fight.

As the group approached the dais, Archdruid Highley said, "Today will be the culmination of years of devotion. The faithful will finally be rewarded."

Agent Roberts suddenly understood what Archdruid Highley was doing.

He was turning their humanitarian effort to help the Nephilim into a spectacle to confirm his hold over his religious followers. Zanner and Dex were going to be used as his sideshow freaks to put on a show for the congregation.

"What should we do?" Mr. Hansen asked nervously.

Agent Roberts stopped and made sure that the boys were also paying attention before saying, "The only way we're going to get through this is if everyone's in agreement. If anyone wants to back out, we won't hold it against you. But if you agree to continue, we're going to be counting on you to stick with it until the end."

"I don't understand what you're planning." Mr. Hanson said honestly.

"I'm planning on us doing exactly what we came here to do. Archdruid Highley can take responsibility and deal with the fallout of his decisions. I don't plan on doing anything because of or in spite of his plans."

"There has to be something more to it. What are you not saying?"

"This isn't the time and place to discuss it." Agent Roberts said as he glanced around at dozens of people silently watching them.

"Boys! Come on up here! Everyone is here to witness your miraculous feat." Archdruid Highley said joyously.

Zanner turned to Agent Roberts and quietly asked, "You're going to make him pay for this, aren't you?"

"I intend to say only the truth and do only what I've promised. I suggest that you do the same." Agent Roberts said carefully.

"You believe that he will be hoist by his own petard?" Mr. Hansen asked cautiously.

Agent Roberts gave a slight, single nod in his direction.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Zanner demanded to know.

"Ask me about it later and I'll explain it to you. For now, you've got a decision to make. Do you want to go through with this or do you want to leave? I'll support your decision either way." Agent Roberts said seriously.

"I don't care about what I promised. But I do care about the nephilim. They don't deserve to be hurt because of all this. I'll do it for them." Zanner said reluctantly.

"Dex?"

"Zanner needs me. If he's willing to do it, so am I." Dex said simply.

"Dag? Are you in or out?" Agent Roberts asked as he looked Mr. Hansen in the eyes.

"I believe that the boys are choosing to do the right thing and for the right reason. I will be honored to support them however I can."

"Okay. Then let's get this over with." Agent Roberts said, then motioned ahead of them.

Zanner and Dex walked forward and stopped just short of the dais.

"Come on up here boys! Let everyone get a good look at you!" Archdruid Highley said loudly enough to be heard through the entire sanctuary.

"Do you still want us to save 'the protectorate'?" Zanner asked simply.

"Yes. Of course. That's why you're here. That's what I called everyone in to see."

"We're here to do a job, not put on a show. Either we can start right now, or we'll leave." Zanner said firmly.

Agent Roberts was surprised by the demanding tone that Zanner used, but was also incredibly proud of the position he had chosen to take a stand upon.

"If that's the way that it has to be, then I suppose that we can begin the procession to the protectorate." Archdruid Highley reluctantly conceded.

"Before we do that, I think Milo has something that belongs to Agent Roberts. Give it back." Zanner said firmly.

"There'll be time enough for that once we arrive at the protectorate..."

"Let's go." Zanner said as he turned to face Agent Roberts and Mr. Hansen.

"Whatever you say." Agent Roberts said, feeling incredibly proud of Zanner in that moment.

"No! Wait!" Archdruid Highley called in panic.

Zanner slowly turned, then said, "Give. It. Back."

"Milo. Do it." Archdruid Highley snapped sharply.

"I'll be glad to be rid of it." Milo said as he stepped off the dais and walked to stand before Agent Roberts.

"What? You didn't enjoy my repressed emotions?" Agent Roberts asked with a knowing grin.

"Agent Roberts, please take this in the spirit that it's intended. You seriously need to get laid." Milo said frankly, then began performing the descriptive hand gestures associated with spellcasting.

