Hypnerdic

You are getting nerdy…

The House of the Grey Circle Intro, Preludes and First Four Chapters

Introduction
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, a number of so-called secret societies made less than secret claims of transcendent mystical knowledge.  Occultists and theosophists such as Eliphas Levi and Madame Blavatsky gave rise to collegial orders like the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which in turn spawned occult iconoclasts like Aleister Crowley and his small legion of followers.  Each of these professed their knowledge of ancient metaphysical secrets long since lost to humanity.  Occasionally, they also claimed that the world is secretly ruled by subterranean lizard men and the greatest secrets of humanity dwell on a lost continent under the sea.  One of many signs that imagination and absinthe contributed more to their lexicon than actual mystic lore.
Of course, the first mark against the authenticity of the theosophical mystics was the simple fact that they were entirely too new.  All of the proper mystical cabals were established well before the eighteenth century began.  And even the youngest of these would claim no connection to these new sycophants of the occult.
The House of the Grey Circle was not the youngest of the true covens, but it was among the last to be established.  It was founded some time around 1612, though the specific date, and the particular circumstances around which the House was founded remain enigmatic.  In a subculture that prided itself on secrecy, the House was among the most secretive of all.  Hidden even from the supernatural community it was a part of, its existence was only revealed by the last of its members.
It is now known that in 1612, members of seven powerful British families came together somewhere north of London.  The precise date and reason for this first gathering is unknown, but is speculated to correspond with a brief but dramatic spiritual upheaval that was felt by magicians across the world.  It is known that this first meeting resulted in the initial concordance that ultimately led to the formation of the House of the Grey Circle, with that first seven at its head.
The House was ordered around the seven families that founded it, and only members of those families were admitted to the coven.  To be more specific, only those among the families who demonstrated an aptitude for the magical arts were even made aware of the coven’s existence.  Even among their own number, there were secrets.  The youngest of the House’s members were treated as students, and barred from the majority of the coven’s knowledge until they achieved full membership.
For a period of three hundred years, the seven families pooled their vast resources, both magical and material, consolidating their power while they delved into ancient mysteries.  After three hundred years, The House of the Grey Circle had become one of the most powerful and resourceful magical organisations in the world.
And in a single night, it was all but destroyed.

Prelude I
February 2nd, 1929
They began to arrive at eight in the evening, those who were not living in the Manor already.  They trickled in, a few alone, but most in groups of two or three, or even five or more at a time.  They did not knock, they needed no key.  The ring each of them wore on their right hands was key enough.  Everyone who came made for the library without pause.  Gathering gradually toward the great common in the centre of the room, they paused occasionally to exchange greetings and pleasantries.  These were respected colleagues, old friends and beloved relatives.  In the vast old library of their ancestral home, the House of the Grey Circle congregated.
The Seven stood already around the great round table of stone; One for each family, the wisest elders of the House; each stood at a point of the massive heptagram laid in silver atop the table, the seven pointed star that was the sigil of the coven.  They waited in grave silence as their kin milled about, waiting until all had arrived, and the perfect hour came.
Finally, the last of them was in the library; over fifty in all; and the clock struck midnight. Finally, the Circle of Seven stirred.  It was Abraham, head of the family Kinsbridge and eldest of the Circle, who spoke.
“The children?” He asked of no one in particular.
“Safe in the lodge,” the answer came from one of those gathered near the table.
“Very well,” Abraham nodded gravely, “we will begin with the Calling of the Circle.”
Quickly and silently, the members of the House took their places behind the elders of their families, surrounding the table concentrically.  The elders of the Circle each placed their right hands on the table, in the spaces between the names inscribed in an ancient dead language around the edge.  As if on a silent cue all gathered spoke in unison.
“My widsom, my voice, my life to the circle
My power to its purpose
Until we are no more”
As they spoke, the lines of the heptagram and the circle of names took on a quiet silver glow, growing in intensity as the chant reached its quick crescendo, and then faded back to dull metal on stone.  In the same perfect unison, the elders of the Circle of Seven sat around the table, and Abraham spoke again.
“The conclave has been called for the most critical of reasons,” he intoned. “Tonight, we perform our most vital task.  You all know of what I speak.”
Quietly, those assembled offered their assent, and Abraham nodded in turn, looking to each of his peers around the table.
“Then let us begin.”

Warren stared out the window, trying vainly to see the manor through the impenetrable darkness.  The hunting lodge was on the far side of the large games field behind the manor, nestled just at the edge of the woods that made the northern border of the property.  The night was moonless, and the stars offered far too little light, so the window was nothing better than a rectangle of black glass.
“I wonder what they’re doing,” Selena said to whomever would listen, without pausing her slow pace around the den.
“Something dangerous, probably,” Arthur responded lazily from the couch.
The seven youths gathered in the lodge were the youngest members of the House.  Too young and too inexperienced to participate in proper House business, they were barred from the library entirely until they completed their initiation.  They had never been barred from the whole manor though, and that was cause for curiosity.
Warren, son of the family Arkham, turned his chair away from the window to observe, if not necessarily join the conversation.  It surprised no one that he kept to himself.  His broad face appeared thoughtful, but those thoughts remained his own for the time being.
Abigail, daughter of the Whitewood family, had already taken Warren’s place staring uselessly out a darkened window.  She hadn’t yet offered her opinion, which led everyone to believe she hadn’t decided on one yet.  When she had an opinion, the young initiates would surely hear it.  Absently, she brushed a lock of auburn hair away from her face.
Arthur’s words seemed to drop a blanket of quiet tension on the group.  The youngest of the initiates, he didn’t often waste words, preferring to get to the point quickly, a trait common to the Corsair family.  As was frequently the case, he had merely said what the others were thinking, regardless of whether any of them wanted it to be said.  Selena scowled at him.
The great granddaughter of old Abraham Kinsbridge, Selena often liked to believe that put her in a position to be more knowledgeable than her peers regarding the affairs of the House.  The others allowed her to believe that, since she wasn’t as loud about it as Abigail was with her opinions.
“If they were going to do something dangerous,” she said testily, “they wouldn’t have kept us on the property at all.”
“You don’t think this is far enough?” Daniel asked, coming in from the kitchen with a fresh pot of tea.  Evelyn followed him with the teacups.  Daniel Hearthstone had been at the manor longer than all but one of the other initiates, and had some knowledge of the explosive consequences of magic gone wrong.  His blazing red hair was a rather appropriate hint at the spirit he kept hidden behind a wall of caution.
Evelyn kept quiet, as she almost always did.  A shy girl, even in the company of her closest friends, Evelyn Wreathe rarely offered her opinion on anything if she didn’t think it pertinent, and tonight seemed no exception.  Without a word, she handed out the teacups.
“I think,” replied Selena, “that they would want to be extra careful with our safety.  We are the next generation after all.  Don’t you think they would want to protect us?”
“I think they know what they’re doing.”  Everyone’s attention shifted to the corner by the fireplace as Malachi finally spoke up.  Malachi Ouros was the oldest of the initiates, and was less than a year away from his twentieth birthday, when he would be fully initiated into the House.  His opinion would often be the one that ended an argument.  It wasn’t that he was the oldest, or that he was the only initiate with a parent among the Circle of Seven.  When he spoke, the others listened.  His was a natural authority.
Malachi adjusted his silver-rimmed spectacles and put down his book, looking up at the other six youths.
“We’ll understand when we’re ready,” he said calmly, “for now we ought to trust them.”
The others nodded their understanding, and Malachi offered a smile, which faded from his lips almost immediately.  They all felt it at the same time.  They might have only been students of magic, but their senses were more than sufficient to register the surge of energy that emanated from the manor across the field.  There was power there, considerable power.  Perhaps the sort of power that might come from more than fifty experienced magicians combining their strength.
There was also darkness.  A thick miasma that followed close on the heels of that first surge of power and seemed to wrap itself around the initiates’ minds, leaving them with a sick feeling of dread.  Outside, nature responded to the sudden drastic shift in the energy around the manor, and the wind began to howl.  Branches from the close-grown trees of the forest knocked and scraped against the outer walls of the lodge, and the windows rattled in the sudden gale.  Still looking out the window, Abigail cried out in alarm, and the others gathered at the windows to see an eerie light shining through the blowing snow, coming from the direction of the manor.  The wind all but screamed and the lodge shook under the punishing storm.
Malachi returned to the centre of the room and pushed the coffee table over to the wall.  Rolling up the rug underneath it, he pushed it aside and pulled a piece of chalk from his pocket.  Breathing slowly to keep his hands from shaking, he drew a circle on the wood floor, and carefully inscribed a series of flowing symbols around its perimeter.  With a whisper and a wave, he gathered the others to him, and they stood together, huddled around the small circle.  As they all joined hands, Malachi began a quiet chant.  After two repetitions, the other initiates began to join in, until all seven were chanting together.
At their feet, the chalk circle took on a soft glow.  As the ward gathered power, the pervasive dread began to ease away from the young magicians’ minds.  The storm outside still raged as loudly as ever, but the lodge ceased its shaking and the room grew still.  The group parted their hands and pulled their chairs around the glowing circle as they might have done around the fireplace if the chill was in their bones rather than their souls.  There they passed the night, silently sharing their fear as unknown power burned outside.

