No Greater Love Chapter 4

No Greater Love.jpg


“No Greater Love”


(John 15:13)

By Zapper


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Chapter 4

*John*

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The drive from St. Louis to Louisville along I-64 is boring. Southern Illinois is flat farm land with nothing much to see. Crossing into Indiana the terrain changed; trees and rolling hills dominate the landscape with a family farm nestled in here and there. Once John passed into Kentucky the rolling hills changed to sharper hills and his ears popped as the elevation started to climb. Normally, the drive took just under four hours but John decided to use an “Un-notice” spell on his Challenger SRT 392. His crystal flared briefly after he merged onto the highway and John felt the spell go into effect. The beauty of this spell, unlike a veil, was that other drivers would know he was there, they’d just think that there was nothing out of the ordinary about the American muscle car he was driving. Or the fact that he was racing along the highway at 120 mph.

In two and a half hours John was pulling off the highway and heading up to Victor’s estate. The wrought iron gate opened as if of its own volition as John approached and he felt the slight tingle of Victor’s wards. When he crossed onto the grounds John couldn’t help smiling. A weight seemed to lift, the day felt brighter, the well maintained grounds appeared greener, and there was a feeling of well-being that filled John. This was a side effect of the spell that Meka had cast four years ago.

The spell had been intended to destroy more than two dozen zombies a Necromancer had raised. The zombies had smashed their way into the house and Victor, Gwen, John, and Meka had all been fighting for their lives. In an act of desperation Meka had tried a spell that she intended to burn the un-life out of the zombies. In the process, she’d consecrated the estate turning it into holy ground. Victor hadn’t been particularly thrilled with this fact. There were plenty of benefits, but the down side was that some kinds of magic could no longer be performed on Victor’s family estate.

Victor was a Warlock from one of the “old families” and was the leader of the Louisville Great Coven. This fact was obvious when John parked his car by the broad stone steps that led up to a landing and then up again to the main entrance doors. The whole estate, from the manicured grounds, to the unmatched stone used to build the mansion, screamed wealth, power, and prestige.

John couldn’t help grinning as he thought of Meka coming here to take lessons from Victor. After the Necromancer, had been dealt with Victor had claimed Meka as his apprentice, something that John discovered was his right as Grand Warlock of the Louisville Great Coven. This was intended as an honor, but John was sure that Meka hadn’t viewed it that way. The thought of Meka coming here several times a week to be tutored caused John’s grin to widen. This sort of place would rub her the wrong way and Meka had a razor-sharp wit. Those lessons must have been a real pain in the ass for the somewhat pompous old school warlock.

“John, to what do I owe this honor?”

The voice startled him and John looked around in time to spot a thin man, whose hair had gone snow white, coming from around the side of the house. Victor was a few inches taller than John and probably twenty pounds lighter and he moved with the posture and balance of an experienced fencer. None of this surprised John, the work shirt, jeans, and boots however were completely out of character.

“Sir, am I interrupting?”

Victor came to a stop a few feet away and extended a hand, “Nonsense. It’s always a pleasure to get a visit from you, my boy. Besides, Sarah has told me all sorts of good things about you, and the work you’ve done as a Guardian. In fact, I’ve wanted to talk to you for some time.”

John reached out and shook Victor’s hand feeling the slight tingle that he’d come to associate with another “awakened.” The handshake was surprisingly firm and even though his hair had gone white John could still feel an air of vitality around the man.

“Come, come, I’ll have coffee brought around back. We can talk on the back patio and you can tell me what you think of my rose garden.”

“Is that what you’ve been doing?” John asked waving at Victor’s clothes.

“Yes, it’s one of my hobbies actually. Tending a garden is surprisingly therapeutic.” Victor remarked leading John around the house. “It allows me to focus on a task and escape the day-to-day pressure of the war.”