"If that's all you got from my shadow, then you don't deserve to have it. You don't have the depth to understand." Agent Roberts grinned.

"Listen. When I took your shadow, I never expected it to be as... tenacious... as it was. I might have broken it a little bit." Milo said quietly.

"You broke my shadow?" Agent Roberts asked with concern.

"It should still work okay, but it might not be exactly the same as it was before." Milo explained, then hurriedly added, "I didn't mean to. I really wasn't trying to hurt it."

"Are you done? Is it back?" Agent Roberts asked slowly.

"Yes. Your shadow is back with you, every last shard of it has been reattached." Milo said emphatically, then added a muttered, "Good riddance."

"I'm sure it feels the same toward you." Agent Roberts said simply.

"Are you okay?" Dex asked with concern.

"Yeah. I'm fine." Agent Roberts assured him.

"Good. Then let's go and get this done." Zanner said firmly, then started walking toward the side entrance that led to the parsonage.

Dex immediately followed him. Agent Roberts and Mr. Hansen took an extra moment to assess their surroundings, but soon caught up to the boys.

"Since when is Zanner in charge?" Mr. Hansen asked curiously as they walked.

"Since he took charge. Don't worry about it. It looks good on him. He wears it well." Agent Roberts said with a smile.

"How long should we allow him to dictate what we're doing?" Mr. Hansen asked cautiously.

"Until he needs our help. And when that time comes, I suggest that we offer our help respectfully and in a manner that he can accept it without losing face." Agent Roberts said seriously.

"I feel like I'm missing something. Is there something more going on here than what it appears on the surface?" Mr. Hansen asked as they stepped out the side door into sparkling sunlight.

"Archdruid Highley looks upon Zanner and Dex as being the saviors of the protectorate. We're not even an afterthought in his grand scheme. Zanner taking charge of the situation actually carries some weight with him. I think it's best if we play along."

"When you put it that way, I can see how that might be to our benefit." Mr. Hansen said thoughtfully.

"I think it'll be good for Zanner, too. Just gaining the knowledge that he has the ability to take charge when the situation warrants can be a huge developmental hurdle to overcome. This might well end up being a formative event that will shape the person that he will develop into." Agent Roberts said honestly.

"I see what you're saying and I agree."

Agent Roberts looked back over his shoulder and saw that, as expected, a long procession of people were following them out past the parsonage and on toward the lip of the basin.

"I thought Archdruid Highley was committed to keeping the protectorate a secret. What do you think caused him to change his mind so drastically?" Mr. Hansen asked curiously.

"I don't know. Maybe he believes that his followers will become more devoted, and therefore be more able to keep the secret, once they witness something miraculous." Agent Roberts ventured.

"It seems like an unacceptable risk for him to take with the safety and continued existence of the Nephilim." Mr. Hansen said thoughtfully.

"Then again, I suppose that it could be Jen. Filipe said from the beginning that she didn't use illusions, but mind control. That being the case, it's possible that she did something to make him believe that this is a reasonable course of action."

"If that turns out to be the case, what should we do?" Mr. Hansen asked slowly.

"I intend to say only the truth and do only what I've promised. I won't share my speculations with Archdruid Highley, but if I happen upon some facts that he should be made aware of, I'll pass them along."

"I don't get how you can be so calm about this." Dex said as their group slowed and became more condensed while carefully walking down the steep path into the basin.

"What's my other choice? Freak out? Throw a fit? How likely is that to change anything? We have to deal with what's in front of us." Agent Roberts said frankly as he was careful to watch his footing.

"But we don't have to like it." Dex said thoughtfully from ahead of them.

"No. We'll do what we have to do to protect the Nephilim. The rest can sort itself out."

"Mr. Darroch is going to be upset that we didn't keep it a secret." Mr. Hansen said from directly behind him.

"Tell me, what more could we have done?" Agent Roberts asked simply, then continued, "Did anyone of us make a single mistake that brought about this outcome?"