Only with the coming of dawn did the storm of wind and magic finally cease.  If any of the initiates slept at all, it was only fitfully.  After what seemed an eternity, the cold winter sun shone through the windows of the lodge.  There was no sound outside save the singing of the winter birds.  With a weary groan, Malachi scuffed the chalk circle with his foot, breaking the ward.  All seven bundled into their coats without a word and began a silent trek across the snowy field to the manor.
The huge house seemed eerily quiet, even from outside.  The quiet thrum of power that normally permeated the place was so constant that they had all long since stopped noticing it, but now that it was gone, it was like a sudden silence brought to a loud room.  I was Malachi who finally stated the unnerving conclusion they were all reaching:
“The wards are down.”
With a new sense of urgency, they hurried inside.  Without pausing to remove their outerwear, they rushed to the library, stopping only at the big double door.  The ward on the library should prevent them from even opening the door, as it did anyone who hadn’t undergone the rite of confirmation.  After a moment of hesitation, Malachi turned the handle and pushed at the door.  It opened without resistance.  Someone tried vainly to stifle a gasp.  Their worry intensified, they made their way into the library.
At first, nothing seemed to be out of order.  The shelves were undisturbed, and not a single book lay out of place.  When they came in sight of the library’s centre, the illusion was destroyed.  Every one of the initiates was brought up short, paralysed by shock.  Evelyn buried her face in Warren’s shoulder with a quiet sob.  Abigail tried uselessly to choke back tears.  Malachi simply shook his head, a look of wordless anguish on his face.
The bodies lay around the stone table in concentric circles, as though they had simply fallen where they stood.  Each one of them had been burned beyond recognition, leaving only a charred black husk that barely resembled anything human.  More than fifty magicians, all of them experienced and powerful, more power in one room than any initiate could even grasp, and something had slain them all so brutally that the seven young witnesses could not even identify their own parents among the carnage.
There were no words.  The horror the initiates faced was more than their young minds could bear.  Silently, they fled the library; fled the manor itself; and stood outside, shaking, weeping and cowering in their grief.
It was a long time before anyone said anything.  Predictable, it was Malachi who finally spoke.
“We can’t stay here,” he said shakily, “I’ll figure out what to do about…about this.  But we need to go.”
“Where can we go?” Selena asked mournfully. “This is our home.  We don’t have anywhere else.”
“We have money,” Arthur said, his voice numb, “there’s enough money here.  We can find somewhere to stay until we can claim the estate.”
“How can you be so cold?” Abigail demanded of him. “Those were our families in there, and you just want to run off with their money!”
“He’s right, Abby,” Warren finally spoke up, his voiced barely more than a choked whisper. “We’re going to need it.  And Malachi’s right too.  We can’t stay here.  I know I can’t.”
“Go to London,” Malachi instructed, his voice regaining a bit of strength. “Arthur’s right, there should be enough money in the safe to last us until we can sort out the estate.  I know the combination, and it’s probably not warded now either.  Take rooms at the Landmark Hotel.  I’ll catch up to you there.”
“What are you going to do?” Evelyn asked in a quavering voice.
Malachi gazed sadly at the house. “I have to deal with this.”
No one said another word.  Still fighting their tears they filed into the house and up to their rooms to pack.

Malachi listened to the two cars as they pulled out of the garage and turned down the drive that led to the main road.  The open window brought a chill into his room that set him shivering, but he didn’t close it.  He sat on his bed, staring at the letter from his father that he had found on his pillow.  The instructions were clear enough, and he understood the necessity, but the task itself overwhelmed him.  For the first time in years, he felt like a child, lost, confused and angry.  He felt the weight of the burden settling on him, and he didn’t know if he could carry it.
With an effort, he pushed his feelings aside.  He didn’t have time to feel, not now.  The House needed him, and his friends needed him.  He could grieve after the wound had been cleaned, but responsibility came first.
With a hollow sigh, he went about the work of closing the House.

The Times
Tuesday, February 5th, 1929
Fire Claims Horrific Toll on Wealthy Families

Seven of England’s most prominent wealthy families were all but extinguished in a blaze that destroyed a country home jointly owned by the affluent clans.

The well known families of Ouros, Kinsbridge, Arkham, Wreathe, Corsair, Whitewood and Hearthstone, well connected in business and society, were attending a reception at the country estate when a fire reportedly spread from the kitchens through the house, quickly growing out of control.

Speculation suggests that the attendees were unaware of the danger until the fire had already spread through much of the house, and were unable to reach exits before the house was consumed.  The final death toll counts a horrifying fifty-seven killed by the inferno.

In the aftermath of the disaster, there were only seven survivors; the youngest members of the families, segregated from the blaze in another building on the grounds.  The youths have declined to comment on the tragedy, and requested anonymity.

Prelude II
January 4th, 1934

Arthur traced the large chalk circle onto the rough stone of his cellar floor.  Within it he drew a second, smaller circle, leaving just a few inches of space separating the two white rings.  Inside the second circle, he drew the long, seven-pointed star.  At each point of the star, in the space between the circles, he placed a single white candle, never before lit.  Working carefully, and drawing largely from memory, he inscribed the seven names in their ancient script in the spaces between the candles.  Satisfied with the painstaking work, he stowed the chalk in his trouser pocket.
Stepping carefully, so as not to smudge the chalk lines, Arthur moved around the circle, lighting the candles one by one.  Finally, he returned to the centre of the star, settling cross-legged in the empty space at the nexus of the lines.
Drawing a deep breath, which only shook a little, he closed his eyes and placed his hands, palms up, on his knees.  With a practised effort of will, he released a portion of his own energy into the confines of the sigil.  The ritual was a simple one, but he was long out of the habit, and he had no one to tell him if he was doing it correctly.  He could rely only on the instructions in his old primer, and hope he remembered the basics.  Slowly exhaling, he took another breath, and spoke in a whispered chant.
“My wisdom to the Circle
My heart to the Circle
My strength to the Circle
As I am bound, the Circle sets me free
Until I am no more.”
Arthur felt the energy he had released swirling within the circle, reacting to the power of the simple chant.  As the last word rang in the air, he felt that power rush to the outer edges of the sigil, and at that moment the candles flared brightly.  Their flames consumed them utterly in the space of a second, and continued to burn down the lines of the star.  As the fire reached the centre, it surrounded Arthur in a burning ring that grew in intensity, but did not harm his skin, nor singe his clothing.  The flames simply grew higher and brighter, until Arthur was sitting in the middle of a white-hot pillar of flame.
As suddenly as the spectacle began, it ended.  The dazzling hot tower collapsed and all flames faded.  Arthur felt the energies that had built up around the ritual coalescing around him in that instant, and after a brief rush of power that penetrated him to his core, they too vanished.  The only trace left of the power Arthur had gathered was the tingling of the ring on the middle finger of his right hand, which was engraved with the same seven-pointed sigil he had drawn on the stone floor.
Arthur stood and scuffed his foot across the two circles, smearing the chalk and breaking their power.  Then he went upstairs to have his morning cup of tea.  It was the morning of his twentieth birthday, the day he became a full member of the House of the Grey Circle.
For all that was worth.
Though his house was well appointed, and clearly demonstrated his wealth, Arthur had no servants.  He preferred to manage his own affairs.  So one of the wealthiest young men in London boiled his own water and brewed his own tea, and with teacup in hand he went outside to gather his own mail.
Nestled in amongst the usual bills and newspaper was a curious envelope.  Curious for the fact that it bore no stamp and no address, only the name Arthur Corsair in a somewhat familiar flowing handwriting.  Even more curious for the fact that it was sealed in old fashion with wax.  A not entirely welcome suspicion crept upon Arthur, which left him reluctant to examine the device of the seal.  When finally he let his eyes rest on the symbol pressed into the red wax, it was with no great surprise that he found it to be the very same emblem that was engraved in his ring.
They all had the same ring, of course, given to them when they were first brought into the House.  But the sigil was only used in this manner when the correspondence was official, allowing letters to reach the intended House members without reliance on the post.  Such magics were not used frivolously.  Arthur was certain of the handwriting on the envelope now, even reading what he already knew the letter would contain would offer him no insight into the motivation of its sending.
Why now?

Selena gave her young daughter’s bonnet a firm tug before tying it.  No use letting the blasted thing be loose after all.  Caitlyn squirmed, but Selena’s firm hand had the bonnet straight before the tiny girl could crawl away from her.  Selena scooped Caitlyn into her arms before the baby could get very far, and all but sauntered out of the nursery.
William came out of the room next door at nearly the same moment, towing Carter along beside him.  At two years old, Carter already disliked being carried.  The child loved to run, and his parents saw no reason to discourage him.  Selena met William halfway to the stairs with a quick peck on the cheek.
“We’re going to be late,” William chided, without losing his smile.
“Nonsense,” Selena said, “We’ll be at your mother’s well before lunch, just as we always are.”
“Nana!” Carter squealed excitedly, as he always did.  They visited William’s mother for lunch every Friday.  Selena insisted on it.  For his part, William understood his wife’s need for such a ritual.  It was just one of many ways she eased the grief he knew she still hid behind her warm exterior.
They had met nearly five years ago at an art gallery.  Selena had still been new to her loss then, and longed for a distraction.  William had been nothing more than a constable’s son looking to broaden his education with a taste of the arts.  He couldn’t remember a single painting from that evening, only the sadness he had seen in the eyes of a seventeen year old girl standing alone in a crowd, shivering in a dress not fit for the season.  He’d offered her his coat, and later dinner.  The rest was history; William was smitten instantly, and drawn to care for this heartbroken girl; Selena was charmed by William’s compassion.  They had married the next year.  Four years and two children later, their marriage felt as new as it had the day they took their vows.
Selena led the way down the stairs, and William followed close after, picking up the protesting Carter to carry him down.  He left Selena to bundle the little ones into their coats while he popped out to grab the mail before they left.  There wasn’t much, just the newspaper and a solitary envelope.  William gave it a puzzled look.  It wasn’t stamped or addressed, it just had a name written across it in a graceful script.
“Selena,” he called back to the foyer, “there’s an odd-looking letter here for you.”
Still smiling, Selena met him at the door, but her smile faded as her gaze fell upon the envelope in William’s hand, and the expression that replaced it put a stone in his heart.