As soon as Victor mentioned the war between the Society and the Syndicate John knew why he wanted to talk to him. Victor was the regional commander for the American Midwest. It was a huge area of responsibility but as far as John could tell there hadn’t been any Syndicate attacks in the Midwest. In fact, from what he’d observed the Great Covens had given Victor several dozen teams and those teams had just vanished. John suspected they’d been sent to Europe or Central America to help since most the Syndicate attacks seemed to have been focused in those areas.

John refused to take the bait, and ask about the war, instead he asked Victor about his garden. To John’s surprise a grin lit Victor’s face and he launched into a soliloquy about the types of roses, their color, characteristics, and what he’d had to do to get them to flourish without resorting to magic. By the time Victor led John through a break in the hedges onto a flagstone patio he’d learned more about roses than he ever wanted to know.

There were several outdoor tables situated around the patio and John noticed that the waist high hedges that guarded the flanks opened in such a way as to display the bright green lawn and allowed a view of a sizable flower garden.

“Sir, will you be taking coffee here then?”

John glanced over to see a man holding a tray with a coffee pot, cups, plates and what looked like a mountain of pastries.

“Yes, Jackson, thank you.” With that the butler moved to one of the tables protected from the sun by the long shadow cast by the mansion behind them, yet with a good view of Victor’s garden. Victor gestured toward the table, “Please, have a seat.”

Victor picked up the coffee pot and poured John a cup, “There’s cream and sugar, if you need it.”

“No thanks, I like my coffee black.”

Victor nodded and added two healthy scoops of sugar and then cream to his, “Ah, now I must say, fortune smiled on me today, my boy. I’ve wanted to talk to you for a while. I understand you served in the Army?”

John nodded, “Yeah, I joined up right out of high school, along with a couple of buddies.”

Victor leaned forward his eyes showing a keen interest. “I thought so. You realize that military service is pretty rare for the gifted?” At this he paused to see if John would comment. When John remained quiet, Victor continued, “I think that it was the fact that you were awakened to magic so late in life. You see most new witches and warlocks are trained by either their parents or close relatives. Joining the military would mean hiding our gifts, more than we already do, and most of us don’t have the fortitude for that.”

“Uhm, I guess I never really thought about it.”

Victor nodded, “This is one of the reasons you’ve done so well as a Guardian. The discipline needed, the dedication, attention to detail, and the ability to stay calm under pressure these are all things the Army would have trained into you.”

John took a sip of coffee, not really knowing what to say, but he could guess where the conversation was going.

“What did you do in the Army?”

For a minute John wanted to say that he’d been a cook, just to see what Victor would do. Then he dismissed the notion, “I was an 11B.” At Victor’s blank look John added, “Infantry.”

Victor’s eyes lit up. “Excellent, John, we could really use a man with your experience. The War hasn’t gone well for us so far. We’ve been working hard to keep it down, but the Syndicate has been preparing for this for quite some time. We’ve suffered the loss of people and artifacts. We’ve been spending most of our time trying to cover up any news of what’s been going on, but if this keeps up the mundane population will figure it out.”

John shook his head, “No.”

Victor looked startled and leaned back, “What?”

“You heard me. The answer is no. I’ve been to war. I’ve lost friends in battle and brought them home. Besides, if you send all the Coven’s Guardians away how will you protect the mundane population from rogues? Or other witches for that matter? No, I’m far more useful to the Coven in my current capacity.”

“I don’t suppose there’s anything I can do to change your mind?” When John shook his head, Victor sighed, “Sarah said, this would be your answer, but I had to try. I’d make you a Team Leader, you’d be an officer.”

John snorted, “That’s your idea of a recruiting pitch?”

“At least consider this; there will be a Society secret war council soon. In two weeks to be precise, in Boston. I’d like you to be the head of security at that meeting. We have a new strategy for defeating the Syndicate and all the leaders of the Great Covens, the Wizard Circles, the Sorcerer Enclaves and the Society Grand Chiefs will be there. Our hope is to have a unified strategy out of the conference to defeat the Syndicate.”

At this John felt torn. Helping Victor and the Coven was important and it wasn’t like he was being asked to go into battle. With a sigh, he nodded, “I’ll think about it, okay?”

Victor grinned and then lifted his coffee cup too hide the smile. When he set it down he had a serious look on his face. “What brings you to Louisville? I don’t think I’ve seen you here since Meka left.”

“Actually, that’s why I’m here. I’ve been having dreams,” then seeing Victor’s alarmed look added, “nothing life threatening. I just see her and then get a vague sense that she’s in trouble.”

“I sent her a warning two days ago.” Victor said. “We’ve gotten some information that the Syndicate might be targeting her. Nothing specific, but I warned her.”

“Fuck, I wish you would have told me.” Seeing Victor wince at his use of profanity almost made John laugh. “Meka sent this to me.” With that he pulled out Dash and set the My Little Pony toy on the table.

“And what, exactly, is it?” Victor said.

“Touch it.”

Reluctantly Victor reached out and touched the toy with his finger. When nothing happened, he gave John a quizzical look, “What am I supposed to see?”

Without answering John reached out and touched Rainbow Dash, the toy’s eyes started to glow and they both heard Meka’s voice, “John, help me!”

Victor’s face went pale and his eyes locked onto John’s, “She wouldn’t have sent that message if she wasn’t in trouble.”

“I agree.”

“Have you tried contacting her?”

“Of course, both with my phone and by a sending. I get nothing. However, I had a vision of her yesterday, in her flat in London with a guy. I thought everything was fine and that she was just busy, but then I got Rainbow Dash.”

“I see, and why are you here?”

“Because, Victor, I know you have a Gate. I need to get to London and it’s an 11-hour flight.”

“The fact that I’ve got a Gate that connects my estate to Gwendolyn’s is a secret. Did Meka tell you?”

“Of course. Now we’re wasting time. I’ve got a bag in my car and I’ve already talked to Sarah, so I’m off next week.” Just then John felt a jarring sensation and a wail filled the air. “What the hell?” he jumped to his feet.

Victor was also standing and shook his head, “The wards! They’ve been breached, we’re under attack!”

***

The spirit floated alone in the darkness. For a long time, drifting, content to BE . . . to exist . . . the darkness was warm as it wrapped the spirit in its comfortable embrace. A lassitude enfolded her very being making it hard to think, yet there was a need. With the recognition of “need” came a sense of identity. She was unique, different from the darkness around her, and she had a purpose. This sense of being, separate from the entropy that held her, drove her, she had a name . . . then it came to her, “I AM MEKA, MEKA PETRUCCI! The darkness receded and then Meka perceived a light. The light had always existed but when she had been one with the darkness she hadn’t been able to sense it.

Slowly, Meka moved toward the light. As it grew she heard sounds, and then caught the scent of lavender, ‘My shampoo?’ she wondered. At this thought, all her senses seemed to return in a rush and she realized that she was sitting in the back of a taxi. Even though she couldn’t turn her head she could tell she was still in London. London after nightfall based on the street lights.

“Ma’am, it’ll take us twenty minutes to get there. This address is outside of the city.”

Meka felt her face move and then heard the words, “It’s fine. I’m in a hurry, my dear friend Gwendolyn said it was urgent.”

The events of the last few days returned to Meka and if she’d been in control of her body she would have started shaking. She had no idea how long she’d been out, and wondered that she was still alive. The spiritual attack had been skillfully done. The strike had severed her connection to her former body and sent her into the void. In fact, Meka wasn’t sure what had saved her. Then Max’s words sank in, they were going to Gwendolyn’s house. This was what Max and the Syndicate had been waiting for.

Meka reached out for her connection to her half of the Cavanaugh crystal. This time, if she could have, she would have gasped in delight. The crystal was still embedded in her body’s eye socket but the blocks that had prevented her access had been burned away by Eli’s spell. Then in a flash of intuition it hit her and she realized the truth. The reason she hadn’t moved on was due to her connection to the crystal not the connection to her body. Feeling around with her magical senses Meka confirmed the truth. Her spirit was now IN the crystal. The crystal had such a close intimate connection to her body, being used as a magical eye as well as a focus item, that it allowed her to access her body’s senses.

Drawing power through the crystal was now simple, but then she paused, ‘How do I release my spell? Casting is a three-step process.’ Due to the low amount of ambient of magic in the world during this century witches were forced to use focus items to pull in enough magic to cast a spell. Drawing in the magic was only the first step in a casting. The next step was to form the spell in your mind. Meka knew she could accomplish both of these steps, even now. It was the third and final step that confounded her. To trigger the spell, she needed to speak a Word out loud.

Temporarily thwarted, Meka focused on paying attention to what Max was doing. If she got the chance to foil his plan she intended to take it.

***

For a moment John stared in disbelief, ‘Who could possibly be stupid enough to attack Victor on his estate, in broad daylight?’ Then a cloud rolled over the sun changing the mid-day to a gloomy twilight, and John shivered.

“What the hell?” he said noticing that he could see his breath.

Victor lifted a hand, “Mihi!” abruptly a cane with a crystal set into the handle flew up from the garden and smacked into Victor’s hand. Looking at John, Victor gestured toward his car, “If you have weapons, ready yourself.” Then he reached under the collar of his work shirt and drew out a second crystal.

For a moment John stared aghast, ‘Two focus items?’ Then he realized Victor was the scion of an, “old family.” Even though a witch or warlock could only bond one focus item at a time they could transfer the bond between one another. There were evil spells to force this transference and then there was an, “old family” tradition. On a parent’s deathbed, they sometimes transferred their focus item to a child or grandchild. By this time the child would already have a focus item so this meant two crystals. Having additional focus items made the witch or warlock stronger and gave them more versatility.

John reached to the small of his back and drew his Beretta 92A, and then held out his left hand, even though his crystal was in his car a hundred yards or so away, John drew on his power, “Vocat te!” Light seemed to coalesce around his hand and in seconds his own Battle-Rod in the form of a cane with his crystal at one end, appeared.

“Impressive.” Victor noted. “You’ll have to show me how you teleported your focus item to you when this is over.”

“Meka should explain the principles behind it. This is one of her spells, but I can teach you what she showed me.”

A cold, silvery-sounding, war horn blasted over the grounds and John and Victor raced around the side of the house only to skid to a stop. The image confronting them seemed too impossible to be real. The hedge row that hid the brick fence and marked the parameter of the property appeared flash frozen. Every leaf, vine, and stem was covered in a coating of perfect white ice. Then it exploded toward them and the warm moist air, of an autumn afternoon in Louisville, turned to fog and rolled forward.

John cocked the Beretta and flipped the safety off. “Will your servants help?”

“No. They’re all mundane. They know about magic but none have the gift. I sent everyone I had with power forward to help with the war.”

John shook his head, “Thus leaving you wide open?”

At this Victor glared at John, “I’m not defenseless, this is MY place of power.”

From the mist, shadowy forms started to emerge. At first they were nothing more than blurry outlines but as they moved forward John saw one lift something to his lips and another horn call blasted out. The sound hit him like a physical wave, it was high pitched and cold.

In an instant John was transported to an icy plane. A vast land of ice and snow and then over the plane, in his mind’s eye, creatures raced; a horde of misshapen beings, beings whose bodies had been blended in a grotesque crossing of humanoid, animal, and insect. Then up out of the snow rose line after line of warriors. These warriors glittered in black and silver armor. The armor was studded with jewels of green, blue, and icy white. The warriors had skin almost as pale as the snow and long white hair flowed from under their high helmets. Then John noticed that nearly a third of this army were female, their form fitting breast plates removing any doubt. As the two armies closed John saw arrows, lightning quick, flash from the Elven host into their ancient foe. The arrows took a toll and then it was spear, sword, and ax as the sides closed.

John lurched a step forward gasping as the vision left him. When he looked up he saw that even though the vision had felt like it had taken several long minutes almost no time had elapsed. Victor had moved a step closer to the threat and held his Battle-Rod in one hand while clenching the other around his pendant with its crystal.

At last John got his first clear look at the figures emerging from the fog. He felt his jaw drop open. There were five of them and they were wearing the same kind of armor as the pale warriors from his vision. In the middle, a tall woman without a helmet, took the lead. Her long sword glittered with an icy hue. On her left arm was a black buckler with green glyph of some kind itched into its surface. To the woman’s left and right male warriors moved taking up position as they formed a line. The two males closest to her carried axes and shields while the two further out carried bows.

John could guess the tactic. The two warriors on the ends would hit them with crossfire while the three in the middle rushed forward. Five on two didn’t seem like good odds, time to even them a little. John used his left forearm to brace his right and started shooting. There was a spark as the woman’s armor deflected the first round and a look of surprise on her face. Then the three in the middle rushed forward shields up to protect their heads.

As the two bowmen drew Victor shouted, “I’ve got the archers.” As he said this John could feel Victor raise a shield. John fired another round at the charging warriors and saw it spark and bounce away uselessly.

“I wish I had a .50.”

Then knowing that wishes like that were useless he dropped to one knee and set his battle-rod down. Using a kneeling supported position he slowly took aim. One of the things John had worked on, inspired by Meka’s magical innovations, was trying to use his magic to help his mundane fighting abilities. The energy produced by a modern fire arm is tough to match. Even with magic. The problem was that so many rounds never found their mark. If he could guide a round, accurately, to its target, then he really didn’t need magic to do the damage.

“Verum visio!” John commanded, releasing the spell. Suddenly, his sight telescoped in so that he could see every piece of armor; every tie, every plate, and every gap between armor and skin. Starting with the warrior to the right of the formation John focused on the exposed skin by the knee right between where the poleyn that protected the knee met the cuisse that protected the thigh. “Verum Gratis!” As the second spell took effect he squeezed the trigger feeling the magic.

Abruptly, the Elf on the right cried out and stumbled and then fell to the ground clutching his ruined leg. John didn’t give himself a break, focusing on the guy to the left of the charging formation, “Verum Gratis” and again he squeezed the trigger watching the second elf fall clutching a ruined leg. Realizing that he was out of time John picked up the battle-rod and leapt to his feet pointing at the leader, “Percute Flamma!” This time the drain on his magic was much greater than before. The resulting blast of fire was tight about the size of his wrist and white hot, and worth the energy expended.

The Shield-maiden caught the flame strike on her buckler and then thrust her sword toward John shouting, “Helcë Pilin!” From the tip of her sword a five-foot spear of ice blasted into existence and shot toward John. With almost no time to react he ducked to the right and felt the ice spear slide through his shield spell. There was a flash of fire along his cheek and John rolled to his feet. Without touching the wound John knew the spear had missed his face by the smallest of margins. Calling on his affinity with Air and John shouted, “Ascendo!”

Air whipped around John for a moment obscuring his vision and then he felt himself rising. He glided into the air until he was more than twenty feet over the battlefield. The female Elven Knight had lifted her shield to block the tornado of wind, obviously thinking it was an attack, and was now looking around for John. Her eyes latched onto Victor who was battling the remaining Archer.

To John’s horror Victor had an arrow sticking out of his leg and he saw Victor’s shield barely deflect another glowing projectile. John knew this had to end quickly, because there was no way Victor could last much longer.

Before she could attack John shouted “Verum Gratis!” and squeezed off another round. This time he’d focused on the place where her Pauldron and Breastplate met. John couldn’t see the bullet strike but the Shield-maiden spun around her sword flying to land several feet away. Looking down John could see the two men whose knees he’d ruined were trying to stand but couldn’t put any weight on their shattered legs. One of the two moved toward the female leader who was obviously in pain from her shoulder wound, while the other moved to the bowman who was already down.

Then John heard a shout of triumph and saw Victor hit the remaining bowman with what looked like lightning. The sound of thunder followed as the elf was blown off his feet. John guided his column of wind to the ground landing in a storm of swirling air and debris.

“Who are they?” John asked.

“I suspect they’re Elves of the Winter Court but we need to be sure.”

“Why did they come here? Why attack you?”

At this Victor shrugged and grimaced in pain. “I don’t know, but I’m glad you were here today. Did you enchant your pistol? I’ve never seen such accurate shooting.”

By this time the wounded Knight had dragged the second, and obviously dead, archer over to where the five of them now lay. Then the Knight who’d gone to their leader lifted a horn he’d taken from her.

“What do you think . . .” was all John could get out before the horn blast sounded. Only this time it was different. Still cold, brazen, but somehow . . . chagrined? As if the warriors were embarrassed to sound the retreat, ‘Not that it would do them any good,’ John thought.

Another wave of cold air sprang out and the same half frozen mist swirled up from the meeting of cold dry air the hot humid air of Louisville. Annoyed John shouted, “Ventulus!” This time he felt a sense of fatigue, he’d cast several spells with very little by way of food or preparation and his body was paying for it.

A stiff breeze swept down dissipating the fog and both John and Victor stared. Where five Elven Warriors had lain, there was now nothing except a circular patch of frozen grass.

“Fuck!” John hissed.

Then he felt Victor put a hand on his shoulder. “You fought well. I need to repair my wards and do something about the hole in my fence. But first, can you find Jackson? I think I need medical attention.” With that Victor fainted.

“Shit!” John didn’t know much about healing magic but the amount of blood coming from Victor’s leg was impressive. The arrow that transfixed his leg looked like it had gone completely though. John reached down and formed a circle with his index finger and thumb around the shaft of the arrow just above the entry wound on Victor’s thigh. Then he drew on his power, feeling even more fatigued and said, “Deasceo.”

There was a flash of energy as the spell cut the arrow. The end with the fletching fell away and very carefully John gripped the arrow just below the head where it stuck out from the back of Victor’s leg and drew it through. Once out John breathed a sigh of relief glad that Victor had been out for that. Then he pulled off his shirt and ripped it into three long strips. By the time he’d wrapped Victor’s leg as tightly as he could Jackson had arrived.

“Sir, I’ve called for a healer. Do you know any healing spells?”

“Yeah, but let’s get him into the house. I’m not very good but I think I can keep him from bleeding out before a real healer arrives.”

***

The hot water massaged John’s shoulders and it felt good enough to almost distract him from the sting along his left cheek. If he’d been any slower that spear of ice would have given him an eye to match Meka’s. This thought chilled him. ‘Why isn’t she answering? Why did she send me a message asking for help?’ Again, he felt a sense of urgency and knew that it would be a while before he could talk with Victor about Meka or use the gate.

Once they’d returned to the house Jackson had carried Victor to the master bedroom. John left and raced through the mansion to his car and retrieved his assault pack and the medical kit he kept in it. As a Guardian John had some battlefield first aid training and within the kit were two crystals enchanted by St. Louis Great Coven healers. Freezing a single spell into a crystal was a technique that while difficult, was effective. John quickly picked the most powerful spell of the two and held it to the wound in Victor’s leg. Then with a small effort of will said, “Invoca.”

The crystal glowed with a soft yellow radiance that filled the room with a sense of wellbeing. For a moment John was reminded of the smell of freshly baked apple pie, the feeling of the first day of summer vacation as a child, and the excitement of Christmas morning all sort of bundled into a feeling of life, love, and well-being. Then he looked down at Victor’s leg.

The effects of the spell were obvious. Even though Victor had been unconscious his breathing had been labored and he was extremely pale. Now he relaxed. He was breathing easier and some color had returned to his cheeks.

“Should we remove the bandage?”

John shook his head, “No. You’ve got Coven trained healers on the way, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then it would be best to leave it. They can take it off and work on the wound. I’m not sure how much that crystal did, but I think he’s out of immediate danger.”

***

John climbed out of the shower and started drying off. He’d stayed with Victor until a frumpy looking little-old-lady witch had arrived. She bustled into Victor’s room and started shooing everyone out. John took this as his cue to leave and once out of the room he grabbed Jackson by the elbow.

“Is there somewhere I can get cleaned up?”

Jackson looked at the bandage John had slapped on his face and nodded, “The estate has several guest bedrooms. Let me take you to one.”

John wiped the fog from the mirror and looked at his face. He slowly peeled the bandage back and saw the cut was still bleeding steadily. “Fuck, Elaine is going to be pissed if I have to have stitches.” Then he thought about the healer he’d left with Victor. “I wonder if she’d do something about this?” The he shook his head, it seemed like a waste of magic, to heal something so minor. With a sigh, he pressed a washcloth to his cheek and went to his assault pack. He pulled out out his first aid kit and from within the kit found a tube of superglue. Knowing it would sting he pressed the glue into the cut and then pressed the torn flesh closed. For a moment, he caught his breath, his cheek felt like it was on fire as the chemicals in the glue bonded and sealed the cut closed.

Carefully he took a damp washcloth and dabbed at the cut, the last thing he wanted was for the material of the cloth to get caught in the still sealing glue. Once done, John returned to the guest bedroom he’d been given and pulled out a clean set of clothes. When he did, he spotted a small, pink, toy horse sitting on the bed next to his pack.

Time seemed to slow down, ‘Meka?’ he thought and reached out to touch the My Little Pony. The second he did he felt a spark jump from his fingers to the toy and then he heard her voice, she was whispering but the words were clear.

“John, I’m in trouble. A Syndicate assassin has taken control of my body. I don’t understand how and I can’t fight him when he’s awake. I need you to trust me, I don’t have much time. Take my grimoire and use the last spell in the back. It should restore what was severed. In other words, our two crystals will become one. Since you’re gonna cast it you’ll have the crystal. That should deprive this asshole of my magical power and still allow me access. We’ll see if he can control my body without magic!” There was a slight pause, “Okay, time to go. Oh, the ritual will work better if you can find a place that resonates with both of us.”

When Meka’s voice faded, John shook his head, “But I don’t have your book.” Then he felt Pinkie Pie vibrate in his hand and he looked down. There on the bed where the toy had been a minute earlier a large leather bound book now rested. Slowly John reached out and picked up the book. Meka had shown him her grimoire a couple of times but she’d always been very protective, almost secretive, of it. To be holding her book seemed . . . wrong. Like an invasion of her personal space.

John picked it up and slowly opened it. The book was almost twelve inches tall and nine wide and had to be at least four inches thick. The damn thing weighed around five pounds, John guessed, maybe more. Unable to resist his curiosity John slowly paged through the book looking over the spells.

Some were things he’d learned during his training as a guardian others were things for everyday problems; preventing the collection of dust, removing stains from fabric, boiling water, generating light and more. Then there were spells for self-defense spells to swap voices, to see through another’s eyes, to exchange memories, and the one that Meka had used to swap bodies with him.

John ran his fingers over the spell, in his mind’s eye his fingers were tiny, dainty little things, with short, often-chewed nails and then he shook away the memory. Now wasn’t the time for getting nostalgic, Meka needed him to join their crystals together, to deprive the impostor of her magic. John flipped to the back of the book and noticed that the last quarter held empty pages and he got the impression that the witch or warlock who possessed the book was expected to add to it. For a moment, he considered some of the newer Guardian spells he’d learned and had to laugh. He wasn’t a magical researcher like Meka.

Out of curiosity he turned to the back section and noticed that Meka had added several new pages of spells. These where spells she’d developed on her own. He wanted to read them but instead moved to the last entry. “To restore what was severed,” John read the spell and shook his head. Meka had obviously designed this spell for the sole purpose of restoring their crystals. She’d also written it in a hurry which made him think she was winging it. “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Then a thought hit him and he picked up his phone to make a call.



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