"No. This state of affairs was not of our making." Mr. Hansen confirmed.

"Then we just have to make the best of a bad situation."

* * * * *

Once they were on level ground, Dex was the one to lead the way, off to their left, to a totally different location than the one they had used to examine the barrier.

Agent Roberts noticed that Archdruid Highley and his 'congregation' were automatically following as soon as they left the path.

"It's there." Dex said as he pointed to the rockface that formed the bowl of the basin that they were in.

"What's there?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.

"The ritual site where the folded space was anchored. Unless you're in the mood for some bloody mayhem, it would be best if we gathered everyone by the wall so that they will be out of the way when the space is unfolded." Mr. Hansen said seriously.

"I'll handle that." Agent Roberts assured him, then turned to join Archdruid Highley who was approaching with his robed companions following in his wake.

"You need to get everyone over by that wall, they should be safe over there." Agent Roberts said, none too pleasantly.

"So you're still going to do it?" Archdruid Highley asked hopefully.

"We'll do what we said that we'd do. But don't expect any of us to go out of our way for you. We trusted you and you betrayed us." Agent Roberts said frankly.

"These few remaining followers that we have left deserve to be rewarded and validated for their continued faith. If all goes as you plan, then this will be the one and only time that they will ever have the opportunity to actually 'see' that what I've been telling them is true." Archdruid Highley implored him to understand.

"And you thought that was more important than protecting the Nephilim?" Agent Roberts asked rhetorically, then continued, "We'll do what we said that we'd do, but that's it. Once we've finished, we're going to leave and you'll have to deal with the fallout of what you've done today."

"These people deserve to know that what they've believed for generations is true."

"And what do the Nephilim deserve?"

Before Archdruid Highley could answer, Agent Roberts turned and started walking toward where Dex and the others had gone.

* * * * *

"Did you ask him about doing the blessing?" Zanner asked as Agent Roberts approached.

"No. The subject didn't come up." Agent Roberts quietly admitted.

"We can give him some magic to work his spell, but I don't know if he'll need any incense or relics or anything like that to make it work. I've never studied anything about cleric spells."

"Zanner is correct. Archdruid Highley may need time to gather necessary items to perform his ritual. It would be best to give him the time that he will need. Otherwise we might be forced to wait unnecessarily." Mr. Hansen stated seriously.

"Yeah. I'll tell him. If it'll get this over with any sooner, I'm in favor of it."

* * * * *

As Agent Roberts approached, he noticed that Archdruid Highley was speaking with the other robed figures that had been accompanying him on the dais.

"I forgot to tell you before that we're going to need your help." Agent Roberts interrupted.

"Do you need for me to open the protectorate for you?"

"No. But we were thinking that you could enact some kind of ritual blessing to make the entire protectorate 'Holy Ground'. That way if someone found a way to get in from the outside, it would be in place to stop them from causing any magical mischief."

"I don't think that I'm able to invoke a blessing on such a large area. And, to be honest, my blessings don't actually seem to do much more than make people feel a bit more at ease."

"With all of us helping you, we should be able to bless the entire protectorate." One of the robed men said from Archdruid Highley's side.

"Agent Roberts, this is one of my brothers, Emilio." Archdruid Highley said distractedly.

"Mr. Hansen has said that we can divert a little of the natural magic that we'll be using to fuel your blessing."

"That could actually work." Another of the men said with a hopeful smile.

"That's my brother, Den." Archdruid Highley said quickly.

Agent Roberts looked at Archdruid Highley, then at Den appraisingly. Finally, he couldn't help but ask, "are you speaking of a 'brother in the faith' or in a biological sense?"

"Both. Technically, Den is my half-brother, in fact, all my brothers are half-brothers. We all have different mothers."

"Dad's kind of a slut." Emilio said with a grin.

"He employs a somewhat relaxed moral code." Archdruid Highley said diplomatically.