Daniel came into the pub through the back, unlocking the heavy door and locking it again behind him.  He passed through the small kitchen and out into the tavern proper, grabbing a rag from behind the bar as he went.  The pub was already as clean as it was going to get, but Daniel found this ritual comforting.  There was, he had decided, a certain magic in the opening routine.
The pub was his, legally speaking anyway.  As far as true ownership went, Daniel knew it really belonged to Maggie.  It was her dream, Daniel had just fronted the cash to finance it.  She would never have got it off the ground otherwise.  Caring for her father had consumed all the money she made before Daniel came along.
He had met her not long after his return to London.  He had taken to wandering the city aimlessly in the first months after everyone had parted ways.  The absence of purpose in his life after the loss of the House had left him apathetic.
One day, in an unusual circumstance, he had found himself drawn into conversation with a sad-eyed shopgirl.  She had told him of her sick father, and her dream of an establishment to call her own.  He had told her of his own loss; as much as he could say; and the ennui that had followed him since.  It wasn’t difficult to put the pieces together and come to an agreement.  Two weeks later, he had bought this building and told Maggie to do what she liked with it.  His only concession to himself in the arrangement was that the top floor of the building was his, which he had converted into an apartment.
Maggie and her father had moved closer to the pub, with Daniel’s assistance, and so had begun a partnership which offered Daniel something to fill the hollow space he had carried in him.  He found in Maggie the sense of kinship he had lost when his family died and his friends scattered.  Along with her father, she had become family to him; the older sister he never had.
Daniel heard the sound of a key in the front door.  The lock clicked and the door opened, letting the midafternoon sun in for a moment.  Maggie followed it in, the fiery hair which even made her look like Daniel’s sister blazing in the light.  She offered Daniel a quick smile by way of greeting as she shuffled through the stack of envelopes from the mailbox.
“You’re early again,” she observed.  Her Irish brogue had gotten lighter in the last couple of years.
“I live here,” Daniel pointed out.
“All the more reason not to be early.  You don’t actually have to go anywhere.”
“Maybe I like beating you here,” Daniel suggested.
“Then I’ll have to start sleeping in the kitchen,” the countered, holding up an envelope. “Something for you here.”
Daniel strode over and took the envelope from Maggie’s impatient hand, turning it over to read the front.  He hadn’t forgotten the handwriting that carried his name across the cream-coloured paper.  He certainly hadn’t forgotten the sigil that sealed the wax.  He broke the seal with a little more excitement than he had expected, and smiled to himself as he read the letter within.
“It’s about time.”

For reasons Evelyn could not explain, there was no magic in the world that could ease a sore foot.  At least not if the foot was hers.  She could ease just about anyone’s pain if she tried hard enough, but after a long day running around the hospital in these godawful heels, there was no spell or cantrip that could cool the fire that burned from her ankles on down.
There were those who wondered aloud; often quite loud in fact; why a rich young woman of Evelyn’s breeding would take on the nurse’s vocation.  When she bothered to answer, she would generally say it was a calling.  People needed help, and she felt compelled to help them.  That was mostly true.  She didn’t generally mention that her calling was motivated by the need to make worthy use of a skill that let her mend broken bones in minutes.  She didn’t expect many people would be understanding of that detail.
She came to the door of her townhouse, somewhat resentful of the number of stairs she’d been forced to endure to get here, and let herself in.  The house was modest, by the standards of her station, but Evelyn had never been particularly interested in the trappings of wealth.  She decorated in soft, warm colours, making it the sort of place that felt like home the first time one walked in.  It suited her.
With a great sigh of relief, Evelyn deposited herself on the loveseat just off of the foyer.  She could go farther when her feet didn’t feel like they were going to fall off.  This would be just fine for now.  For a brief moment, she pondered disproving her notion of sore feet being immune to her magic.  Just like every day, she talked herself out of the idea.  It simply struck her as wasteful.
A light flapping sound caught her ear, and she turned her eyes back to the front door just in time to see a small envelope fall through the mail slot.  It took a minute, but curiosity ultimately won out over the desire for comfort, and she forced herself up to examine the envelope.
Evelyn hadn’t seen an envelope like this in a number of years, and she had to fight off a wave of painful memories at the sight of the seal that held it shut.  She wondered briefly why he had so suddenly decided to send it, but memory dawned on her.  Of course, Arthur’s birthday.  She’d sent a card just the other day.  They were all of age now, that must be why he sent it now.  They were all proper members now, inasmuch as there was a House to be members of.
But why send it at all?

The little cabin was tucked into the woods so well it was almost invisible when the early evening sun slipped behind the trees.  The canopy dipped low enough to all but conceal the roof, and the logs that made its walls would have matched the surrounding trees perfectly if they were standing upright.  Even in the bright midday, the small house looked as though it had grown out of the forest instead of being built.
The soft crackle of a fire filled the little clearing in front of the cabin, followed closely by the rich smell of wood smoke.  The fire was built within a ring of stones, which had been cleared of snow.  It was built high, casting its warm orange heat in a broad circle around it, much to the relief of the man sitting cross-legged in front of it.  He wore no coat, only a buttoned flannel shirt and denim trousers.  He’d heard of shamans who did this naked, without the benefit of a fire, but he had long since decided to leave that to the professionals.
Warren took a deep breath, managing not to shiver, and focused his gaze on the dancing flames.  There was chaos there, in the erratic jumping sparks and sudden pops.  Warren wasn’t interested in the chaos, nor in the heat.  What he sought in the fire was something organic, the method behind the madness.  There was a will buried at the heart of it that Warren wanted to contact.
His breathing slowed, and the cold was forgotten.  To his eyes, the fire seemed to slow in its mad dance as well.  Its movement became steady, rhythmic.  Like breathing.  At the heart of the fire, its light shone brightest; waxing and waning with the rhythm of the flames’ movement.  Warren could feel its consciousness, wild and overwhelming.  Keeping his breathing steady, he reached out his own will to contact that primal mind.
Touching the spirit of the flame felt like setting his own brain on fire.  The heat of it, the raw primeval hunger that bore down on him was impossible to fathom, let alone contain.  Warren tried desperately to hold onto the contact, but he could feel his own mind beginning to burn away in the process.  As the heat turned toward agony, he severed the contact, all but falling away from the fire in front of him.  The fire, in turn, flared up beyond the borders of the circle of stones, roaring its defiance before settling back to its normal size.
Warren’s breath was that of a man who’d just run a marathon.  He realised he was sweating through his shirt, in spite of the cold which was only now beginning to bite him again.  The sun had dipped noticeably in the time he’d been out here, and the shadows were beginning to lengthen.  It was well past time to go inside.  He left the fire to burn itself out.  It would do no harm where it was.
He hadn’t bothered putting a lock on the cabin.  What need was there?  No one would come out here anyway, and any bizarre fool who did come seeking trouble would find more than he bargained for.  Warren pushed open the door and shut it behind him, letting the security of the four walls calm his seared nerves.  He took several deep breaths before he went to light the lamps.
He was a bit reluctant letting fire into his house after what had just transpired, but he knew well enough that one such spirit would not carry the grudge of another.  Besides that, it would be just in cold inside as out if he didn’t get the wood stove going.  The soft orange light added to the light of the lanterns in the corners of the room to fill the cabin with a warm dim glow.  As Warren crouched by the stove, letting its warmth ease his frozen joints, he noticed something on the floor by the door.
Walking over to examine the unfamiliar thing, he found a simple white envelope with his name written across it.  Flipping it over, he saw the seal and nodded with interest.  He hadn’t known these messages could be sent so far from civilisation.  Curious that he would send it now, after so long.