"So, can you guys do the blessing or not?" Agent Roberts asked shortly.

"Yes. We would be honored to participate." Archdruid Highley responded.

"Then you'd better get what you need because Zanner and Dex will be ready to start soon." Agent Roberts said frankly.

"Milo! Jen! I need your help!" Archdruid Highley said loudly as he hurried away.

"He knows better than to try and command the rest of us like that, because we'd just tell him to stuff it." Emilio said with a grin.

"So you and your brothers aren't 'true believers'?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.

"We believe. We've been in the presence of angels, so we know it's real. But we don't buy into the whole 'praise and worship' cult thing. It actually makes me kind of sick to my stomach to see people behaving like this."

"Then why does Archdruid Highley keep it going?"

"Call him Jarvis." Emilio said flatly, then explained, "We needed someone here to watch over the protectorate. When Dad decided to move on to other things, he had to name someone to be his successor."

"And he chose Jarvis?"

"Dad said that the rest of us were smart and talented enough to go out into the world and be whatever we wanted to be. Jarvis... well, you've met him. This is about all that he's fit to do. The rest of us do our best to keep tabs on him and keep him from doing anything too terrible."

"What do you think about what he's done here? I mean, by calling all these people in, he's endangering the protectorate, isn't he?"

"Yes. And if I could have stopped him, I would have. But for right now, we'll just have to do our best to keep this from spinning too far out of control. If we can, I'd like to make this as quick and painless as possible, then work together to pick up the pieces."

"I'm afraid that's really the best we can hope for in all of this, isn't it?" Agent Roberts asked regretfully.

"I can't think of a better option."

"Thanks Emilio, you've helped me put a few things into perspective."

"Just remember that if Jarvis doesn't get his way, he's going to throw a tantrum. I'm not saying that you should always let him have his way, just be aware that if you cross him he'll turn into a spoiled brat about it." Den interjected.

"Got it. Thanks guys. I appreciate you setting me straight about Jarvis. I haven't known him long enough to know how he really is."

"He's a wanker." Emilio said simply.

"But he's also our brother." Den added, apparently none too thrilled with the declaration.

"Right." Emilio agreed, then added, "We don't have to like him, but we're duty bound to love him."

"I think I understand. Let me know if you have any ideas about how to salvage this mess."

"Yeah. You too." Emilio said as he looked around the gathering, obviously not pleased by what he was seeing.

* * * * *

"Is Archdruid Highley going to do the blessing?" Zanner asked as Agent Roberts approached.

"Yes. He and his brothers are going to work together and believe that they will be able to bless the entire protectorate. Jarvis has gone to gather the supplies that they will be needing." Agent Roberts said carefully.

"I suppose that we should wait on them to return before I start unfolding space. If we do this wrong, some people could get crushed when the pocket dimension comes into being on top of them." Mr. Hansen explained.

"Are you sure that you can do this? I mean, it seems awfully big for just one person." Agent Roberts asked with concern.

"If it were a matter of 'creating' the space, it would be well beyond my capabilities. But what I'm going to be doing is akin to turning off a light switch. I'm going to access and suspend the dimensional spell that already exists. With Dex's help, I should be able to do that."

"And when we're done, you'll just flip the switch back on?" Agent Roberts asked slowly.

"Yes. Exactly. I'll access the existing spell and reinstate it to be as it was when we found it."

Agent Roberts looked off in the direction that Jarvis, Milo and Jen had gone, but didn't see any sign of any of them.

"If you don't need me right now, I think I'd like to do a little snooping around." Agent Roberts said quietly.

"Zanner and I will need a few minutes to verify our connections to the earth through Dex. I can't think of anything for you to do while we're doing that." Mr. Hansen said frankly.

"Thanks. I'll come back over here when Jarvis and the trouble twins get back with their blessing supplies." Agent Roberts assured him.

"You seem to be quite a bit more relaxed since your shadow's been restored." Mr. Hansen observed.

"I guess so. It's nice to have it back."

* * * * *

Agent Roberts noticed that all four of Jarvis' brothers were gathered together and seemed to be plotting something.

"We can't do much of anything until Jarvis and his minions return." Agent Roberts said as he approached.

"Same here. We were just discussing possibilities." Den said frankly.

"Have you come up with anything?" Agent Roberts asked hopefully.

"Cyrus wants to get all the 'congregants' inside the protectorate then fold it away." Emilio said frankly.

"That would solve the problem about keeping the protectorate a secret." One of the men, presumably 'Cyrus', explained.

"Yes. But then we'd have to deal with explaining their disappearances." Den said reasonably.

"I know. But it would solve so many problems..."

"By creating other problems." The last of the brothers said firmly.

"Agent Roberts, I don't think you've met Cyrus and Jud. Guys, this is Agent Roberts." Emilio said pleasantly.

"Shawn. Please don't make it weird by calling me by my title." Agent Roberts responded.

"It's nice to meet you Shawn. I only wish it wasn't because our little brother was being such a jackass. He doesn't need to do anything more to tarnish the family name." Jud said frankly.

Den laughed, then said, "You're the only one who has to worry about that. The rest of us were lucky enough to get our mothers' last names."

"It still reflects badly on all of us." Jud said in his defense.

"So all of you have different last names?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.

"Yeah. Dad totally ran this place like a cult. He could have any woman he wanted... and he did. I guess if there's anything good to be said about him it's that he never denied his kids. He always acknowledged us as being his and he was a real father to us." Emilio said frankly.

"Yeah. In fact, I think the reason he stuck around here for as long as he did was for us. He made sure that we were going to be alright before he moved on." Den said with a nod.

"Where's your father now?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.

"He's gone to be with the Angels." Cyrus said, sounding a bit regretful.

"You make it sound like he's dead!" Den laughed, then explained, "He left with the Angels to help them. They're limited in what they can do on our plane of existence, and rather than training new clerics everywhere they go, they decided to take Dad with them."

"We've probably got a dozen more brothers and sisters by now." Emilio said with a grin.

"At least." Den said with a smirk at his brother.

"There's Jarvis. I guess we'd better get serious about doing the blessing. It's been a few years since I've even thought about doing the 'druid' thing." Cyrus said honestly.

"Don't worry, it's just like riding a bike." Emilio assured him.

"Yeah. One wrong move and you'll crash." Den interjected.

"I'd better get back. Let us know when you're ready and we'll start." Agent Roberts said with a smile.

"Just give us a few minutes to deal with Jarvis and we should be fine." Emilio assured him.

"Yeah. We'll work collectively to help him get his panties unbunched." Den said with a roll of his eyes.

"I don't know how any brother of ours could have turned out to be such a diva." Cyrus said with a nod.

Agent Roberts couldn't help but laugh as he walked away from the brothers and back toward the rock face where Mr. Hansen and the boys were preparing.

* * * * *

After checking in with Mr. Hansen, Agent Roberts kept careful watch on the brothers for any sign that they were ready.

They seemed to be embroiled in a rather intense conversation, but then at a certain point, they must have reached consensus, because rather than talking, they all appeared to be going through the supplies that Jarvis, Milo and Jen had brought them.

As Agent Roberts watched, Den broke away from the group.

Once Den was close enough, Agent Roberts said, "Guys, this is Den. He's one of Archdruid Highley's brothers.

"Den Markura." He said as he shook hands all around.

"Den, I'd like for you to meet Dag, Zanner and Dex. They're going to be upgrading the barrier of the protectorate." Agent Roberts said formally.

"It's an honor to meet all of you. Thank you for helping us. I'm sorry about our brother making things difficult for you. I have no excuse. Just know that my brothers and I will do everything in our power to make things go as smoothly as possible." Den said respectfully.