Abigail had been staring at the letter for most of the day, and she still hadn’t decided whether to answer or just burn the thing and be done with it.  There were rules, she knew, and obligations.  She had taken the oaths and fulfilled the Rite of Confirmation, as she was sure everyone had.  But what were those rules worth now?  Who was going to enforce them?  No one had even tried to keep in touch for nearly five years; could they hold it against her if she had moved on?
The argument sounded hollow in her mind.  She hadn’t moved onto anything.  Perhaps she wanted to forget and live a new life, but what had she done in five years?  Gone to a concert here, a benefit dinner there.  The word people used to describe her now was “philanthropist”, but what was that worth, when all it meant was that she threw money at someone else’s problems so she could forget her own?
The letter sat on the coffee table like an accusation.  It brought questions with it.  Would the others show up?  Of course they would.  Abigail had looked in on them several times.  It wasn’t difficult.  Evelyn and Warren were still actively practising, Daniel certainly wasn’t letting himself forget, and Arthur and Selena still used it on occasion.  They hadn’t let go any more than Abigail had, much as she might claim to, while spying on her old friends through a bowl of water.
She missed them, though she might only admit it to herself lest she crack the façade of strength she had so carefully built.  They were the closest thing she had left to a family in this world.  She hadn’t married, like Selena.  She didn’t have a calling like Evelyn.  Her charity work was more of a distraction.  Even Arthur had his fancy social circles.
Of course, she did still have her obligations.  This would keep her from attending the Policeman’s Ball, and she knew well that her absence would not go unnoticed.  That simply would not do.  She picked up the letter, meaning to toss it in the wastebin and finalise her decision.
What if they needed her?  Her hand stopped just short of the bin.  What if they aimed to do something dangerous?  Certainly the notion seemed foolish, but she’d been certain nothing dangerous was afoot that night as well, and she had been fatally wrong.  If they meant to get into some sort of trouble, six might not be enough.  There was no power in six.  Her absence could doom them.  If they came to harm because she wasn’t there…
The letter returned to the table, and Abigail went to her phone.  Ignoring the fact that her hand was shaking, she dialed Roger’s number.  Roger handled all of her charitable finances and helped her keep track of her events.  She had set up a side account that she gave him access to, one that didn’t lead back to the House accounts.
Roger picked up on the second ring. “Hello?”
“Roger, dear,” Abigail was always extra nice to him when she needed to ask him to do something unpleasant, “I need you to cancel my appearance at the Policeman’s Ball next month.”
“Is something wrong?” Roger’s voice took on a note of concern.
“Just a small emergency,” she reassured him, “nothing too dramatic, I’m sure.  Some unexpected business to finish up relating to my family.”
“I see,” despite the brave face Abilgail kept up about it, Roger was always cautious of that subject. “You’re sure nothing’s wrong?”
“Not that I know of, but I appreciate your concern, as always.”
“You know you’re going to burn a few people by not showing up at the ball.”
“I know.  Do what you can to smooth it over for me, would you?  Add a little something to my donation.  Whatever you think will do the job.”
“All right,” he sounded reluctant, but Roger was sure to do what he was asked, “you let me know if you need anything, okay?”
“Of course, dear.  Thank you.”
As she hung up the phone, Abigail let the smile that had never reached her face fade from her voice.  Roger was a darling, and always so very concerned.  She half expected him to propose to her sometimes, and was never quite certain she’d say no.  But there’d be no room to think of such things now, she expected.  There was no chance that this was small business.
With a sigh that she wouldn’t dream of letting anyone hear, Abigail went to fix herself a drink for her nerves, and spent the rest of the night wrapped up in unpleasant memories.

My friends,

I hope this letter finds you well, and I apologise that I haven’t been able to keep in touch these past few years.  I must apologise again, for this is sure to bring up memories we’d all rather leave forgotten.  But the past must not be ignored, or I fear the future will be no better.
As of today, we are all of age, and I expect you have all undergone the Rite, as I did.  It’s time we came together again, as I believe the affairs of the House are not yet in order.  I ask that you meet me at the manor on February the second.  Rest assured, despite what you may have seen in the papers, it is still standing.
This will be an official conclave, with all the usual expectations.  I trust we will all remember our oaths, and that I will see you all again soon.

Your friend as always,
Malachi

Chapter 1
February 2nd, 1934

It was midafternoon when the first car arrived.  Malachi heard the rumble of the engine from the front parlour, and took a look out the window before going to greet the first arrival.  It was a Model T pickup, not exactly new from the look of it.  Not quite what Malachi had expected.
The driver door swung open, and Warren stepped out, looking like some sort of mountain man.  He had grown rather broad of frame in the past five years, and his shaggy light brown hair was now matched with a beard that concealed half of his face.  He wore heavy worker’s boots and blue denim slacks.  Underneath the padded leather coat, Malachi fully expected to find plaid flannel.
For his own part, Malachi had changed little in the intervening years.  His suits were nicer, certainly, but he still kept his dark hair swept back, and he still wore the same silver frames for his spectacles.  Age was the only thing that had changed him, and he found that did more inside than out.
He met Warren at the door, offering a warm handshake.  Warren returned the gesture, though his face wasn’t quite as genial as his handshake suggested.
“Malachi,” he said by way of greeting.
“Warren,” Malachi returned, somewhat more pleasantly, “It’s good to see you.”
Warren simply nodded, and Malachi stepped aside to let his old friend precede him in.  He was somewhat relieved to see Warren remove his boots.  Whatever corner of the world he’d vanished to, he had at least remembered some of his manners.  The flannel under the coat was a solid blue, rather than plaid, but flannel nonetheless.  He hung his coat and went straight for the largest chair in the parlour.
“I suppose you’d rather wait until we’re all here to tell us what this is all about,” he said.
“It seems simpler than repeating it,” Malachi shrugged, “something to drink while we wait?”
Warren shook his head, and Malachi returned to his own chair.  The next half hour was mostly silence, interspersed with occasional attempts on Malachi’s part to strike up conversation.  It seemed time had served to make Warren more taciturn, rather than less.  Malachi hoped this was not a sign of things to come.
The driveway crunched under the weight of another car, and both men looked to the uncurtained window at the same time.  The simple blue car was even more modest than Warren’s truck, if not quite so rugged.  Neither of the two was surprised to see Evelyn climb out.  She had developed into a picture of demure beauty.  She dressed sensibly, with a long blue wool peacoat and a matching hat and gloves, and her soft chestnut hair was held back with a single blue ribbon.
Warren gave Malachi a meaningful look, and Malachi nodded in agreement with the unspoken suggestion.  Warren stood to meet Evelyn at the door.  The two were always quite close, and the evening might go better if it began with the reunion of dear friends.
They met at the door with a smile and the fond embrace of friends who’d been too long out of touch, and Warren escorted Evelyn to the parlour once she’d stowed her winter things.  The long grey dress she wore suited the personality Malachi remembered.  He stood to greet her and received a hug of his own, though not quite as heartfelt as the one Evelyn shared with Warren.  She lookd around as though shocked.
“I thought this place had burned.  I saw the pictures in the paper!”
“An illusion.  It seems our families were prepared for what happened in more ways than one.  It’s been too long, Evey,” Malachi said with a smile.
“I hope the others think the same,” Evelyn’s smile faltered enough to betray the concern that went with her words.
Malachi could only nod as he showed her to a chair.  She accepted a cup of tea, and the day began to take on a friendlier tone as conversation was finally possible.  The next hour or so was much more cordial, and small talk continued until they finally heard the third car approaching.
A black roadster pulled up beside Evelyn’s car and killed its engine.  With the top up, its occupant couldn’t be seen, but the smartly dressed young man who stepped out took only a moment to recognise.  Even if he had changed more drastically, Arthur’s youth gave him away.  He had finally trimmed his curly brown hair, and the vandyke beard he had grown to match it gave an edge of maturity to his soft face.  He didn’t seem as well-fed as he had been when he was young, but there was still a certain softness to his silhouette that suggested he still preferred leisure over labour.
Greeting Malachi at the door with a simple “hello”, Arthur was soon among the small gathering in the parlour, lounging on the nearest chair to the door.  He accepted a scotch and soda at Malachi’s offer and sipped it quietly, eyeing the three seated with him.
“So,” Arthur finally said, “Do we get to know why we’re here?”
“When the others are here,” Malachi assured him, “I imagine they won’t be long.”
“If they come at all,” Arthur said dryly.
“You came,” Warren pointed out.
“I had nothing better to do.  Can’t say the same for Selena at least.  And I’m sure Abby’s got some sort of party she has to attend.”
“They’ll come,” Warren said with quiet finality.
As if on cue, the waning sun reflected off of another approaching windscreen.  Another sensible car, good for a family.  It made Arthur’s roadster look even more out of place.  Selena’s brown coat contrasted her blonde hair, pulled into a bun.  She came to the door with a somewhat stern look on her face, which only grew sterner when Malachi met her there.  She spoke before he could say hello.
“This had best be important, Malachi.  You have no idea how difficult it was to convince my husband to let me come out here on my own.”
“I assure you, Selena,” Malachi’s voice was warmly reassuring, “this is of the utmost importance.”
A brown dress matched the brown coat, making Selena look every bit the housewife and mother she wanted the world to believe she was.  Her greeting to the others was much friendlier, with a warm hug for Evelyn, and pleasant smiles for the gentlemen.  She declined a drink, and sat in one corner of the sofa.
The conversation had reached the level of pleasant chatter, and the sun was well into setting when the second to last car arrived.  A rather nice grey Ford Coupe eased its way in among the other cars, and Daniel unfolded his wiry frame from the driver’s seat.  His fiery red hair was neatly trimmed, and his pinstriped brown suit spoke of understated class.
Daniel took the front steps two at a time, and had opened the door himself by the time Malachi got there.  He greeted Malachi with a cheerful handshake and moved on into the parlour to meet the others.  Daniel had no coat.  He generally didn’t need one.  There were some perks to their rather unique educations.
Daniel had barely sat down when the last car arrived.  Rather similar to Daniel’s, it parked next to his as well.  Abigail, in a long mink coat, came to the door looking less than cheerful.  Her demeanour didn’t change when she saw Malachi, nor when she met the others, though she did share pleasantries, she seemed to be forcing herself to do so.  When she doffed her coat, she was wearing a sensible but flattering dress of dark red that matched her auburn hair well.
Conversation didn’t last much longer after that.  The small throng of voices gradually died down, and everyone looked expectantly at Malachi.  It was Daniel who first spoke.
“So, what’s this about?”
“Yes,” Abigail said with a sense of weariness, “let’s just get this over with.”
Malachi nodded somewhat regretfully. “Very well.  If you’ll all join me in the library, we can begin.”
“Can’t we just stay here?” Selena asked imploringly. “I doubt any of us really wants to see the library.”
“At a gathering such as this,” Malachi explained, “there are certain things we must do.  One of those is the Rite of the Circle, which must be performed in the library.”
“The Rite?” Arthur raised an eyebrow. “That’s for the Circle of Seven to do.”
“Who do you suppose that is?” Warren’s monotone was oddly meaningful.
Everyone was quiet for a moment.  No one wanted to say the obvious, until Malachi finally spoke again.
“Precisely, Warren.  Whether we like it or not, we are the Circle.  We are the House.  That, in essence, is why we are here tonight.”
He gave them all a moment to mull over his words before he continued.
“Please, join me in the library.”
Slowly, they all stood and followed Malachi to the centre of the manor.  Presently, they reached the double doors that, five years ago, had opened on the worst sight of their lives.  As they approached the threshold, they all felt a slight tingle in the air, and a little bit of resistance.
“Yes,” Malachi confirmed, noting their reactions, “the wards are back.  They were apparently not completely sundered, only exhausted for a time.  They recharged some time while we were away.  That is partly why I waited until now to call this meeting.”
He saved the rest of his explanation until they had reached the centre common, and the round stone table.  With some reluctance, each of them took the place reserved for their family.  There was a moment of silence as the magnitude of what they were about to do combined with the hard memories that had stained each of their lives.
Malachi watched them, keeping his concern to himself.  Everyone here had a choice to make.  Malachi had already made it, but he had had more time to ponder it.  If they went through with this, and performed the Rite of the Circle, they would essentially be reopening the House, and the old wounds that came with it.  This was, in Malachi’s mind, the moment of truth.  Silently, he placed his hand in the empty space to the right of his family name.
Most of them hesitated.  A couple did not.  Daniel’s hand was in place almost immediately after Malachi’s, with Evelyn’s not far behind.  Warren hesistated for a moment after Evelyn, but inevitably followed suit.  Selena’s hand hovered above its space for a few seconds as an indecisive look passed across her face, but finally she brought it down.  Arthur waited, but didn’t hesitated as he took his place in the circle.  Only Abigail remained apart.  Everyone looked to her.
“What’s the point of this?” She asked, her voice hollow.
“What was the point when our ancestors did it three hundred years ago?” Malachi asked in return. “What was the point when our families did it five years ago?”
Abigail flinched at the last question, and glared at Malachi for a split second.  The pain on her face didn’t fade as quickly.  Malachi spoke more softly:
“There must have been a point then, Abby.  Whatever that purpose was, it’s ours now.  We don’t honour them by ignoring the task they left us.”
For a moment, Abigail looked like she might cry.  She wasn’t alone in that.  Malachi’s face held the same emotion.  The others, save the stone-faced Warren and the disaffected Arthur, reflected a measure of the same.  With a final few seconds of hesitation, Abigail put her hand on the table.  Malachi nodded approval, and looked to everyone in turn to see that they were ready.  With another nod, he began to speak, and the others spoke with him.
It was a chant they had never spoken, but they had all read it, and heard it in their lessons.  They felt the power radiating around them as they spoke, and felt it pulled toward the centre of the table.  The familiar sigil took on its bright silver glow as the energy gathered in its bounds.  When their voices faded, so did the light, as the power was sucked away as though by a sponge.  All seven shared looks of brief confusion.  They had never seen that happen before.
As they all sat, Malachi remained standing.  He leaned on the table for a moment, for a moment looking quite weary.
“I feel like I should welcome us home,” he said, “but we’ve all got new homes to return to, so I suppose I ought to make this quick.”
There were a few nods.  This was all proving far more awkward than Malachi had hoped.
“I called you all here,” he continued, “because, whether we want to or not, the death of our families must be addressed.  We were young when it happened, and not ready to face such a tragedy.  I think we’ve all grown enough, and distanced ourselves enough to give it due examination now.
“Their deaths were no accident.  You’ve all reached the same conclusion, I’m sure.  These were skilled and experienced magicians.  None of them would even risk making an error with such devastating consequences.  No, they were killed by a deliberate force.  Murdered.”
“I’ll ask the obvious question then,” Arthur spoke up, “What could do that?”
“We all felt something,” Evelyn said with sad thoughtfulness, “another presence mixed with their magic.  Something foul.”
Malachi nodded. “My thoughts exactly.  We all recognised that such an evil power could belong to the House.  Whatever it was we felt that night, that was the thing that killed them.  Something so powerful and so evil that it burned the life out of fifty-seven potent magi at once.”
He gave it a moment to sink in.  After half a minute, Selena asked the obvious question.
“Why?”
“I’ve given that a great deal of thought,” Malachi replied, “and I’ve tried to find some answers here.  I spent the last year poring through this library, but without knowing where to begin, and with so many books to look through, it has been a daunting task.  I have a theory, borne out by a few scraps of information I’ve found here and there.
“I’ve found only a little evidence to support this, but based on what we witnessed, I have come to believe it.  There are beings of terrible power somewhere beyond the veil of reality.  Things that don’t belong in this world.  I believe our families faced such a being five years ago.”
No one said anything.  Daniel fished a cigarette out of his pocket.  A spark flared from his fingertip as he lit it, inhaling deeply.
“Again,” Warren said, “why?”
“That is difficult to answer conclusively,” Malachi answered, “Did it come seeking them, or did they force the confrontation?  For what purpose did they engage it?  What seems most likely to me, if my prior hypothesis is correct, is that they fought it to prevent its entry into our world.  If such beings do exist, they could do terrible harm to our plane of reality.”
“And how much evidence do you have of these ‘beings’?” Abigail asked archly.
“Bits and pieces, I’m afraid,” Malachi concluded. “It would seem that whatever our predecessors knew of such things, they preferred to keep such information well buried.  Without their guidance, it could take years to sort out the information in this library.  But I believe it is important that we do so.”
“Why?” Abigail demanded.
“Because what little information I have found began with an anecdote from the earliest history of the House.  Our founders came together to ward off an evil that dwelled ‘beyond the sight of men’.  Something so terrible it took seven of the world’s most powerful magicians to seal it away.  The House of the Grey Circle was founded to keep such horrors sealed away.  If seven of them fought it off then, and fifty-seven fell to it now, what does that say of its strength?  What will happen in another three hundred years, or one hundred, or fifty, or ten?
“I believe that, five years ago, the seal our founders established was broken.  Nearly the whole of the house died to ensure that it was resealed, and they left us to continue the vigil.  If we abandon that responsibility, what fate might befall the world?  We may be the only thing that stands between humanity and annihilation.”
“That seems a bit melodramatic, Malachi,” Selena said.
“Perhaps, but I think it’s safest to assume the worst in this case.  Regardless, it’s imperative that we prepare ourselves.  We must learn more of what it is we are expected to face, and we must be ready to face it.”
“What, the seven of us?” Arthur scoffed. “You saw what it did here.  Fifty-seven real, powerful magicians died here.  We’re barely more than children compared to them.”
“You’re quite right,” Malachi agreed, “we’re all out of practise.  We’ve spent the last five years trying to get away from this.  I’m sure a few of us have tried to keep up the practise, but I doubt any of us have really learned much.  That is what we must do.”
“What do you suggest?” Daniel asked.
“I suggest we take one more year apart, to each hone our skills a little further.  Find teachers if you can, or else just keep working at it.  We left the House years ago as mere students.  We must return to it as fully fledged magi.  We must rebuild the legacy our families left behind.  Are you with me?”
One by one, they voiced their assent, some more readily than others.  Evelyn and Daniel agreed without hesitation.  Warren nodded gravely after a moment of thought, and Arthur shrugged and said “why not”.  Selena hesitated while some inner conflict settled itself and then nodded resolutely.  Abigail had so far remained silent.
“Abigail,” Malachi asked again, “are you with us?”
Abigail was quiet a moment longer before finally giving a sad smile.
“If it’s unanimous,” she said quietly, “then I suppose I am.”
Malachi nodded quietly offering her a sympathetic look before he swept his gaze again across the entire assembly.
“The matter is settled,” he pronounced. “One year from today we will gather here again.  In one year we will begin rebuilding the House that our families built.”

Chapter 2
February 2nd, 1935

It was a long drive from London to the manor, but Selena hardly noticed.  She wasn’t fazed by much these days.  The last thing to get a real emotional response out of her had been the arrival of a sad-faced constable at her door, eight months ago.  A man she had known for two years, and she had never seen such a look on his face.  He had told her of an accident that afternoon.  A constable had been struck by a careless driver.  He had held her as she wept, gripped by merciless sobs.
She’d had no time to feel at the funeral.  She had to comfort the children; give them something strong to hold onto while they watched their father go into the ground.  She’d wept bitterly that night too, once Carter and Caitlyn were tucked in bed, exhausted by their own tears.  After that, she seemed drained of emotion.  She put on a face for her children and their grandmother, but her heart might as well be dead.
And still she came tonight.  Her sense of duty, it seemed, was stronger than her apathy.  She still felt loyal to these people, none of whom had been there.  Selena couldn’t really blame them.  Most of them had been out of the country by then.  Only Daniel had actually been in London at the time, and he hadn’t learned of the accident until after the funeral.  He’d sent a letter, offering what comfort he could, but they had all drifted apart so much by then that there wasn’t much more he could do.
William’s death had advanced her studies, to a degree.  There was some insignificant comfort in that.  Selena had devoted much of her effort to reaching across the barrier between life and death, hoping to contact him.  That boundary was a difficult one to breach.  Less than a year wasn’t nearly enough time to accomplish that goal.  Privately, she had already admitted to herself that she was coming tonight as much in the hope that the others might help her as for their actual purpose.
There were five cars already parked in the garage by the time she arrived.  She pulled in next to Warren’s truck and killed the engine.  Absently, she looked out at the already dark sky and felt a twinge of concern.  There was little to worry about.  The children were with their grandmother, and Selena had advised her that she may be gone all night.
The others were waiting outside, which was curious.  It certainly wasn’t a warm night.  The unspoken question must have been on Selena’s face, because Daniel opened his mouth to speak as soon as she was in conversation distance.
“We thought we might all go in together this time.”
There was a moment of rather awkward silence as nearly everyone tried to politely avoid Selena’s gaze.  So they had heard.  Evelyn, ultimately, couldn’t contain herself.
“Oh, Selena, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there!” She all but rushed to Selena’s side, her face awash with guilt. “If I had only been there –“
“It wouldn’t have been any different,” Selena cut her off gently. “He was gone by the time I found out.  There was no way you could have done anything.  But I’m grateful to know that you would have, if you could.”
For a moment, Evelyn looked like she might cry.  But she straightened, and her face cleared of anguish.  She had learned some inner strength.  Of course she had, she was a nurse.  She couldn’t handle that sort of job without a backbone.
Arthur, who was closest to the front door, stood aside meaningfully.  Taking the cue, they crowded politely inside.  The manor was dark, and not as warm as it ought to be.  The boiler had only been turned on recently.  The dark, silent mansion, combined with the presence of only six cars in the garage, led to the conclusion which Abigail ultimately voiced.
“Malachi’s not here.”
“Maybe he’s running late,” Daniel suggested, “I’m sure he’ll be along.”
“Not him,” Arthur said, “he’d have been here hours early, to make sure the place was ready.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been staying here.”
“No,” Evelyn observed, “the boiler’s only just been turned on.  It can’t have been running for more than a day, by the feel of it.”
“Then he was here,” Abigail concluded, “no more than a day ago.  And he left.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Selena said flatly. “This is a conclave, right?  An official meeting?  No one skips a conclave, the person who called it least of all.  And we all know how seriously Malachi takes the rules.”
“Maybe we should go to the library,” Arthur suggested, “before we make any assumptions.”
He offered no explanation for that suggestion, but they had all long since learned to trust Arthur’s intuition.  They filed into the library, which was just as dark as the rest of the house.  The lights worked just fine, of course.  This far out of the city, they couldn’t rely on electricity.  The lights didn’t run on electricity any more than the boiler actually ran on water.
As they had already surmised, Malachi wasn’t there either.  They reached the centre common to find it deserted, but not empty.  On the table they found an envelope and a curious looking book.  Its cover was red leather, embossed in gold with numerous curling symbols unfamiliar to the group but obvious in their magical significance.  Dominant was a single curved sigil which took up a quarter of the front cover.  The book fairly hummed with power.
“The letter first,” Arthur instructed, a somewhat disconnected look about him.
Abigail slid the single sheet of paper out of the envelope.  The handwriting was unmistakably Malachi’s.  The letter was brief, and Abigail read it aloud:
“My friends, I apologise for my unseemly absence.  I have found myself embroiled in matter from which there is no departing until complete.  Rest assured, my actions serve our agreed-upon purpose, though I regret that I am unable to explain them at this time.
“Please proceed in my absence, all the resources I know of are at your fingertips.  I will rejoin you when I am able.  Until then, I remain yours.  Malachi.”
Abigail put the letter down on the table, its rustling seeming unusually loud in the silence that followed the reading.  A long moment passed as everyone processed the unusual message.
“This isn’t right,” Daniel said at last.  Warren nodded in agreement.
“Nothing trumps the House,” Selena reminded them, though they didn’t need it. “It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, the House comes first.”
“He knows that,” Evelyn added. “It seems to me he holds to the old rules more strongly than any of us.  I can’t imagine a pursuit that he couldn’t put on hold or conclude before today.  He ought to be here, unless –“
“He’s in trouble,” Arthur finished.  Another moment of silence followed.
“The letter didn’t mention the book,” Evelyn said quietly.
Abigail picked up the book and flipped it open to the first page.  It looked to be a journal, the words on the page handwritten on the lined yellow paper.
“It’s Malachi’s writing,” Abigail confirmed what they already knew.
“Can we get a fire going before we do any more reading?” Evelyn shivered. “It’s frigid in here.”
Everyone looked to Daniel, who nodded.  He found the two fireplaces on either side of the common had already been stacked and made ready.  Over each he held his hand and spoke a single word in Latin.  Flame sprouted in the midst of the dry wood and quickly spread, becoming two large, merrily burning fires.  Daniel rejoined the group at the table, and Abigail began to read again.

February 2nd, 1935
I find myself in Aviemore, Scotland; a quaint litle village at the base of the Cairngorm Mountains.  My research has led me to believe that I will find something at the summet of Ben Mac Dhui, the tallest of the peaks.  The nature of what I might find is as yet unknown to me, and I have only the most maddeningly whimsical of clues: “look to the stars”.  It sounds like the charlatan nonsense of a back-alley fortune teller, but I must assume that it will make sense at the appropriate time.
I will set out at dawn.  I can take the majority of the journey by car, until I reach Glenfeshie Lodge.  From there I must go on foot.  This is certainly not the appropriate season for such a climb, but, with the volume of work still ahead of me, I cannot afford to wait for spring.  Regardless, I have made appropriate preparations, and do not anticipate any untoward risk.
Something to research when I have time: Several of the locals have attempted to discourage me from this undertaking, citing the threat of something they call “The Grey Man”.  Not likely to be more than local superstition; the Scots do love their monster tales; but  as always, it could be something more.  I shall have to consult the Kinsbridge bestiaries when I have the opportunity.

“Well,” Arthur said when Abigail had finished, “that didn’t make any sense.”
“Not much, no,” Abigail agreed, putting the journal down. “It’s dated today.  He couldn’t have written that in Scotland, returned it here and still had time to be gone before any of us got here.”
“Unless he wrote it in Scotland,” Warren suggested, “and the book was already here.”
“Is something like that possible?” Evelyn asked.
Warren shrugged. “It doesn’t seem too outrageous.”
“So why leave this here for us to read it?” Daniel wondered. “He wants to share his results?”
“He wants us to know where he’s going,” Selena said. “He wants us to know how to follow him.”
“If that’s the case,” Daniel returned, “why not just bring us along?”
“We’ll just have to ask him that when we find him,” Abigail said with an air of finality. “Anyone know how soon we can charter a flight to Scotland?”
“You’re serious,” Arthur said, “you want us all to pack up and go to Nowhereshire, Scotland just because Malachi wrote it in a journal?”
“Have you got a better idea?” Abigail cocked an imperious eyebrow. “Besides, we can all tell that the book is enchanted.  Warren’s hypothesis has merit.  We may as well check it out.”
“I can’t just run off to Scotland,” Selena said reproachfully, “I have children to look after.”
“Who’s looking after them now?” Warren asked.
“Their grandmother.”
“Can she continue looking after them?” He pressed.
“You’re saying I should just abandon my children?” Selena fumed. “Why?  Just because the House says so?  The House that consists of nothing more than a bunch of novice wizards not out of their twenties?”
“You’re going to come,” said Arthur, his voice a bit distant, “you’re not even considering staying behind, so you might as well stop acting like it.”
Selena’s righteous anger deflated, and she glowered dully at Arthur. “I wish you wouldn’t do that.”
Arthur shrugged. “You were wasting time.” He returned his attention to the group: “I can have a plane chartered by morning.  I’ll head back to London and take care of that.  Meet me at the airport no later than eight thirty tomorrow morning.”
Abigail nodded, looking to each of the others in turn. “Are we agreed?”
Each of them offered their agreement, though Selena did so with a last bit of reluctance.  Daniel stepped away from the table and again spoke a single word in Latin.  Both fireplaces went dark, and the warmth in the room diminished.  They all filed out of the library, but Daniel caught up with Abigail before she could leave.
“You’re trying to take charge again,” he admonished her.
“No one else was going to do it,” she replied, “not with Malachi absent.”
“That’s not the real reason, is it.”
Daniel and Abigail had first arrived at the manor around the same time, being around the same age.  For whatever reason, there was a correlation between age and the manifestation of magical talent.  As result, they knew each other a bit better than the others, perhaps excluding Malachi.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on you lot for six years,” Abigail said quietly, “you think I’m going to stop just because I can actually see you?”

Chapter 3
February 3rd, 1935

The first thing Evelyn noticed when she woke up was how quiet the manor was.  When she was young, the manor had always been full of people, about at all hours.  All of them had learned to sleep through muffled footsteps on floors above, or the occasionally noisy effects of high level magic.  Today she woke  to silence, and found it the most foreign thing.  Even her own townhouse creaked and settled now and again.  The manor was simply…dormant.
Returning to her old bedroom had been a strange experience for Evelyn.  It looked exactly as she had left it.  Not even dust had settled in her absence.  That was expected, though.  A society consisting entirely of extremely focused magical scholars was not the most reliable group when it came to keeping things clean, so the House had long ago implemented permanent magics to take care of such mundane tasks as dusting and scrubbing.
They had all packed what they expected to need for their impromptu journey already, so leaving wouldn’t be an issue.  Evelyn dressed simply in a modest brown dress.  Proper clothes for mountain climbing were in her suitcase.  Wondering if anyone else was up yet, she wandered out of her room.
Halfway down the stairs, she was hit by the smell of bacon.  A little further, and she was sure she could smell eggs too.  She followed her nose to the kitchen, there she found Daniel all but flying around the room.  It was a large kitchen, designed to feed as many as seventy people in an evening.  Daniel had taken one corner and turned it into a breakfast paradise.  On one grill, eggs were being fried, scrambled, poached or boiled.  On another, enough bacon to feed a small army was sizzling merrily.  There were pancakes, of the conventional and potato varieties, tea was steeping, coffee was brewing, and Daniel was just in the midst of slicing fruit.  He looked up when Evelyn walked into the kitchen, though he couldn’t possibly have heard her over the cooking noises.
“Morning,” he smiled, “you like your eggs over hard, right?”
“Yes,” Evelyn was taken a bit aback, “I’m surprised you remembered.  Where did all of this food come from?  It couldn’t have already been here.”
“I went and got it from home before I went to sleep.  I couldn’t imagine us hopping a plane without breakfast, could you?”
“You drove all the way back to London just to get breakfast?”
“Can’t have us going hungry,” Daniel shrugged.
“That can’t be all there is to it,” Evelyn said cautiously.  She didn’t want to push.
“What can’t it – Ow!” Daniel hissed as his hand slipped, and the knife bit into his thumb instead of the apple it was supposed to.  He pulled his bleeding hand quickly away from the food, cradling it as he sought a towel.
“Here, let me see.” Evelyn took his hand in hers and examined his thumb.  The cut was fairly deep, and blood welled eagerly from it.  Evelyn placed two fingers on the wound gently and whispered a few quiet words.  They both felt the slight tingle that jumped from her fingers to Daniel’s hand, and when she released it, the cut had vanished completely, leaving unbroken, though bloodstained skin.  Daniel reached for a towel to wipe away the blood, nodding gratitude.
“A good thing you kept in practice,” he said with a chuckle that sounded rather false.  He turned his attention to the eggs, while Evelyn took over the fruit, tossing out the bloodied apple and fetching a new knife.  The worked in relative silence for a minute or two.
“The truth of it,” Daniel said suddenly, “is that I was hoping this might help.”
“Help?” Evelyn asked encouragingly.
“You saw how awkward things were, both last year and last night.  We haven’t seen each other in years, and now it’s like we don’t know how to act like friends.  I was thinking maybe a nice breakfast together would help things feel more…you know…”
“More like they used to be?” Evelyn finished for him.
“Well, yes, if I want to be simple about it.” Daniel shrugged helplessly.  “We’re not kids anymore, Evey.  We all know things will never be like they were.  But we don’t have to all keep each other at arm’s length like this.”
“It isn’t easy, Daniel.  I don’t think most of us have really taken the time to work through what happened.  Right now, everyone here is just reminding everyone else of what we all went through.  It’s like being dragged back and forced to face something we all just wanted to forget, even if we chose to come back.”
“I know we all had our reasons to come back,” Daniel started pulling the bacon off of the grill as he spoke. “Selena and Abigail are treating it like an obligation.  I can’t blame Selena for not wanting to be here, not with what she’s been through, but Abby’s holding something back.”
“You know her better than the rest of us, Daniel,” Evelyn reminded him, “you’ve got the best chance of figuring her out.”
“I know.  It’s really just those two I’m worried about.  Arthur doesn’t seem all that different, and Warren’s pretty much Warren, if a bit bigger and hairier.  And you seem all right enough with being here.”
“As much as I can be,” Evelyn agreed with a hint of sadness. “And what about you?  What’s your reason?”
“Me?” Daniel shrugged. “I never wanted to leave in the first place.  You lot are all I have left of my family.  I never liked the idea of letting that go.”
“Well, that explains breakfast.  You just want us all to get along.”
“It’ll never be the same as it was,” Daniel said, “I’m too smart to think otherwise.  But I think we can still help each other.  We’ll all be much stronger in facing this if we do it together.”
“I agree,” Evelyn assured him, “absolutely.  The question is whether the others can come to the same conclusion on their own.  We can’t force it, Daniel.”
“I know.  This is just an olive branch.  We’re pretty much done in here.  Everyone ought to be up by now anyway.  Could you let them all know while I get this mess plated?  I’ll meet you in the small dining room.”

They took two cars, to keep anyone from feeling crowded.  The sun was still working on coming out when they arrived at the airstrip on the outskirts of London.  Arthur was waiting at the gate.  He straightened when he saw them approaching, just in time for Evelyn to shove a warm paper bag into his hands.
“What’s this?”
“Breakfast,” Evelyn answered cheerfully, “Daniel kept it warm.  Are you coming?”
Arthur paused for a moment and unfocused his mind, letting himself absorb the emotional ambience emanating off of his five companions.
“Okay,” he said, “you’re all far too cheerful.  Who are you and what have you done with my friends?”
“Daniel made breakfast,” Abigail explained helpfully.
“Of course.  That explains everything.”
“I’m a very good cook,” Daniel pointed out.
“Fine,” Arthur said resignedly, “don’t tell me.  Just get on the plane already.”
“Eat before flying,” Evelyn instructed him. “I don’t want to have to deal with a hungry pilot.”
“Arthur’s flying the plane?” Daniel asked with mock-incredulity. “Maybe we should just walk…”
“Just get on the damned plane,” Arthur growled.
It wasn’t a long flight to Edinburgh, but they had a few hours’ drive ahead of them to get to Aviemore.  They acquired two cars in Edinburgh and took to the road in the early afternoon.  By the time they reached Aviemore, afternoon was starting to turn into evening.  Obviously, they wouldn’t try to take the mountain until morning.
They found a cozy little inn that looked nicer than most of the other places in town.  On the outside, it had the look of a large old Victorian house.  When they went inside, they found the common room to be done mostly in dark wood.  The room smelled of warm food, cold lager and rich wine.  Many of the tables were occupied, and the radio was drowned out by the friendly carousing of a respectable looking crowd of rowdy working men.
Warren went to the desk to secure rooms for them, and the others found a table in a relatively quiet corner.  For a few minutes they sat silently, watching the cheerfully raucous activity in the room.  Finally, Warren came to join them.
“Malachi was here,” he said flatly.
“That answers the first of our questions then,” Abigail nodded.
“I take it we’ll be going up that mountain tomorrow then,” Selena sounded less than enthused, “no doubt of it.”
“That seems to be the only course open to us,” Daniel affirmed.
“We’ll leave at dawn,” Warren suggested, “we want to have enough time to get back down before dark.”
“Let’s get something to eat then,” Abigail said, “and make an early night of it.  Tomorrow won’t be easy.”

Chapter 4
February 4th, 1935

They began the drive out to Glenfeshie lodge at six in the morning, loaded down with everything they expected to need for a winter climb up a mountain.  They reached the lodge at seven-thirty, and unloaded the cars.  They took an hour to make sure their packs were secure, and the sun was finally in the sky when they began their hike up the mountain.
Warren carried the heaviest of the packs, shouldering its large bulk with apparent ease.  The day was thankfully clear, and the wind was calm.  Warren and Daniel had studied the map closely last night, and so they took the lead, Daniel dressed decidedly less heavily than everyone else assembled.  Warren was most accustomed to this sort of terrain, so he made sure to keep them on a relatively even path, avoiding areas of deep snow.
As they hiked, they kept their eyes open for signs of Malachi’s passing.  If he had left any sort of sign, the mountain wind had already erased it.  There was no footprint, no disturbed stone, no manmade item discarded to mark Malachi’s passage.  They trudged on, following the trail Warren blazed.
If any of them felt the climb too demanding, no one was willing to admit to it.  They walked in silence for hours.  Finally, when the sun had just past the middle of the sky and begun its journey west, Warren reported that they were near the top, and this was as good a place as any to stop for lunch.
“There’s nothing to build a fire with,” Selena bemoaned.
“Daniel?” Warren looked to the smaller man.
“It won’t be easy,” Daniel hedged, “but I’ll see what I can do.”
He sat cross-legged in the middle of the relatively flat space they had found and closed his eyes.  His face became tense with concentration as he mumbled something no one else could hear.  Gradually, he took on an orange glow as an aura of fire manifested around him.  The warmth spread over the open area, banishing the mountain chill.  Daniel’s face was twisted with effort, but the fire remained steady.
Warren dropped his pack and began to dig out foodstuffs, passing around wrapped packages and cans.  This wasn’t Daniel’s cooking by any stretch of the imagination, but it would keep them going for the rest of the day.  Daniel, of course, remained as he was, and the others huddled around him, talking quietly.
Conversation ceased suddenly, as a strange howl pierced the quiet air.  It faded into an ominous echo, leaving the silence much more tense than it was a moment before.  They all looked at each other in quiet alarm.  Daniel’s flames flickered momentarily.
“What was that?” Selena asked of no one in particular.
“Some kind of wolf, maybe,” Arthur suggested.
“No,” Warren said bluntly, “no wolf sounds like that.  I’ve never heard anything like that before.”
They fell silent again, looking around them in varying degrees of apprehension, listening for any sort of approach.  The howl came again, from below this time, instead of above.  A cold fear started to creep in on them, invading their minds unbidden.  Each of them found themselves fighting the urge to run back down the mountain, heedless of safety.  The orange glow faded as Daniel’s fire faltered and died, his concentration broken.  But that was not the only light to fade.  The sky above them grew darker than an afternoon sky should, though the sun still shone coldly.
Arthur closed his eyes and forced his shallow breathing to turn calm and steady, trying to bring his ragged nerves back under control.  Warren knelt and placed his hand on the snow covered stone, closing his own eyes and chanting something incoherent to the others.  Evelyn gave a sudden, startled cry and pointed fearfully toward the top.  On a rocky ledge they saw a huge dark shape looming over them, no more than fifteen metres away.  Everyone tensed, Daniel placed himself between the group and the unidentified figure, and they all hoped they were ready for their first clash with something supernatural.
“There’s nothing there,” Arthur interrupted, his voice the dull monotone of a trance.
“What?” Abigail responded, her own voice a breathless whisper.
“There’s nothing there,” Arthur repeated. “No mind.”
“No life either,” Warren confirmed, his eyes fixed on the looming creature, his hand still on the cold ground. “There’s no spirit there.”
“An illusion,” Abigail understood.  She had dabbled in illusion herself, years ago. “And this fear?  It feels to great to be my own.”
“Your mind is being influenced,” Arthur confirmed. “There’s a will behind this, I can feel it. But I can’t pinpoint it.”
“Arthur,” Warren called, “Abigail.  Join hands with me.  We have a greater chance working together.”
The three magicians joined hands.  Arthur closed his eyes again, his face losing all expression as he retreated away from physical experience.  Warren resumed his low, throaty chant, drowning all other distractions from his mind. Abigail looked to Daniel.
“I’ll need a focus,” she explained, “can you give me a flame?”
Daniel nodded and held up his open hand, speaking a short phrase in latin.  A small ball of flickering fire sprouted above his palm.  He kept his gaze intent on the flame as it floated from his hand to hover in front of Abigail.  She nodded gratitude and stared into the fire, her eyes losing their focus, as though staring at something far away.
They remained that way for a long minute, Arthur deep in his trance, Warren murmuring his wordless chant and Abigail gazing at something not in front of her eyes, while the sky grew darker still and all assembled were assailed with a fear and melancholy that wasn’t their own.  It was an effort of will for each of them not to simply flee.  But they were not simple minded folk, they were magicians.  Inexperienced, perhaps, but trained and conditioned nonetheless.  They remained where they were, tensely awaiting a verdict.
When it came, it was sudden.  Warren, Arthur and Abigail broke their human circle and pointed as one to a seemingly impenetrable cluster of rock, shouting in unison: “There!”
Selena whirled and thrust her open hand toward the boulders, a piercing, but oddly melodious cry escaping her lips.  The wind picked up behind her, turning from a chilly breeze to a frigid gale in seconds.  The others drew quickly away from Selena, and from the path her pet wind was taking.  The boulders were hammered with wind, pelted with snow and bits of ballistic stone.  As they all watched, they realised that the pile of rocks was somehow becoming less distinctly visible.
The illusion broke all at once.  The sky regained its proper light, the eerie howling ceased, and the boulders Selena was assaulting ceased to be entirely, and in their place was a human figure being bowled over by the storm of wind directed at him.  The unnatural fear faded as everyone’s minds became their own again.
All together, they advanced on the fallen figure, who was still trying to right himself.  When he was no longer obstructed by his own flailing, the figure was revealed to be that of an old man dressed only in a sheepskin smock.  His whispy white hair and beard were overgrown to the point of obscuring his face altogether, and his slight frame had the look of dried leather draped over a coat rack.  As he looked up at his apparent captors, his face took on a look of resigned anguish.
“Oh, hell,” he moaned, “not again.  Haven’t you people got anything better to do than bother me?”
“Who are you?” Abigail demanded.
“Of course,” The old man muttered, “interrogate the prisoner while he sits naked in the cold.  My proper name is Fear Liath More, and I’m supposed to be alone on this mountain.”
“Why did you try to bewitch us?” It was Selena who posed this question.
“Didn’t I already make that clear?  I’m supposed to be alone up here.  That is my burden: to keep this mountain free of the curious and the opportunistic and the foolish.  Which are you lot?  Opportunists I’ll bet, like the last brute who tossed me about.  He didn’t interrogate me, at least.”
“The last one?” Daniel asked. “Another like us?”
“Yes, just like you,” the old man replied testily, “a wet behind the ears wizard seeking knowledge not meant for him.”
“Where did he go?” Evelyn asked.
“The same place I expect you mean to go.  To the top, the very place I’m supposed to keep you from reaching.  Oh, they won’t be pleased about this.  Twice in a week, not good at all.”
“Who put this on you?” Warren quieried. “Whom do you serve?”
“Oh, I think not,” Fear Liath More folded his arms defiantly. “They’ll punish me severely just for failing today.  I’ll not incur further wrath by revealing them to a bunch of upstart children.  Just leave me be, you’ve defeated me already.  You’ll gain nothing more from me.  Just get on to the top and be off with you.”
They exchanged glances, taking a silent vote.  In the end, each of them simply shrugged.  They turned away from the old man and prepared to continue.  Warren restuffed and closed his pack, hoisting it back onto his broad shoulders, and they hiked on.
It was no more than half an hour before they were approaching the top.  They found themselves at the base of a natural formation of rock that looked like a miniature mountain built on the real thing.  There was no easy path up the formation, but its ascent was gradual enough that they could climb it without great trouble.  Hand and footholds were plentiful, and even Warren had an easy time of it, despite his massive backpack.
Daniel reached the top first, and when the others joined him they found him staring uncertainly at what must surely be their goal.  They were on a plateau, from which they could see the whole of the Cairngorm range and beyond spread out before them.  But the view, breathtaking though it was, was not the centre of their interest now.  At the centre of the plateau was a small circle of stones, a metre across and certainly not natural.  It was made up of three rings of standing stones, much like the arrangement at Stonehenge, only much smaller and more elaborate.
As they approached to examine the circle more closely, they found that each of the stone formations that composed it was inscribed with a single rune, of a script familiar to none of them.  Daniel, being the most comfortable without gloves, dug in his backpack and pulled out a pad of paper and a pen, and began to copy down the runes and sketch out the formation itself.  Abigail knelt down for a closer look.
“They’re not fixed,” she observed, “the stones can move.  It almost looks like they’re on rails.”
She pushed one of the cairns in the outer circle to demonstrate, and the whole circle turned smoothly.  Arthur and Warren joined her in kneeling and examined it quite closely.
“There must be a reason for it,” Evelyn pondered, “some method in the turning.  I wonder if Malachi figured it out?”
Arthur closed his eyes and placed a hand on the standing stones.  His hand ran over the stones slowly, and his face held concentration, as though he were trying to read a badly faded text.
“Malachi was here,” he finally said, “he touched these.  I think he figured them out.  Hang on.”
Slowly, stopping occasionally as though to double check what he was doing, Arthur turned first the outer ring halfway around, and then the middle ring one quarter of the way, and finally shifted the inner ring by just a few degrees.  There was a low vibration in the hill of stone, and everyone felt the sudden build up of magical energy.  Arthur stood and stepped back, looking down at the rings.
In a sequence that seemed random to the onlookers, the runes on a few of the stone cairns took on a silvery blue glow, the magical tension in the air growing steadily with each illuminated rune.  Finally, the power reached a breaking point, and the entire circle lit up with a blinding flare of white light.  When their eyes had cleared, the group looked again to see the circle filled in the centre with what looked to be a rippling pool of silver.
“A scrying pool,” Abigail breathed, “I’ve never seen one so complex!”
The silver pool gradually cleared, and through it they saw not the snowy stone beneath it, but an endless expanse of blue water.  The occasional gull flapped across their view, and the white-capped turmoil of the water suggested to them that they were looking at the ocean.  The view panned swiftly over the choppy water, and soon it was soaring over what looked like a city, but no city that any of them had ever seen.  The buildings were of smooth white carved stone, making the whole city look as though it had been sculpted from marble rather than built.  The architecture had a look of antiquity about it, but at the same time appeared far too precise for any ancient structure.  At the centre of the mysterious city, a white tower stood above any other building, looking out over the city and across the ocean like a darkened lighthouse.
Their view pulled back further, as though they were rising high into the air, and they could see that this remarkable city occupied a small island on which it was the only civilisation.  The island seemed isolated in the middle of the ocean, though the view wasn’t high enough up to see how far away the next landmass might be.  Before they could achieve such a point of reference, the view became clouded with wispy white and grey, as though they had literally passed through a bank of clouds.  After another moment, the view darkened entirely, and the pool returned to silver, before fading away entirely, leaving just an empty circle of elaborate stones again.
“What did we just see?” Daniel asked into the quiet air.
“Whatever it was, we can safely assume Malachi saw the same thing,” Selena said.
“But what does it mean?” Evelyn pondered. “A city on the sea, all of white stone.  I’ve never seen such a place.”
“I don’t think a place like that exists,” Arthur said, “Nowhere I’ve travelled anyway.  Warren?”
Warren shook his head. “I’ve never been anywhere like that.”
“We can theorise, then,” Abigail interjected authoritatively, “that this city does not exist.  At least not now.  But it is possible that it did exist at some point.”
“What makes you think that?” Daniel asked.
“Scrying pools can certainly look into the past,” Abigail explained. “At least, powerful ones can.  This is most definitely a powerful circle.  More powerful than anything I’ve ever used.  Besides that, the city looked like something that might have been built centuries ago, and yet it was unweathered by time.  That suggests to me that we were either looking at something in the past, or at a conceptual representation of something that once existed.”
“Is that possible?” Evelyn asked. “Figurative representation in scrying?”
“I’ve heard of it,” Abigail replied, “but I think it’s fairly rare.”
“That still doesn’t tell us what it is,” Arthur pointed out, “or why it’s important.”
“We can only hope to gain another clue from the journal,” Abigail said.
Daniel finished copying the runes and stowed his pad and pen back in his bag. “We should head back down before it gets dark.”
“Yes,” Warren agreed, “It will get very cold up here once the sun goes down.  We should have just enough time to get back to the lodge.  We can head back to the manor tomorrow.”
“I must admit,” Selena said, “now that I’ve tried it, I’m not a great fan of mountain climbing.”
“Don’t worry,” Arthur assured her, mild sarcasm in his voice, “it’s much easier going down.”

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November 13, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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