"Are you guys ready to do your ritual?" Agent Roberts asked curiously.

"Yes. We've set Jen and Milo to keeping everyone out of your way. The rest of us are primed and ready for action." Den assured them.

"What about you guys? How much do we have left to prepare?" Agent Roberts asked his companions.

"I think we're as ready as we're going to get." Zanner responded.

"Good. Then let's get this over with." Agent Roberts said firmly.

"Good luck guys. We're all counting on you." Den said before walking back toward his brothers.

"You heard the man. Let's do this right." Agent Roberts said to his companions.

* * * * *

Agent Roberts looked back toward 'the congregation' and was pleased to find that Jen and Milo seemed to be doing a decent job of keeping the three dozen or so people contained.

As he turned back to his group, he thought to ask, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Please just do your best to see that I'm not interrupted. This is a very delicate process." Mr. Hansen said seriously.

"Don't worry. I've got you covered." Agent Roberts assured him.

"Dex? Are you ready?" Mr. Hansen asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Go ahead." Dex said confidently.

Agent Roberts watched as Mr. Hansen rapidly muttered an incantation while performing an insanely complicated series of gestures at lightning speed.

"Bring forth the seven spires of earth." Mr. Hansen finally called into the air as he went down on one knee and slapped one hand flat on the ground.

First there was silence, as everyone in attendance waited to see what was going to happen.

Next, there was a rumbling from deep within the earth. The sensation was unfamiliar and disturbing on some primal level.

Finally, a stone pillar began to rise up from within the ground. Unlike when Paul had 'created' stone, the pillar emerged, pushing the thick grass and moist earth out of it's way.

When the pillar slowed its growth toward the sky, Agent Roberts scanned the area to see if he could spot any more of them.

There weren't any within his field of vision, but he reasoned that the area must be so vast that it wasn't possible to see one pillar from the next.

When the rumbling of the ground finally completely stopped, Mr. Hansen turned to Zanner and gave a single nod.

Agent Roberts followed his gaze and saw Zanner beginning to cast a spell.

Although he couldn't hear the words, he noticed that Zanner seemed to have his attention focused on the five brothers.

When Agent Roberts looked at the brothers, he could see a faint golden aura starting to surround them.

Mr. Hansen's voice drew his attention and Agent Roberts turned to see what he was going to do next.

Although Mr. Hansen was speaking loudly, Agent Roberts didn't understand whatever language he was using.

* * * * *

After a few minutes, Agent Roberts noticed that the gentle breeze had turned into a gale force wind.

He had to fight to keep his footing as the wind kept increasing. He glanced to see that Dex and Zanner were alright and found them holding their own.

When Mr. Hansen's passionate spellcasting reached a crescendo, there was a moment that seemed to be broken out of time. For just an instant, there was absolute silence and stillness. Just as suddenly as the silence had begun, it ended. The rush of wind nearly knocked Agent Roberts off his feet and he had to fight to find his balance. In the next moment, he came to the sudden realization that all the air had been sucked out of his lungs.

Just as suddenly as the sensation had come upon him, it passed and Agent Roberts was able to breathe again.

As he took in a deep inhale, he looked around to assess the conditions of the others.

Mr. Hansen looked a little worse for wear, like he had been drained.

Zanner and Dex looked a bit better than that, but they had obviously been impacted.

Archdruid Highley and his brothers were gathering themselves, but were still glowing with borrowed power.

'The Congregation' seemed to be nothing less than amazed by what they had just witnessed.

In a bellowing voice, Mr. Hansen then called out, "Preserving the integrity of this precious realm, peel away the veil. Reveal this forbidden land unto the world."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes: OH, BOY, I hope it won't be long before we see the next chapter!

I think I am pretty safe in calling this a cliffhanger.

I'm not saying it's unfair, since storytellers have been ending chapters with those things since people were writing on parchment with quills and or feathers.

So be it. I loved the chapter!

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher