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Reve Amant, A Poltergeist: The Legacy Short Story (Feb 1997)
When dreams become reality and reality turns into a nightmare...
Reve Amant: (fr) dream lover
"May the road rise to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields, and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand" An old Irish Blessing
...He realized that he was dreaming. He was in Ireland again, the
scene just as he remembered it, but more surreal somehow. He was kneeling
on the ground, holding her tightly in his arms. There were no lights except
the faint glow of a half moon high in the sky overhead. He looked down
at the girl he loved so well and knew that she would never smile at him
again. He began to cry, and not due to the pain from his own injuries,
but because he had lost her. The one person who meant more to him than
anything else in this world. She was gone, and thinking about going on
without her was unbearable. Suddenly, as the enormity of what had happened
became real for him, he cried out "Nooooooooo!". It was a mournful,
agonizing sound. A cry which came from deep within his soul...
Derek hung up the phone in his office, deep in thought. The call had come just after 6:00am, early even for him. Ciaran Brennan, the Precept of the Dublin House, had called to ask for their help. Katie Bryant, a member of Ciaran's house had recently found a rather unusual looking amulet and they were completely stumped. Ciaran had said that the lettering was unlike anything he had ever seen, and had asked Derek if his team would be willing to come to Ireland to help study the relic.
Derek had given him a noncommittal answer. He wanted to see how Philip felt about returning to Ireland before he made his decision. Philip was the best qualified to head up the assignment, but Derek knew that he might balk at returning to his homeland, for purely personal reasons. And, if he were honest with himself, Derek couldn't blame Philip if he refused. Realizing that it was almost 9:00, Derek got up from his desk, and headed for the morning room, where breakfast awaited.
When Philip awoke, it was to sunlight streaming in through his windows. Obviously, the he had slept later than usual. Philip was normally an early riser. He loved to wander the grounds surrounding the house, reveling in God's handiwork without interruption...from man at least. He often communed with the fauna inhabiting the island during those early morning walks. But not today. He hurriedly showered and got dressed, they would be waiting breakfast for him if he didn't get down there soon...
Derek was walking across the foyer as Philip came downstairs. He was surprised, since he knew of Philip's penchant for early morning solitude. It was obvious he had not had a very good night. There were dark circles under his eyes, and those selfsame eyes contained a haunted look that Derek had not seen in his young friend for some time.
Recently, Derek had begun to believe that Philip had finally made his peace with Michael's death and his place in both the Legacy and the Church. Looking at him now, however, Derek began to have his doubts again.
As they entered the morning room together, Derek put a hand on Philip's shoulder and asked, "Are you alright, Philip?" The young man turned and gave him a weak smile, but only said "Didna sleep very well last night." before taking a chair at the far end of the table.
Alex came in on their heels and asked where Nick was. "Oh, he mentioned last night that he had some things to take care of in the city early this morning", Derek said absently, "I heard him leave about an hour ago. I would imagine that he should be back in time for lunch."
He spoke over his shoulder as he filled a plate from the sideboard, "Philip, after breakfast I need to speak with you about a new assignment." Philip and Alex looked at each other questioningly. It had been very quiet around the Legacy House lately. So much so, that Rachel decided she could take Kat, who was on a school holiday, to Disney World. Kat had been wanting to go for some time now, and it seemed that this would be the perfect opportunity. "Good", Philip thought, "somethin' t'occupy my mind" but only murmured his assent.
Derek's sensed that both Alex and Philip were curious about his reticience. It wasn't unusual for him to be unforthcoming with information, but this did not normally apply to the nature of an assignment. Both were intrigued, but too well trained to show it.
Derek wondered if his reasons for being vague were perhaps unnecessary, but he didn't think so. The feelings he was picking up from Philip right now were not very reassuring. It seemed like the "old Philip" was back with a vengeance, and Derek didn't want to push him. However, he knew that he would need the young priest's help with this new puzzle. He decided that a little wait wouldn't hurt, and so kept his peace.
When they had finished breakfast, Alex sensed her presence was superfluous. Obviously, Derek had something serious to discuss with Philip. She excused herself and went to the lab to complete the research she was doing on a book of "prophecies", which was turning out to be no such thing. As she mounted the stairs, she smiled to herself, nearly rubbing her hands together with glee. It would be a pleasure to inform the pompous, self-important, arrogant owner, of her findings. She had never liked the man, and couldn't wait for the meeting with him later in the day.
Derek looked at Philip and asked him to join him in the Library. He rose and walked out, with Philip behind him. When they walked into the huge room, Philip realized how much he loved it, and how much time he spent here. He was most comfortable among his books, and Derek knew this. "He has somethin' difficult t'discuss with me", he thought, "That's why he chose this room."
His instincts were verified when Derek turned to motion him to be seated. He saw the uncertainty written on the older man's face. Derek was now more unsure than ever whether he should even ask his friend to undertake this task, but he really had no choice. Alex, while an excellent linguist, was no match for Philip where it came to ancient languages. Derek instinctually felt that Philip must be the one to decipher the amulet. He had no reason for such strong feelings, but they were there all the same.
Philip realized that they had been sitting in silence for several minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. He decided to ease his friend's burden by being the first to broach the subject. "Derek", Philip said brightly, "I hope this new assignment will be interestin'. It's been far too quiet around here lately."
Derek smiled. He realized that Philip was trying to make it easier for him. He accepted the offering and began to explain from the beginning. "I had a call early this morning from Ciaran Brennan, of the Dublin House. He needs our help with an amulet that one of his members has discovered." He paused, waiting for some reaction from his friend. Philip simply looked questioningly at him and asked "What sorta help?"
Derek smiled and said, "Apparently their efforts to decipher the thing have been unsuccessful. As you know, our house, and you specifically, have a reputation for being able to translate even the most obscure relics. It is no surprise to me that he called here."
Philip sighed audibly. "I don' s'ppose that they're plannin' on sendin' the thing t'us?" he asked. "No," Derek smiled and answered, "Ciaran said it was far too valuable a piece to trust to a courier and his people are all wrapped up in another assignment. He would like us to come to Dublin." Philip eyed his friend warily.
"He knows what I am going to ask, and is not yet sure of his answer," thought Derek. Aloud he asked "Would you consider leading up the team for this assignment, Philip? I know that it's a lot to ask, but you are best qualified."
Philip said nothing for what seemed like ages. Finally, he nodded. "I s'ppose that I have t'face my demons at some point, don't I?" Derek smiled, relieved at his friend's acquiescence. "We all do, you know," he said "You won't have to face them alone either, Philip. We will all go, you, Alex, Nick and myself."
Philip nodded and asked, "When d'you want t'leave?" Derek thought about it, "How about the day after tomorrow? Will that give you time to prepare and gather everything you might need?"
Philip smiled a little crookedly, "Give me time t'go ta confession, y'mean? Yeah, I was plannin' on seein' the Monsignor this afternoon, anyway."
"Good," Derek said, "I'll get Nick to make the arrangements, and I'll call Ciaran back to let him know when we'll be there." Derek stood to leave, but Philip put a hand on his arm. "Thanks for givin' me a choice, Derek." Derek nodded and patted Philip's shoulder, "I could do no less, my friend."
At dinner that night, Alex entertained the three men with a recount of her conversation with Chad Everton, the owner of the counterfeit prophecy book. He had been quite deflated to discover that he had paid a kings ransom for a hoax. Alex was still on a natural high from the encounter and her buoyancy lightened both Derek's and Philip's moods considerably. Nick was convulsed with laughter at her imitation of the man.
Later as the meal was drawing to a close, Derek explained about the new assignment. Neither Alex nor Nick seemed happy at the fact that they were going to Dublin. The mood at the table darkened immediately. Bad memories were connected to Ireland for all of them and so the meal was finished practically in silence.
Shortly after dinner, Philip and Derek excused themselves and they all
decided it would be best if they went to bed.
"To sleep perchance to dream..." William Shakespeare
...The screech of rubber was in his ears and his heart felt like
it would come out of his mouth any moment. When the car began to turn
over, He thought "God, take us into your keeping. This is it, our
time to die." As the car rolled over and over down the ravine, he
gripped the steering wheel and prayed silently that God would make their
deaths painless. At least they were together. Suddenly the scene changed
and he was kneeling with her in his arms. He was crying...
Philip sat up in bed, his heart pounding like he had just finished a marathon soccer game. He noticed that his pillow was wet with tears. "Heavenly Father..." he began as he got out of bed, and knelt there on the cold floor praying, both for his own peace of mind and her eternal soul.
When he had finished his prayers, he got back into bed, but found sleep would not come again so easily. His mind was unable to let go of the dream. She felt so real in his arms, and he could still smell her perfume, that scent that he loved. Why had he begun to dream of her again?
It had been years since he had put thoughts of her and that night on the lonely stretch of road outside Belfast behind him. The pain of reliving those moments was such that he had suppressed the whole incident in his mind, and hadn't spoken of it in over 15 years. Was it perhaps the thought of returning to Ireland to study this amulet of Ciaran's? "No", he said aloud to himself, "I had the first dream before I even knew 'bout the necklace." He sensed that there was a connection with the amulet, however, what it was eluded him. Sometime before dawn, Philip fell back asleep, with the name "Briony" on his lips.
Again, he overslept, and this time he had completely missed breakfast. As he lay in bed, his mind went back over the events of the night. Why was he being plagued with these dreams? "As if I don' have enough t'deal with right now." he said, wryly. Giving himself a mental shake, he got up and prepared to go down stairs. He had much to do if they were to leave tomorrow.
When Philip started down the staircase, he had the eerie feeling that his life was going to be turned upside down. He had never had the "sight", but sometimes he got feelings. He disliked having them, and rarely trusted them, but usually they were right. He braced himself for whatever was to come.
Philip walked into the foyer just as Nick came in from his run, carrying a girl in his arms. She appeared to be unconscious. Philip started forward, but froze as her hair fell back from her face. Nick called to him to help. Getting no response, he yelled for Derek. Derek rushed out of his office and Nick shouted up to him, "I found her sitting on the dock, she was freezing and hungry, so I brought her here. She passed out right outside, and I just managed to catch her before she hit the ground."
On his way downstairs, Derek brushed past Philip, who was still standing at the bottom. He felt the priest's emotional turmoil as he passed, but shook it off. Derek looked closely at the girl. She was one of the most exquisite young women he had ever seen. She appeared to be in her late teens. Her hair was long and dark, burnished with a coppery red. Her eyes were closed, but her skin was like fresh cream, and quite as pale. Even in her current state she took his breath away.
He turned to ask Philip to find one of the staff and have a fire lit in the Mahogany room, when he noticed the look on the priest's face. Philip looked more stricken than Derek had ever seen. His eyes were enormous and his skin was as pale as the girl's. Derek allowed Philip's feelings to wash over him once again. He sensed fear, excitement, pain and something he had never sensed in Philip before, the most intense love he had ever experienced.
Derek was overwhelmed by the feelings which were emanating from Philip. Nick just stood there with the girl and stared at his friend. "What the hell is wrong with him?" he asked in frustration, "He looks like he's just seen a ghost!"
Alex came running downstairs from the lab. She had felt Philip's emotional turmoil before she had even heard a sound. The tableau that was before her would have been amusing if it weren't for the emotionally charged atmosphere around her.
The three men were apparently immobilized. Nick was still holding the girl in his arms, Derek was standing next to him looking confusedly at Philip, and Philip was frozen to the spot where he stood. Of them all, Philip was the one she was most concerned with, however. She could sense he was close to breaking under the strain of the emotions he was experiencing.
Nick getting no answer from either of the other men, and unaware of the emotions surging around him, asked sarcastically, "Well Alex, would you mind giving me a hand here?" Derek brought himself out of his stupor with an effort and started to handle the immediate situation. He could deal with Philip later.
He turned to Nick and said "Take the girl into the study and lay her on the couch." He then bellowed for Dominic, the majordomo. Dominic came at a run, recognizing the urgency in Derek's voice. Quickly Derek gave him instructions and soon a room was made ready for the still unconscious girl. Alex had told Derek to take whatever they needed for the girl from her room.
After they had installed her in bed and made sure nothing else could be done, Derek went back downstairs to find Philip. He had noticed Alex leading him off towards the library.
He found them there. Philip had his head in his hands, but made no sound. Alex was sitting next to him on one of the sofas, looking worried. Apparently she had gotten nothing from him. Derek knew that Philip was more shaken than he'd ever known him to be. He asked Alex if he had said anything. She just shook her head, then got up and left the two men alone.
They sat in silence for a few moments, but Derek finally spoke. "You know that girl." he said. It was not a question, but a statement of fact. Philip looked up into the older man's eyes and Derek's breath caught in his throat at the naked pain he saw there. "Yes." was all that Philip said.
Derek sat down next to his friend. He put his hand on the priest's shoulder and said, "Philip, please tell me what's going on. You know that I'm your friend, and I will help you in anyway I know how." Philip smiled, a weak and sad smile. "I know that Derek. It's just that I'm not sure there's anythin' anyone can do. It's impossible."
"What's not possible?" Derek asked. Philip sighed, "She can't be real." He got up and began to pace the room. "This can't be happenin'. Don'tcha see? It can't be her, I saw her DIE! SHE CAN'T BE REAL!" He was shouting now, as he became more and more agitated.
Derek got up and grasped Philip by the arms. "My friend, we don't even know her name or where she comes from, yet. Don't you think you're overreacting, just a little?"
Philip looked up into Derek's face. "It's her. Briony. I KNOW it's her, Derek. I'm not dreamin' now." He turned away. Falteringly he began to tell Derek about the dreams. When he was through, Derek was silent for a minute, then said quietly, "Two dreams, and you didn't think it was worth mentioning to me? Philip, I thought we knew each other better."
Philip looked guilty and said, "Derek, I..." he paused "Alright, you're right. I shoulda told you, especially after the second one, but they were personal. I've had this dream before. They were more than dreams, they were memories." His face had an unutterable sadness in it, and Derek was mystified.
"And they think I keep secrets?" he thought to himself wryly. Aloud he said, "Tell me, Philip."
Philip refused to let himself back down now. He needed to tell someone, the pain was just too intense. Perhaps telling Derek would lessen his burden somehow. He began, "Briony Murphy and I had known and cared for each other since we were children. As we got older we became...well...quite close. We had reached a new level in our relationship that summer. We were seventeen and truly in love. Just that day, we'd pledged our eternal love t'one another. We vowed t'marry and let no one part us. I loved her so much, Derek. She was the one woman in the world for which I would have forsaken everythin'." Philip paused to take a deep breath. Derek remained silent, amazed at the depth of feeling he was picking up from his friend. He also realized that no response was required of him, yet.
Philip heaved a sigh and went on, "We had gone for a drive in the country. It was one of the last days of summer, and school would be startin' again the followin' week. It was just past dusk, there was a half moon in the sky and Brie was so beautiful. The other car came from outta nowhere. I didna even see it until it was too late. He hit us along the side of the car where Briony sat. I lost control, and knew we were gonna die. The car flipped, over and over and over again, comin' t'rest in a ravine." There were tears in his eyes as he continued, "When I felt the car stop rollin', I realized that I was completely unhurt, but when I reached for Briony, I could see that she was seriously injured." He stopped, unable to go on for a moment.
When he began to speak again, his voice was raw with supressed emotion. "I worked like a fiend t'get her out of that car, and finally succeeded. It was then that I could tell she was dyin'. We were miles from anywhere or anyone, and I knew there was nothin' I could do for her. She just looked up at me and told me not t'worry. She said she would be waitin' for me in the next life, and that if I ever needed her in this one, she'd be there. Then she died. I sat there on the side of the road, holdn' her for hours before someone came along." Philip could no longer contain the tears which had been threatening. He put his face in his hands and cried silently for some minutes. Derek instinctively knew that any attempt to console his friend at this point would be rebuffed, and so he waited.
Suddenly Philip looked over at Derek and said so softly that he had to strain to hear him, "I haven't spoken of this t'anyone in all the years since it happened." Derek, witness to his friend's profound grief, did not know what to say.
Soon, Philip had his emotions in check once again. He looked Derek squarely in the eye and said, "It's her, Derek. I know her too well. In my dreams, I could even smell her perfume. It's no coincidence that she should appear here, now. I don't know the reason, but there's one t'be sure."
Derek had no doubt about it either. What were they to do, though? They were supposed to leave for Dublin tomorrow morning. Then a thought struck him. He asked Philip, "Do you believe that she is tied to this amulet somehow?"
Philip shrugged. "I don't know. It's possible I suppose, but I can't imagine the connection." Derek sighed, "I guess we'll just have to hope she wakes up so we can ask her" he said. Philip simply nodded.
The girl did not awaken throughout the day, and with the passing hours, everyone became more concerned. Philip took to pacing the floor of the Library. His agitation now, however, was due to the girl's prolonged unconscious state. Alex knew that Philip had confided the reasons for his anguish to Derek, and was glad. She could see that it had eased his pain somewhat. Next to Philip, Derek was the one that Alex would turn to if she ever was in need of guidance.
Even Nick became aware that Philip was disturbed, but didn't broach the subject with him, respecting his friend's privacy. He knew that when it came to Philip's emotional state, he would be the last one the priest would turn to. Nick kicked himself once again for being so cruel to his friend over Julia's death. Even though his reaction had been based in anger and lack of understanding of the emotional turmoil Philip experienced, he regretted his words. They were only now beginning to regain the closeness that they had once shared. "Someday, I'll make it up to you Philip." he said aloud, to himself.
Day turned to evening, and still the girl's state remained unchanged. Dinner that night was a silent affair, each of the four lost in their own thoughts and concerns. After dinner they moved into the study. Derek began to play the piano, and Nick tried to read.
When he couldn't stand it any longer, Nick growled at Derek to stop playing, "It's interfering with my concentration!" he complained. Alex and Philip, who were playing a tense game of chess, were surprised at the vehemence of Nick's comments to Derek. Normally, he enjoyed Derek's piano playing, and had even been heard to say that he liked it while he read.
Derek stopped playing instantly, knowing that their nerves were strung taut. "Like piano strings" he thought. He then said, "Well I think I'll take care of some correspondence." and rose to leave. Nick, ashamed of his outburst, started to apologize to Derek, but the older man just smiled and said, "It's alright Nick, I do understand." and left the room.
Soon the other three wandered off to their respective rooms and tried
to sleep, but only Nick was able to completely relax and sleep soundly
through the night.
...He was dreaming again, but this time it was quite different.
There was no car, no moon here. In fact he wasn't sure just where here
was. But that was alright because SHE was here. "She's just so damn
beautiful..." he thought wistfully, then wondered if he'd actually
said the words aloud when she smiled at him. "You're a bit of an
oil paintin', yerself Philip Callaghan and you watch yer language!"
She giggled like a schoolgirl, then sobered up as she said, "I've
missed you darlin'. I know how hard things have been for you...I know
everythin' you've been through. And I'm so sorry, love." He swallowed
hard. She'd said everything...I wonder if that means...? She looked at
him steadily, "Of course it does Philip. You never could keep secrets
from me, remember?" He was startled. She appeared to be reading his
mind. Then he began to notice details, the dresser, his jacket over the
back of the chair at his desk. His room!...
He opened his eyes. It wasn't a dream at all. She was sitting beside him on the edge of the bed, brushing the hair from his eyes as she used to do. He sat up suddenly. "My God" he thought, "She's really here, in my room", aloud he gasped, stuttering in shock, "Brie! W-w-what're ya doin' here? H-how'd ya get in here?"
Briony got up from the bed. She could see his discomfort at being so close to her. She walked the length of the room and then looked at him. "I had to see you Philip, that's why I'm here. And as for how..." she walked to the door and opened it, "The door was unlocked, darlin'." She smiled at him, amused at his obvious nervousness. Philip wasn't sure whether it was her existence or her presence in his room which disturbed him more.
He just couldn't get over how alive she looked. His heart rate was finally beginning to settle back down to something remotely like normal. "What are you?" he asked suspiciously. Briony grinned, "Why, Philip Callaghan, sure an' ya know what I am. I'm a ghost...or am I?" She reached out and touched his face. Her hand was warm, and he caught the faint smell of her scent.
"If you're a ghost, you're an unusual one" he replied. She winked at him. "Ah, but I've always been unusual, haven't I Philip, my love?" She's teasing me, he thought and smiled, remembering the way she always used to tease him.
Then he sensed her become more serious. "I'm as real as you are, Philip. The subject of a slight miracle, you might say. Aren't you glad to see me?" she asked. She sounded sad and he noticed she had tears in her eyes. He was touched and knew he'd been acting badly. He realized he'd not yet told her how very glad he was to see her. He smiled at her and said, "Yes, very."
She came back to the bed and sat beside him again when she felt him beginning to relax. "Brie...", Philip started, but was halted by her fingers on his lips. "No questions now, Philip. I've other things in mind..." She leaned over and replaced her fingers with her lips. Philip was too surprised at first to draw away, then he felt all his long buried feelings for her rise up in him, and he groaned. Suddenly, they were seventeen again.
He wrapped his arms around her, revelling in the feel of her once more, and deepened the kiss. Burying one hand in the luxury of her hair, he held her head tenderly, yet firmly. He felt her hands caressing his back, inside his t-shirt and his desire to possess her grew. Suddenly, she drew back. That she was the one to end the kiss surprised him. She must have noticed his disappointment because she laughed softly and asked, "More, darlin'?" He just grinned at her. Briony smiled and pulled his t-shirt over his head. This time he initiated the kiss.
Several hours later, they lay side by side propped against the headboard, wrapped in each other's arms. In all the years since that fateful night, Philip had never felt so completely "right" about anything. And yet he was concerned over his feelings about what had happened. "What's wrong with me?" he asked angrily, more of himself than of her, "I have committed a carnal sin, broken my vows, and yet I feel only happiness. Briony..." he halted as she looked up at him, serenely happy too.
She hushed him, and said "Philip...love, I realize that you think you should be feeling contrition, guilt and remorse, but the vows you speak of were devised by men, not God." He looked skeptical. "And what of the vows you made t'me?" she asked him, annoyed at his continued skepticism. "Were they not just as holy, Philip, in the eyes of God?" He smiled at the memory of a certain tiny church in the country, and nodded. She sighed then, "The answers t'your questions, my love, are t'be found in His heart, not yours."
Briony got up and slipped into her clothes. When she finished, she turned to Philip and smiled. "I've come to heal your wounded spirit and protect you, my darlin'. Sent by He who knows all. He knew what would happen this night, and He knows what is t'come." she paused, then continued when she saw he understood her. "Do not question your faith or motives, only accept what happens. And above all, trust in me. It is for this that I was chosen."
Philip looked puzzled. "Chosen?" Briony took his face in her hands and kissed him lightly, then said "Yes darlin', chosen. Because, He knew you would trust me implicitly." She looked at the clock on his table and said, "I must go. It get's late and soon you must leave for Dublin. Sleep, my love."
She touched Philip's forehead and his eyes began to get very heavy. He turned over, and before she left the room was fast asleep.
Derek had awakened before first light. He lay in bed wondering about the girl and her purpose here. If she were the one Philip thought she was, then the possibility that she had been sent by the dark side, to destroy him was too great to ignore.
Derek couldn't, and wouldn't, let that happen. He had resolved that whatever or whoever she was, he was keeping her here. He would stay behind, and send the others on to Dublin with Philip. With that decision made, he got up and put on his robe. He would go do some work in his office. That, he decided, would keep his mind off this problem with Philip for a while, at least.
As he stepped out into the hall, he spotted the girl coming out of Philip's room. He ducked back into his doorway just in time to avoid being spotted by her as she checked the hall for observers. When she was safely back in her own room, Derek crept down the hall. He was filled with concern, and wouldn't rest until he had checked on Philip.
He rarely entered the rooms of his people. This was his house, but in asking that they reside here with him, he felt that he owed them complete privacy. However, this was different, Philip could be in danger. When he tried the door it was unlocked, as usual. He stuck his head in, not knowing what to expect.
Nothing seemed out of place, and his friend was sleeping peacefully, with a slight smile on his face. Then Derek began to notice the state of the room. The comforter and Philip's bed clothes were scattered on the floor. Suddenly, Philip turned over in his sleep and the sheets moved to reveal a bare leg. He appeared to be totally nude beneath the sheets. Derek was astonished. He knew that Philip always slept in a t-shirt and sweatpants, a habit he'd developed while managing the boys dormitory at the Church school. They'd run into each other during the night enough for Derek to know that he had not changed his habits since coming to the Legacy house. Tonight, however, the sheets were draped across his obviously naked torso. Philip moaned in his sleep and Derek suddenly felt like a voyeur. He backed out of the room quickly, but noiselessly.
An idea began to take shape in Derek's mind along with vague memories of his dreams in the night. He was horrified by the implications, and filled with curiosity about the girl he had seen leaving Philip's room, such a short time before. He walked silently, but hurriedly down the hall to her room.
He tried the door and it appeared to be unlocked as well. Definitely feeling voyeurish now, he peeked into her room. He half expected to discover her in the throws of some occult ritual. However, for a third time in less than fifteen minutes, Derek felt the stirring of shock and surprise.
She was also sound asleep in bed. In fact it didn't look like she had ever left the bed at all. "How could that be?" he wondered. He was sure he had seen her coming out of Philip's room, and the evidence there was enough to convince Derek he'd seen something. He was perplexed, and vowed more than ever to keep watch over their newest visitor.
Later that morning, Alex came downstairs. She had slept fairly well, but had had disturbing dreams, most of which she could not remember. She sought out Derek to see if he could help. She found him in his office, writing and waited in the doorway for the appropriate moment to make her presence known to him.
Soon his writing seemed to ebb and he said, "Yes, Alex. Is there
something I can do for you?" He put his pen down and turned to look
at her questioningly...
...she slowly trailed kisses down his body. It had been too long
since he had felt her touch. Suddenly, he didn't think he could stand
it any longer. He felt like he would explode any minute. Desperately,
he reached down and pulled her up till their faces were almost even. Then
he rolled them over until he had her pinned beneath him. She met him with
abandon, her hair streaming over his pillow. Her cries were muffled against
Philip jerked awake to the sun shining in through his windows for a third time in one week. He was disoriented at first, then noticing the state of his bed and the fact that he wasn't wearing anything under the sheets, he started to grin. So it really hadn't been a dream. He lay there in bed for a few minutes thinking with wonder about what he had experienced in the night. His reaction was unusual, to say the least. He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and turned to look at the door. It was Briony. He smiled at her and she came in.
She plopped down on the bed next to him. He leaned forward and kissed her. "And how are you feelin' today?" she asked. "How d'ya think?" he hugged her, then added "Besides, I think I should be askin' you that!" She laughed and he grinned back at her. "I feel like a schoolboy, in the throws of my first crush." he said. "It's remarkable. I didn't think I would ever experience these feelin's again." Suddenly, he sobered. "I really shouldn't be feelin' them, in fact."
Briony smiled at him and kissed his cheek. "Who says you shouldn't?" she asked, then changed the subject before he could dwell on his perceived fall from grace. "Go on, get dressed. Nick is already downstairs. We'll be late for breakfast if you don' hurry up." Philip realized how late it was and rushed through a shower and shave. They left the room together, and went down.
...Alex smiled, "Well actually I was kind of hoping so. I was wondering if you noticed anything unusual about your dreams last night." Derek's eyebrows rose. "My dreams?" he asked.
Alex nodded, "Mine were quite strange in a way I've never experienced before. I was hoping you had felt it, too. Then I could be sure it was...I don't know, something in the house and not the oysters I had for dinner!" she grinned at him.
He frowned. Not quite the reaction she'd expected. "Well, I wonder what's eating him?" she thought as he said to her, "Alex, please come in and close the door." She complied, very intrigued.
"Last night I was hardly able to sleep at all" he admitted, "I think it has something to do with that girl Nick found. I think...that is Philip believes...her to be a girl he once knew." Derek was being careful not to reveal anything that his priestly friend might not want anyone to know. On the other hand, how was he to enlist Alex's aid if he didn't tell her? Oh well, after all wasn't Alex one of Philip's closest friends, too?
"Actually Alex, Philip believes that she is his long dead fiancé, Briony Murphy. Before she appeared with Nick, he had had several dreams about her." Alex sat down with a gasp.
"So that's why he froze up yesterday when Nick walked in with her in his arms" she said. "Wow, and you think it's possible that he's right?"
Derek was silent for a moment, then replied "After last night and what I saw this morning, I'm becoming sure. I, too, was disturbed during the night Alex, and when I got up to come here to do some work, I saw her leaving Philip's room." He paused to let what he had just said sink in. Derek was determined, however, that he wouldn't share what he had subsequently witnessed. No one would ever know what he suspected.
"She visited Philip during the night?" Alex asked, smiling broadly at the implications. "Yes." was all he said. Alex had the feeling that they both had been privy to something that they should never have known about.
Mirroring Derek's own thoughts, Alex said, "Well, that would definitely explain the feelings I picked up last night." Then a thought occurred to her. "Derek, Philip would be horrified if he even suspected we knew what had happened."
He nodded, "I know, but what's worse is, I think that this girl is really here to harm Philip in some way. I've decided to keep her here with me while you three go on to Ireland." Alex agreed. The less Philip saw of this particular woman, the better.
They heard movement and realized that the others were going down to breakfast. Soon it would be time to leave, and Alex still had packing to do. She stood to go, but stopped when Derek placed a hand on her arm. "I'm trusting Philip's safety to you Alex. Take care of him in Ireland. I feel that there is something waiting for him there, and I'm worried about him." Alex placed her hand over Derek's larger one. "Don't worry Derek, Nick and I can support Philip...and by the way, I think he's stronger than you realize."
She left the room then, but she overheard Derek whisper to himself, "I certainly hope so" before he followed her out.
Alex and Derek walked into the morning room and were both surprised to see Philip talking softly with the girl. Nick was filling his plate at the sideboard and took no notice of the conversation at the table. Alex thought that she had rarely seen Philip as relaxed in a woman's company as he seemed to be in this girl's, not even her own she realized suddenly. "Even after last night..." she thought to her self, then smiled as a thought occurred to her, "or perhaps because of it?" Derek noticed her smile and asked what she was thinking. "I'm not so sure you're right about the girl, Derek." was all she said. There was no time for more, as Philip and Briony noticed them entering the room.
Philip looked up as the two walked in and smiled, "Ah, here they are." He turned to the girl at his side and said, "Brie, this is Derek Rayne and Alex Moreau, friends of mine. Derek, Alex this is Briony Murphy." The girl stood and held out her hand to each in turn, "I'm so glad to meet you, Derek...Alex. Philip has been telling me about all of you. I feel as if I've known you for years" she grinned impishly.
Derek noticed that she had a lovely smile, and her eyes were as blue as the sea on a clear day. She looked like she'd never been ill or unconscious at all. He was struck anew by her extraordinary beauty. "If this is Briony Murphy, then it's no wonder Philip was so entranced. He never stood a chance." he thought, amused in spite of the situation. Aloud he said to her, "I hope you're feeling better."
"Oh yes, I feel quite wonderful. Thank you, Derek." Her radiance emphasized the statement. She smiled at Philip, who actually had the grace to blush.
Alex shook the girl's hand then turned to the sideboard quickly to hide her grin. "So" she thought "Whoever she is, she's playing along and claims to be the girl Philip knew. This just keeps getting more interesting." Suddenly, Alex heard a voice in her head "Not claiming to be Alex, I am Briony Murphy. You must have more faith in Philip, lass." Alex almost dropped the plate she was holding. She managed to retain her grip on it by a sheer act of will.
When she turned to look at the girl, Alex was not surprised to find Briony regarding her steadily from across the table. She was surprised, however, when Briony winked at her and seemed amusedly tolerant of her skepticism. Alex smiled at her and was more certain than ever that Derek was wrong about this "girl". Girl indeed, she had responded like a woman just then.
The entire episode took only a moment, but was not lost on Derek. Philip and Nick appeared oblivious, caught up in a discussion about their plans to leave, but not he. He had noticed the whole scene and wondered at it. "What just happened between those two?" he thought, "Alex acts like they've had a conversation of which none of us are aware." He looked at Briony and she was actually twinkling.
Aloud, Derek said "Well Briony, has Philip told you that he and the others are leaving for Dublin this morning?" Briony turned her attention to him, "Yes Derek, and I understand that you and I will be remaining here, is that right?" she asked taking a bite of the eggs on her plate.
Now it was Derek's turn to be shocked. "How in the hell did she know that, I haven't told anyone but..." he thought and looked suspiciously at Alex, but she shook her head slightly and grinned. "She's enjoying this." he thought, then his attention was caught by Philip.
Philip had broken off his conversation with Nick and turned to Derek, a look of indignation on his face, "What d'you mean, you're stayin' here? When was this decided?" he asked, angrily. Derek sighed, "I have been giving the situation a lot of thought, Philip. I believe that it would be better for the two of us, Briony and I that is, to remain here, while you three finish this business in Dublin."
Philip started to argue, but Briony cut him off, "Quite right Derek. I have no desire to get in the way of such important work." she turned and smiled at Philip. "I'll just stay here with Derek and enjoy the lovely surroundings of the island." she said. Philip shrugged, obvbiously confused by her reaction, "OK. If that's what you want" he said, uncertainly.
She then smiled at everyone, and the conversation around the table took another turn. To Derek, it seemed that only he suspected her motives in agreeing with him.
Shortly after breakfast, Philip, Alex and Nick prepared to leave for the airport and the Legacy jet which would take them to Dublin. Briony stood on the steps watching them prepare for flight. "Are you sure you don't want to come with us?" Philip asked, "I can talk t'Derek, and I'm sure he'd change his mind." She grinned, "No love, it's not necessary. Derek is right. We'll wait here."
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him lightly on the lips. Philip's complexion grew slightly pinker than normal and he turned abruptly on his heel. "I hope nobody saw THAT! They'd tease me unmercifully!" he thought as he boarded the helicopter.
He looked back at Briony on the steps. She smiled and waved at him. He looked at his friends, and they appeared busy with stowing equipment and getting settled in. Philip breathed a sigh of relief and waved back.
The flight was uneventful. They would stop only once for fuel in Washington, D.C. and should be in Dublin very early the following morning. Nick spent most of the time in the cockpit with the pilot and Philip slept most of the trip.
This was unusual for him, and Alex was concerned. Normally, Philip liked
to go over strategy during flight. He said it made the time go faster
for everyone. Not today. He was sound asleep before they left SFO, and
with a smile on his face. Then Alex realized that he probably hadn't gotten
much sleep the night before. Her cheeks burned as she remembered the emotions
she herself experienced vicariously at their expense. "He must never
know that I know" she thought.
...he'd been dreaming about Briony. They had made love by the side of that brook, near the old sawmill. It was their first time, and they had both been so shy. That hadn't lasted long, however. He had touched her instinctively, and she had responded with an abandon which surprised and thrilled him. It was as if they were meant to be united in every way...
...Suddenly, the dream shifted. He was standing in a room with
vaulted ceilings and stained glass, but it wasn't a room familiar to him.
Not like the library at the house. In front of him was a table inlaid
with ancient ceramic tiles. It was exquisite, but what was even more so
was the medallion lying on the table top. It looked to be made out of
pure gold and inscribed with lettering like none he had ever seen. It
shown with an inner light and he was filled with an overwhelming desire
to possess it. He reached to pick it up, but reacted as if burned when
he heard a voice say "Don' touch it my love. It will absorb your
soul." He looked around and was amazed when he saw Briony. She was
ethereal, more beautiful than she had ever been. Suddenly, the room became
dark and he felt the pervading evil. He looked for her again, but she
was no longer there. He felt alone and very vulnerable...
Philip gasped and sat up straight in his seat. It took him a moment to realize where he was. Alex turned to ask him what was wrong, but stopped short as a multitude of emotions crossed his face. He was reliving the dream in his mind and was oblivious to her. Gone was the serenity of the initial dream. He was just left with the fear and vulnerability.
Finally he looked at Alex and she felt an icy chill run up her spine. "Just a bad dream" he said, but Alex knew it was more. She suspected it was a premonition of things to come, but knew better than to tell this to Philip. He would reject the explanation and dig in his heels, then she'd never get any information from him.
"Tell me about it, Philip" she said. He started to shake his head, but then thought the better of it and began to relate the last part of the dream in such vivid detail that Alex was certain that it was more than he thought. "Derek was right, about the evil being after Philip, at least." she thought, "I must keep a close eye on him."
They arrived in Dublin around 10:00am in the morning. All three of them were tired after spending so long cooped up in the learjet. They picked up their baggage and made their way through customs. The custom's agent took a liking to Alex and kept her there for longer than necessary. By the time they caught a hack from the airport to the Dublin House it was nearly noon.
Ciaran had the door open almost before they stepped from the cab. He had been anxiously awaiting their arrival for some time. They had met with a fueling problem in Washington and with Alex's "delay" at customs were quite a bit later than they had planned.
The precept was a large, jovial, redhead. It was obvious that he was thrilled by their arrival. He clapped Philip and Nick on the back and enveloped Alex in a bear hug. "Wul, its aboat tyme ya gut hair." he cried.
Oh no, Alex thought and looked at Nick who seemed amused. She swore she would scream if he broke into Gaelic. Philip smiled and said "Sorry Ciaran, we ran into trouble at th'airport in Washin'ton and Alex here made a friend at customs."
The precept grinned at that and said "I can understan' that, lad!" He winked at Alex as he led them inside where the members of his house were waiting. He introduced Philip, Alex and Nick to the six people standing just inside the foyer. There was Anna, Ciaran's wife and head of research, Jamie, Robby, Mary, Katie and Seamus.
Of the six, Katie seemed the most friendly, smiling and walking over to Nick to engage him in conversation. She had been the one to find the amulet and vowed she would love to tell him all about it. She smiled at Nick flirtatiously.
Katie was of medium height, copper colored hair and the greenest eyes Nick had ever seen. He thought she was a lovely example of irish womanhood, and decided to sit back and enjoy the game. He figured Alex and Philip could handle this particular artifact without much help from him.
Realizing how tired the three travelers were, Ciaran indicated that he would take them to their rooms personally. Katie volunteered to show Nick to his, who quickly seconded the idea. Everyone smiled as the young woman led a grinning Nick off by the hand.
As Ciaran led Philip and Alex upstairs, he said "Ther's no need to concern yurself with the amulet just now...plenty of time fur tha' later. Fur now just rest an' relax aft'r yur jurney. In fact, I want ya t'know thet I don' expect much. I'll be mighty surprised if even you can figure the thin' out, Philip." Philip and Alex nodded, only listening with half an ear to the ramblings of the precept. Each was thinking of what they would tell Derek when they could get to a telephone.
Back in San Francisco, Derek and Briony had gone their separate ways. As soon as the group had left for the airport, Briony wandered outside and explored the island. She had only come in for dinner, and then gone directly to her room.
She was playing a waiting game with Derek. She knew there was time before her presence in Dublin would be necessary. Briony hoped that Derek would come to trust her before she'd have to set him aside to take care of Philip, but set him aside she would if forced to it. She was curious to see just how long it would take for Derek to realize that she wasn't what he thought.
The subject of her ruminations was, as he had been for many hours now, sitting in his office pondering her in a like manner. What was she and why was she here? Derek was becoming more and more convinced that he had made a mistake in thinking her evil, but why? Why did she not use her obvious abilities to make him see reason? What was it that she was trying to do? He decided that the only way to find out was to ask her, plain and simple. He resolved to do so at the earliest opportunity. And having come to this decision, prepared to go to bed.
Startled by the ringing of the phone at his elbow, he picked up the receiver and said "Luna Foundation, Derek Rayne speaking." before he realized that it was his private line which had rung. A familiar voice spoke from the other end of the line "Derek, it's me, Alex."
It was just Alex checking in from Dublin. He was relieved, until he caught her next words "Philip...dreaming again and this time it seemed more...I don't know...dark, sinister. I thought you should know." He realized that she wasn't just checking in, something had happened which worried her.
"Did you say that Philip has had another dream?" he asked. Alex's voice was tense on the other end of the line, "Yes, and this time it was about the amulet. Somehow, Derek I think this amulet is tied to Briony's appearance."
"Why?" he asked, already suspecting the answer. "Because she was in the dream too. Only Philip said that she looked different. More ethereal, I think he said." she replied. Derek sighed, "Alright, I'll speak with Briony and see what she knows about this. I'll let you know what I discover." he said.
Alex's voice was filled with relief when she said, "Thanks Derek,
I'm getting, well... worried about him, you know." "Yes, I know,
Alex. I'll talk with you soon." and with that, Derek hung up the
Alex hung up the phone just as Philip walked in. "Oh Alex, I thought you'd still be in bed." then he eyed her hand replacing the telephone receiver. "Alex, have you by any chance been talking t'Derek?" he asked warily.
She cursed herself under her breath. Why hadn't she gone out to use a pay phone. The last thing she wanted was for Philip to think she didn't trust him. "Actually, I remembered something I'd forgotten to do in all the business of leaving. I called Derek to ask him to take care of it for me." she lied.
"Aleeeex..." Philip said. She could tell he knew she was lying. "Oh alright, I called him because I'm worried about you. That dream was not just a dream, Philip. You know it as well as I do."
Philip was quiet for a few minutes. It seemed like an eternity for Alex, waiting for the explosion, when his wrath would get the better of him. She knew he had quite a temper when roused, and had always tried to stay clear of it. However, in the end he just said "Well thanks for bein' honest. I was goin' t'tell him myself, you know."
Alex felt like a heel. He really had been planning on telling Derek about the dream, she could tell. "I'm sorry Philip, it's just that you've never really believed in your dreams before. How was I to know that this time would be different?"
He smiled at her, then actually laughed a little. "You weren't." he said, "Well I guess that's one call I don' have t'make, huh?" he was grinning now. "Actually, you've saved me from havin' t'explain it t'Derek. I should be thankin' you. Now how about some food? We missed dinner, and I don' know about you, but I'm starvin'!"
Alex gave a sigh of relief. He really did forgive her. "Let's go. I'm hungry, too!" The two of them headed for the kitchen arm in arm. When they had sated their appetites, Philip looked at Alex and said "Well, I'm itchin' t'have a look at that amulet. I'm goin' t'go find Ciaran and get him t'show it t'me. Want'a come?"
Alex nodded. She really didn't think Philip should go within twenty feet of the thing, but she also realized the futility of arguing with a stubborn Irish priest when he had his heart set on something. She got up and followed him down the hall to the precept's office.
They found the big man scribbling furiously. "What is it about precept's and their correspondence?" Alex wondered. She'd yet to convince Derek to get a computer for his office. Obviously, Ciaran had the same bias against automation. Soon he noticed them in the doorway, and jumped up, full of apologies. When Philip told him what they had come for, Ciaran was only too happy to oblige them and led them off to his private study.
Philip felt queasy when they walked through the door and he realized that this was the room from his dream. Vaulted ceilings with stained glass windows. Statuary and antiques crowded side by side with first edition's and ancient manuscripts. It was a beautiful room and Alex gasped in pure admiration.
"Wow, this is a wonderful room, Ciaran." she said. The precept grinned from ear to ear. "I'm glad you approve, lass. I luv this room meself." Philip had gone straight to the table with inlaid ceramic tile, but the amulet wasn't there. "Over here, m'boy." It was locked in a case by the fireplace, but it was the same medallion that he had seen in his dream.
Alex looked at the amulet and was amazed by it's beauty. It was gold and hung from a long, braided leather chain. The thing looked ancient. Ciaran was opening the case, and pulled it from it's burgundy velvet bed. Alex asked him where they had found it.
"Well tha's the interestin' thin'. I'd sent Katie and Seamus to have a look at some old druidic ruins near Galway. There had been rumors of somethin' strange goin' on, but they didn' find any evidence of a hauntin', just this blasted thin', in plain view I might add. It was amazin' that it was still there, intact. Those ruins have been searched hundreds of times, but no one ever found this." He held it up so that the light could play on it's surface. Alex gasped in awe.
"That's amazing." she said, "For it to remain undiscovered for so long, then to just appear out of thin air, like that. I'll bet Katie and Seamus were pretty excited, huh?"
Ciaran chuckled, "They were plenty excited til they got the thing home and tried to decipher't. See these letters? We couldn'a find any reference to'em in the database, or anywhere. We finally washed our hands of the thin'." He turned to Philip and said, "Tha's why we're countin' on you, my lad. I hope you have mor luck then we did."
The precept began to hand it to Philip, who started and backed away. The older man looked at him questioningly. "What's wrong, Philip? You canna think yur goin' t'be able t'decipher it long distance." He took the priest's hand and placed the necklace in his palm then excused himself, turned and left them alone in the room...
Derek was just sitting down at the table with his breakfast in his hand, when he saw in his mind a medallion with a braided leather chain. The medal was round and golden. It was breathtaking in its beauty.
He felt this medallion being placed in his palm and gasped. The thing reverberated evil. Derek was so shocked, he dropped the plate he had been carrying to the table. At the same time, he heard a scream and crash in the hall. He jumped up and ran out into the foyer and saw Briony clutching at one of the statuary stands, a priceless vase shattered on the floor at her feet. She seemed unaware of the broken antique, but was white as a sheet. Derek hurried over and helped her into the morning room.
She was trembling all over and Derek sensed her fear. He realized he was caressing her, and not in a particularly reassuring way. He was shocked by his sudden desire for her. "Where did that come from?" he wondered. She, however, seemed oblivious to him. "Good" he thought, "At least I'll be spared the embarrassment of explaining to Philip why I tried to seduce his woman while he was away." Aloud he asked roughly, "What is it?" She looked up at him as if awakened from a dream, and answered "It's begun..."
She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, but when she spoke she was still very agitated. "Derek, the time has come for me t'tell you everythin'. I haven't even been able t'share all of this with Philip." She leaned forward and took his face in her hands, "You must trust me." she said urgently. Derek had an almost overwhelming desire to kiss her. He fought the feeling and stepped back from her.
Derek sat down across the table from her, both to put some distance between them and so he could see her face as she spoke. "Go on" he said. Briony took a deep breath and began to speak. "I am...was, Briony Murphy, Philip's fiancé. I know that Philip has told you about the accident. I've been watchin' all these years and waitin' for this time t'come. I've been sent t'help Philip...uh...relocate his faith in God, so t'speak. You realize that he has been suffering much since the death of his brother, Michael?" she asked. Derek nodded. "Well, it was at the time of Michael's death that Philip became most vulnerable t'the forces of darkness which have chosen t'prey upon his soul."
She continued, "There is in Dublin, at this moment, a demon who seeks t'possess Philip's soul and, thereby, earn a better place in Satan's Army. This same demon caused our accident 15 years ago, with this eventuality in mind. It knew Philip would become a priest and, in so doin', would increase his worth t'his master."
Derek was horrified and skeptical at the same time. "You mean to tell me that this demon has planned to obtain Philip's soul for years, and even killed you to make it worth more to him? That's ludicrous!"
"Is it?" she replied. "Think about it Derek. Remember what demons have done t'your father...t'your friends...even t'you. They're capable of any evil!"
Briony began to calm down as she saw him accept what she told him. "If this is true, then why did you not fight me when I wanted you to remain here?" he asked, instinctively believing her, but curious.
She smiled enigmatically, "Ah, Derek. Do ya think I would have to have a plane t'get ta Dublin?" His eyebrows rose, and she went on to say, "No, it was more important for Philip that you believe in me, and for that my friend, I had t'stay."
"Besides," she continued, "Only Philip can fight this demon. If I've done my part, he will have the strength of faith t'overcome the evil." Derek looked at her. He knew that there was still something she wasn't telling him. "You did visit Philip in his room, didn't you?"
"Ah, so it was you. I knew someone was in the hall, but I saw no one. Yes, I did. Derek, you must understand that Philip and I were never meant to be parted, that night 15 years ago. We two have been together since the beginnin' of time." she paused, then said, "And we will be together again in the next life, as well." she smiled, aware of his curiosity. "Yes Derek, he is well worth the wait. But enough explanations. Come, we have t'leave. Philip must fight and overcome this demon, but t'win, he must do so in our presence."
...Philip felt a rush of coldness pass through him when the amulet hit his palm. He started to tremble, just as Briony was trembling in Derek's arms. He could sense the evil of the thing in his hand. He was filled with lust for the object and was shocked at his own feelings.
Alex was looking over his shoulder and asked, "What's that word, Philip? It looks almost like Iuva..." "Hush!" he shouted at her, then realized how he had sounded. He turned and placed a hand on her shoulder, "Be careful, Alex. Don' say it aloud. It's the demon's name." he told her.
Alex was surprised. "But Philip, we don't even know where this amulet came from. How can you know that it is even tied to a demon. Come to think of it, I've never even read about a demon with that name. Are you sure?" she asked, questioningly. Then she thought about it. "Of course he's sure, you idiot. This thing has some otherworldly meaning for him" she mentally kicked herself. He simply looked at her and said, "Yes, Alex. I'm sure."
Philip put the thing down on the table next to him like it was burning
his hand just to touch it. Alex sensed his fear, but she also sensed something
else in her friend. Emotions she didn't recognize in Philip. Greed and
lust. He was fascinated by the amulet, but was disgusted by it at the
same time. She thought it best to get him away from the thing, and led
him unresistingly from the room. They returned to their rooms and tried
to rest, but sleep was a long time coming.
...he was back in Ciaran's private study. He recognized the room this time. The amulet was on the table where he had left it. Suddenly he realized he was not alone in the room. Nick was there, and Alex. He turned and saw Derek and... "Briony" he said, shocked. "How did you two get here, and what're you doin' here?" A horrified looking Derek made to move toward's Philip, but his beloved Briony put out her hand to stop him. The look on Derek's face was mirrored on each of the other's. Something was terribly wrong. Slowly Philip turned to look behind him and nearly vomited. He beheld the most evil looking thing he had ever seen. The demon was at least ten feet tall, with a twisted and misshapen form, horrible looking and extremely foul smelling. He felt a coldness pervading his entire being, body and soul. It was Iuvart, one of Satan's lesser demons and owner of the amulet...
...Suddenly the dream changed and he was beside the road holding
Briony's lifeless form in his arms. "No! Not again!" he cried.
He looked up and there was the thing, the demon, standing in front of
him looking down at them on the ground, and laughing. "So your plans
are coming to naught, boy. What will you do now?" the demon taunted
him. Philip dropped Briony in his haste to get to his feet. He was filled
with a fury that he had never known before. "You did this, didn'
you, you bastard? You killed her just so that I would have t'go on alone!
I can read it in your eyes!" Philip was screaming at the demon. Unable
to control his anger, he lunged at the thing. Iuvart caught him easily,
then tossed him aside like a rag doll. The demon threw back his head and
roared with laughter. "Of course, boy. It was a pleasure to kill
her! The two of you sickened me. I had to destroy her. She was so...so...PERFECT!"
he spit the word at Philip. "Yes, I destroyed her, and now boy, I
will destroy you..."
Philip sat up in bed so suddenly that he knocked over the glass of water on his nightstand. "Hell and damnation!" he growled furiously as he got up to clean up the mess. He was shaking with fury. Suddenly he stopped. Where was all this anger coming from? This wasn't a normal reaction for him, especially over something so trivial. Not that he didn't have a temper, he did. A fierce temper, but he had always had reserves of patience few men possessed.
Then he remembered the dream, and sat down on the edge of the bed. The demon had to be responsible for his anger. It seemed unlikely, but there was no other explanation. He thought about it and knew he hadn't been going through any of the four stages of demon possession. True, he had suffered a crisis of faith, but recently even that had been on the wane as he accepted that God was not responsible for the evil in the world, only the good.
That scene on the road had never really happened, though. Perhaps it was through the dream itself that the demon preyed upon his emotions. "That must be it." he said to himself.
Philip knew he would have to be very careful in the coming days, not to allow his emotions full reign. Instinctively, he sensed that this particular evil was bent on destroying him, personally.
"So this is what Briony came t'guard me against, and she's halfway around the world." he thought aloud. "Oh well, nothin' I can do about that now. I'll just have t'do the best I can and pray t'God ta give me the strength t'overcome this darkness." He said a fervent prayer and got back into bed, the mess still on the floor.
Later that morning, Philip and Alex were in the dining room. They had both overslept and been late for breakfast. They claimed "jet lag" as an excuse, but both knew this was not the true cause.
Nick had been down early, and was currently "doing" the sights with Katie. He had been on the verge of leaving as the other two came down. He grinned at them as Katie led him off by the hand, and had shouted from the door that he'd see them later.
Alex wasn't sure whether she wanted Nick around or not. Since she was unsure what they were dealing with, she was somewhat glad that he was otherwise occupied. However, it would be good to have someone to confide in. Then she thought about Derek's reaction to the events they had discussed. He'd never said anything, but she picked up on the need for discretion. "Oh, I just don't know" she thought.
She turned her attention to Philip. Alex had experienced some of the feelings he felt during his dream, but mutedly. She could only guess at the effect such strong emotions must have had on her friend. His eyes were shadowed and he looked terrible. Suddenly, they both heard a commotion in the hall and got up to see what was going on.
As Alex and Philip entered the hallway, they saw Anne (Annie as she preferred to be called) carrying in several suitcases. Shortly thereafter, in walked Derek and Briony. Both Alex and Philip were surprised, yet enormously relieved at the sight of the two.
Alex walked over to Derek and gave him a hug, "Boy am I glad to see you!" she whispered in his ear. Derek leaned back and smiled at her, but looked at her questioningly. Alex shook her head slightly and mouthed the words "Later", before turning to greet Briony.
Upon entering the house, Briony had spotted Philip immediately and ran to him. She threw her arms around him and said, "We decided that we'd come along after all." Philip returned her embrace more heartily than even he realized. He'd been very disturbed by his dream and the effects were still with him. Philip didn't think he'd ever been so glad to see anyone in his whole life, as he was to see these two. As Alex claimed Briony's attention, he grinned at Derek and shook his hand.
He mentally apologized to Alex for being relieved at Derek and Briony's arrival. It wasn't that he didn't trust her, he thought. No, he'd trust Alex with his life and he knew she had been doing her best to try to shield him from whatever it was that was plaguing him. It was just that he didn't feel she really knew what that was.
Suddenly, there was a booming voice in the already noisy hallway. "Ah, Derek. So ye decided t'come anyhew! I'm right glad of it, too!" Derek took Ciaran's massive hand in his own elegant one. "And who's this lovely lass?" Ciaran asked looking at Briony, still in the crook of Philip's arm. "This is a friend of mine, Ciaran, Briony Murphy." Philip said. "Brie, allow me t'introduce Ciaran Brennan, Precept of this Legacy House."
The formal introduction seemed to remove any suspicions that Ciaran had of anything funny going on. He smiled at Briony and kissed her hand with a flourish. "Always a pleasure t'welcome a beautiful Irish lass into this house m'dear." Ciaran's exaggerated gallantry was amusing to everyone, except for Annie and Philip. Philip thought that he held Briony's hand a bit too long for pure hospitality and Annie obviously was of the same opinion.
She caught her husband's eye, and then as suddenly as he had noticed
Briony, Ciaran turned to Derek and said "Here and let me give you
a rundown of the place. We've made a lot of changes aroun' here. It's
been too long since you came t'visit, Derek." Derek smiled and agreed
to the tour. He gave Alex, Briony and Philip an apologetic look as he
was led off to view the wonders of the Dublin House by the older couple.
The three remaining in the hall looked at each other. In silent agreement they went into the library and shut the door. They sat down around one of the research tables in the bright and airy room.
"Alright, you two" Briony said without preamble, "Tell me what's been goin' on in my absence." Alex was surprised that she was included in this question. Then she realized that Briony was aware of the part she had been playing in the drama which was unfolding around them.
"I had another dream last night, Brie" Philip paused then smiled grimly, "And they're getting more unpleasant, I might add." Alex decided to keep quiet about her sensing his feelings in the night.
Briony looked alarmed as Philip described the scene which unfolded during his nightmare. She put her hand over his on the table, and he unconsciously grasped it. When he got to the part where he was describing the encounter with the demon, she whispered "Iuvart...so it IS him", more to herself than to the other two.
Then she looked over at him, "He actually spoke t'you in the dream, Philip?" she asked, "and touched you?" Philip nodded his head. Briony leaned over and kissed his hand. "Well, try not t'dwell on it, love." she said. He sighed, "Easy for you t'say." and smiled grimly.
Alex was shocked. She thought about what Philip had described, and realized it must have been a grueling experience. Her contemplation of Philip's dream was interrupted by Briony, who asked her, "Alex, do you have anythin' else to add t'what Philip has already described?"
Alex's heart plunged to her toes as Philip asked sharply "What could she have t'add?" Briony only smiled at him and told him to be still. Then she explained to him that Alex and Derek had been sharing his "visions". Philip looked at Alex and asked "Is this true? You've had the dreams, too?"
Alex sighed and decided that an abbreviated version of the truth was called for. She looked meaningfully at Briony across the table and began "Sort of, Philip. All I've really gotten are feelings, and muted ones at that, if your description of last night's nightmare is any indication." Then she looked him squarely in the eye and said "That's why I knew that your dream from the plane was more than you seemed to think."
Alex turned to Briony and said, "However, I don't think there's anything that I can add to what Philip has already described." She stopped, then added "Except of course, my feelings that this thing is 100% evil, which you two already know."
Suddenly the door burst open and Nick bounced in, followed by Katie in a lovely floral summer dress. They stopped short on seeing the other three occupants of the room. Katie, especially, looked miffed. "Well it's obvious what she's after" thought Alex, smiling to herself. The three in the room said hello to the newcomers, distracted from their conversation. Alex was somewhat relieved at the interruption.
Nick was surprised to see Briony and asked her when she had arrived. "Oh, just a little while ago, Nick. Derek and I decided we wanted to see this relic after Alex called and told us about it." Nick didn't seem to see anything wrong with the explanation and launched into a description of the sights Katie had shown him that morning.
After about half an hour, Derek stuck his head in and asked if his people could spare a few minutes. Katie took the hint and said, "Well I've got thin's t'do...if you'll excuse me?" She smiled at the group, but most specifically at Nick, and then walked out.
Derek came in and closed the door and took a seat at the table, too. Alex couldn't resist the opportunity to tweak Nick about his new friend. "So Nick, Katie seems to like you a lot." Nick grinned. "Yeah, she does, doesn't she?" but that was all he would say.
Derek cleared his throat, a signal that he was ready to get down to business. Alex turned and said "Sorry Derek, but I couldn't resist. I suppose you're here because of my phone call."
Derek sat looking at all of them for a moment, then said, "Actually, the real reason I brought Briony to Dublin is because she and I both had a vision of sorts." He turned to Philip and asked, "Philip, have you had an opportunity to view the amulet yet?"
Philip looked at Alex, then back to Derek, "Yes" he said, "I actually held it yesterday. It's an ancient piece with carvings unlike anythin' I've ever seen." Derek sighed, "And I suppose it hangs from a braided leather chain?"
Philip and Alex looked startled. "How...?" they both started at once. Derek raised his hand to silence their questions. "When Ciaran placed the amulet in your hand, Philip, both Briony and I felt and saw the thing just as you were experiencing it." Philip looked astonished, "How can that be?" he asked. "I don't know, but it happened." Derek replied.
Nick, who had remained silent until now, spoke up and said "Well I haven't seen the amulet yet, why don't we go find it right now?" Philip and Alex looked guiltily at Nick. Derek realized that they hadn't told him any of what Philip had been experiencing. "Well," he thought to himself, "I'll have to catch him up later" Aloud Derek said "Yes, let's go take a look at this necklace."
Briony squeezed Philip's hand when he would have excused himself. He looked at her and she smiled. She mouthed the words, "don't worry, love." Philip sighed audibly as the two of them rose hand in hand, and he said, "We should get permission from Ciaran, since it's in his private study." Derek smiled slightly, "Oh he's already given his permission for us to come and go as we please. So Philip, lead the way."
When they entered the lovely old room, Philip felt a shiver. There seemed to be an evil presence in the room, or so he thought. None of the others seemed to notice, however, so he said nothing. Suddenly, he thought, "They're all here, just like in my dream."
He walked to the table and picked up the amulet from where he had laid it down the night before. He made certain to hold it by the leather chain, and not touch the medallion itself. Philip was unsure why he reacted so, but he instinctively felt that by touching the medallion, he would invoke the demon's energy.
He handed the thing to Derek. Derek gasped in awe at it's beauty. "It's more glorious looking in person than it was in my vision" he thought.
After a few minutes, Nick asked if he could hold it and Derek passed it to him. By this time, Philip was trembling like a leaf. "Is anyone else cold?" he asked. They all shook their heads and Briony wrapped her arms around him, trying to warm him.
He shook so badly that his teeth were chattering. Noticing the intensity of Philip's coldness, Nick asked with concern, "What's wrong with him?" Alex explained to them briefly that Philip had experienced a similar reaction to the amulet the first time he had touched it.
She addressed Philip directly, "But your reaction wasn't nearly so violent, and you actually touched the medallion that time, Philip." He nodded, unable to speak.
"I b-believe he is p-picking up v-vibrations f-f-from the necklace, and c-continued exposure will o-only increase the r-r-r-reaction" Briony said, stuttering as Philip's chills shook her, too. She led him from the room, with Alex and Derek following them out. Only Nick stayed behind to put the amulet back in it's case.
Once they were all back in the Library, Derek spoke. "Well Philip, it's obvious that this amulet is dangerous to you, as Briony has said. I think it would be best if we just returned to San Francisco. I could tell Ciaran..." He was halted by a shout from Philip.
"NO DEREK!" They all looked at him, shocked at his outburst. He smiled weakly as he realized what they must be thinking. "Tha wouldn't answer my friend, and you know it. I don't know if you believe in destiny, but in this case, my bein' here seems t'be preordained."
He looked at them, each concerned for his welfare and felt a rush of love. "This is my family," he thought, and said, "I'm goin' t'church for a while. I need t'sort through some things, and then we'll take another crack at that amulet." He smiled confidently at them.
Derek, Nick and Alex were each amazed at the steel in his voice. This was a Philip that they were unfamiliar with. "He's found his mission," Alex thought, and smiled. "I'm behind you, Philip." she said. Derek and Nick both nodded.
Briony smiled brilliantly. "With your faith and us at your back, you can't lose, my love." Philip, to Nick's utter amazement, leaned over and kissed Briony lingeringly on the lips. Alex and Derek were surprised by the openness with which they had begun to express their mutual affecton, but weren't really shocked.
When Philip had left, Nick said "I think we should watch him, he's being affected by that amulet more than he lets on. He obviously isn't himself." and he glared at Briony. She just giggled, softly. Alex and Derek smiled at him. Derek realized that Philip's own behavior was putting paid to any need for secrecy on his part.
"We need to talk, Nick." Derek said. Nick was amazed at his friends' nonchalance in the face of such obviously uncharacteristic behavior on Philip's part, but just nodded. The two men left the room speaking in undertones. Alex and Briony looked at each other, each satisfied that the other had Philip's best interests at heart, and prepared to wait.
In Derek's room, Nick said "So, this Briony Murphy is actually dead. But she's here, and...Philip has fallen in love with her all over again. Philip's in love with a ghost. Is that what you're saying?" Derek sighed, this was turning out to be more difficult than he originally anticipated.
"Not exactly," he said, "But close. I don't believe that Philip ever got over her death to begin with. Her presence has just awakened the feelings he's never put aside." Nick shook his head. "I just don't understand how you can be so calm about this. I mean this is PHILIP we're discussing, for God's sake! He just doesn't react to women, not like that!"
Derek smiled grimly, "Nick," he said, "If you had been witness to his grief, as I was, I think you would understand the depth of his feelings for this girl." Nick began to speak, but Derek cut him off, "Wait, hear me out." He paused and Nick nodded.
Derek continued, "When he told me about the accident, it was as if he was reliving it all over again. He hadn't spoken of it since the night it happened. Suddenly, she was in his dreams and then she appeared, looking I might add, just as she must have 15 years ago. Is it any wonder that his feelings for her have resurfaced? Wouldn't yours. I know mine would!"
Nick was silent for a few moments, then nodded. "OK, Derek. I'll go along with you there. However, don't you think that she is the cause of his reaction to this amulet?" he asked.
Derek shook his head. "No Nick, I believe that Briony is here to protect Philip, not harm him. I will admit that I thought the way you do, at first. However, I now know that she loves him. Loves him so deeply, in fact, that she has returned from the grave to support him, and needs our help to do that."
Then a thought struck Derek, and he said, "Nick if you still remain doubtful, ask Alex. She has accepted Briony from almost the start. I hadn't thought of it until now, but somehow Alex must sense something right about this girl."
Finally Nick seemed convinced. That point about Alex had hit home. Even
he had noticed the familiarity with which she treated Briony. "Well
Derek, what next?" Nick asked. Derek looked at him, a little annoyed
and sighed, "I don't know Nick. I just don't know. I guess the next
move is up to Philip."
Philip walked for several hours before he sought out the church he was looking for. He remembered reading about this small, but beautiful church during his time at seminary. "It's more glorious than I had even expected." he thought as he entered.
A priest who appreciated beautiful old churches was not unusual, but Philip was looking for something special. This particular church contained a holy relic. A statue of St. Jude which was said to have survived the inquisition and supposedly had the power to heal the wounded of spirit. Philip felt that his need of the solace from this particular patron saint, was at it's peak.
He stopped in the doorway and let God's love flow over him. "This is the reason I remain a priest," he thought. He genuflected and knelt in prayer. He apologized for his lack of faith and prayed that God would forgive his weakness. He then thanked God for his care of Briony and for sending her to him in his time of need. Finally he asked for faith and strength. Philip knew that he would need God to give him the faith to combat the evil present in the house. He knew that without God's power he would be lost.
When he had finished his prayers, he rose and went to find the statue. It was a magnificent piece, ancient and weather worn, but still warm and inviting. He bowed his head and asked St. Jude to strengthen him for the coming battle. Philip felt a wonderous lifting of his spirit, and began to believe that he could defeat the demon after all.
He had been unwilling to share his true thoughts with the others, but had been afraid that he would not be strong enough, even with the loving support of his closest friends and the girl he had loved so dearly. Finally, his fears seemed to be receding. He felt strong and able to meet any challenge.
Philip sought out the parish priest and asked the man to hear his confession. He realized that, in order to eliminate the demon's weapons, he would need to be absolved of his sins. When he had confessed and been absolved, Philip left the church and began to make his way back to the Legacy house. The time had come to confront his demons, as he had told Derek he would, not realizing exactly what that would mean when he spoke the words.
The others spent the day trying to determine if there was anything the amulet itself could tell them. Ciaran had told Derek that they were on their own with the amulet. Another assignment had come in, and he needed all his people on it. Derek had agreed, but now they needed some specific answers.
So Nick searched Katie out and asked her to tell him about how and where she had found it. He was amazed when she said that it was just lying in the grass beside one of the huge stones, in full view. According to Katie that spot was a popular picinic place for the people in that region.
She and Seamus had gone up there because visitors to the site had reported strange lights and voices. However, when they got there, they found no evidence to support the reports. They had even camped out at the ruins, hoping that prolonged exposure would show them something. Nothing.
Then in the morning, Katie had gone for a walk around the ruins. "Remember, Nick, we'd done a thorough search of th'place when we arrived." she said. "Suddenly, in a spot where I know I'd looked before, there t'was. It shown in the sunlight like a mirror." She shivered. "I've had a bad feelin' about that thin' since I first set eyes on't." Ciaran came looking for her just then, and she had to leave.
Nick went in search of Derek. He found him in Ciaran's private study looking at some ancient texts, with Briony. Alex was there, too, examining the amulet with a light and magnifiying glass. He told them what Katie had said about the site and where she found the amulet.
Nick wondered aloud whether a visitor might have left it there, but Derek was unwilling to accept that explanation. "That amulet is obviously worth a small fortune. No one would just leave it, unless it was for a specific purpose. And with the number of visitors to the site, it wouldn't go undiscovered for long. No," he said, "It was left there on purpose, and at just the right time." Briony agreed with him and Nick shrugged.
The lettering was turning out to be just as incomprehensible to Alex as it had been to Ciaran's team. No clue could be discovered. Even the name, that Alex had seen was gone. She looked for several hours, but couldn't relocate the exact spot where she had seen it. When she told them about the name, Derek was concerned.
"So it appears that you could only read it while Philip was holding it. I don't like the sound of that at all." he said, shaking his head.
Briony sighed. "This amulet was left by Iuvart, specifically for Philip's benefit. It was his way of drawing him here." Briony said. Nick spoke up. "Who is this Iuvart?"
Alex and Briony looked at each other, realizing that there were key elements of the situation of which both Nick and Derek were still unaware. Briony began to explain. "As all of you are aware, demons are angels who have fallen from grace. Satan has an Army of demons similar t'God's Army of angels, right down t'the hierarchys. In the first hierarchy we have, Asmodeus, th'demon of avarice; Astaroth - laziness; Balberith - murder; Beelzebub - pride; Gressil - disease; Leviathan - blasphemy; Sonneillon - hatred; and Verrine - impatience." she said as if reciting a homework assignment.
Nick said impatiently, "Yeah, but what does this have to do with the amulet?" Briony smiled at him and said, "Patience Nick. I'll get t'that in a minute." then she continued her catachism. "In the Second Hierarchy there are Carnivean - obscenity; Carreau - cruelty; Oeillet - greed; Rosier - lasciviousness; and Verrier - disobedience. Finally we come to the Third Hierarchy. This is the lowest of Satan's order. The demons on this plane are Belais - arrogance, Olivier - parsimony, and last but not least, Iuvart demon of all the lesser evils." She looked around at the other three. "Iuvart is greedy, as are most demons, and wants to move up the ladder, so t'speak. That's why he's here. And that amulet belongs to him. He used it to lure Philip here."
Alex turned and asked her "Why here?"
"A couple of reasons, actually," Briony began, "First there's the fact that Philip's spirituality, or lack of it is tied t'Ireland. My death, his parents, Ellen's, Julia's and Michael's. All of these have had a profound affect on his faith, and all happened on these shores." she paused looking at each in turn.
"You know what I'm talkin' about, each of you has experienced a similar crisis over Julia's death here." They nodded, each a little surprised at her knowledge.
"Then there's the fact that the demon derives power from ancient occult sites." Briony stopped as if unsure whether to continue. She finally made a decision and said. "I believe that this house has been used for satanic rituals of some sort. There is evil in the house, and it's not all tied t'that amulet."
Derek looked shocked. "This house has been in the Legacy for over 1500 years," he said, getting angry, "Are you suggesting that a member of this house was or is a satanist?"
Briony smiled at Derek's ire. "It wouldn't be the first time, would it Derek?" she asked him point blank, then continued without waiting for a response, "I'm tellin' you that the house, and someone in it has been involved in satanic rituals, yes." Alex was as shocked as Derek. "Who?" she asked Briony. "I can't say. All I can say is that you should watch this place, Derek. And closely, too."
Derek slammed his fist down on the table, shocking everyone, including himself. Getting his emotions under control, he asked Briony, "Why are you not telling us what we need to know? It's like you're playing a game, a guessing game." He leaned toward her, "If you know what we must do to help Philip, please tell us. You can see we are getting no where, fast."
Briony placed her hand over his and said, "Derek, you have done everythin' you can for now. I can't help in the way you want...I'm prevented from it. But the time will come when all will be apparent t'you." With that she rose. Just then the dinner bell rang. They all followed her out of the room, perplexed and frightened that they were more unprepared than ever.
At dinner, Ciaran carried the conversation. Derek and the others were subdued and contributed little. Someone asked where Philip was. Derek said he had some errands to run, and would be back later. Annie said that she would have cook prepare a plate and set it aside for him in case he had forgotten to eat.
During the meal, Derek eyed the members of Ciaran's house wondering which of them could have so broken with the rules of the Legacy as to engage in satanism. "The problem is," he thought, "I don't really know any of them very well. Not even the Brennans."
After dinner, Alex excused herself and went to her room. She knew she
wouldn't sleep much that night, but realized that she had better try.
Derek and Nick followed her up a short time later. Around 11pm, the rest
of the house went to bed, except Briony, who found a candle and went into
the Library to wait for Philip's return. She was worried that he might
do something foolish when he got back and didn't want to leave him alone.
"If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark." St. John of the Cross
When Philip entered the house, it was dark and silent. Everyone had long since been in bed. He noticed a faint light coming from the Library. He walked to the door and stuck his head in. It was Briony.
She was sitting in an overstuffed chair, asleep with her face resting on her palm, a candle lit beside her. He looked at the clock on the mantle. It was after midnight. "I had no idea I'd been wandering the streets so long" he thought. Then he looked back at the girl in the chair.
She looked so peaceful that he almost didn't wake her. However, he knew that she was there waiting for him, and didn't want to worry her if she woke during the night and thought him unreturned. Philip crept over lightly, and whispered her name.
Her eyes flickered open and she smiled up at him. "So you're back." she said, "Did you get the comfort you needed, love?" He nodded, and smiled. "I'm ready." was all he said.
Briony got up from the chair and picked up the candle. "Good" she said and yawned. "I think tomorra will be soon enough, don' you?" Philip began to agree, then suddenly he felt that if he dreamed about the demon again, the fight would be lost.
He placed a hand on her arm, and she turned. "What is it, Philip?" He just stood there for a moment looking down into her face and somehow knew that he must not lose this battle. "I can't sleep now, Brie. If he comes t'me in my dreams again, he'll gain control and win." he said. Her eyes opened wide, "Of course, I should'a known tha'! Sleep must've clouded my brain." She sat back down and looked up at him, "What do you want t'do, Philip?" she asked.
Philip looked at towards the doorway. "I think it's now or never" he said. Briony got up and said "I'll get the others," but was stopped by a hand on her arm. She looked at Philip questioningly.
"No." he said, "There's no need t'wake them." Briony was horrified. "Of course there is! Philip, I don' plan to argue wi'ya over this." she said, angrily. "They have a right t'be there, and you'll need them before this night is through. They've been workin' all day tryin' t'figure out how t'best help you. Alex even tried t'decipher the letterin' on that medallion. You'll not be leavin' them out now, lad."
Philip stood looking down at her dimunitive form, so angry. He began to laugh and couldn't stop for some time. Here she was, looking like a seventeen year old, lecturing him, a full grown man and calling him..."Lad? Looks who's talkin'. I've got fifteen years on you now, love." He said when he could speak again. She had begun to chuckle as well. Then he grew serious. "Alright, let's go get them." he said and put his arm around her. He kissed the top of her head before they left the Library. Briony heaved a sigh of relief as she followed him into the hall. At the top of the stairs, they split up.
"Derek...derek wake up." Philip was whispering lightly so as not to awaken the house members since his precept had been placed in the family wing. Derek sat bolt upright in bed and started to speak when Philip placed his hand over his friend's mouth. "Shhhhh. We don' want the entire house up do we?"
"What is it?" Derek whispered, not fully awake. "What's wrong?" He was concerned and mystified at Philip's waking him. Then he realized where they were. "The amulet." he said, and Philip nodded. "Right, I'll be right down. Library?" Philip nodded again, smiled and left him to get dressed. As Derek dressed quickly, he felt as if he was in a waking dream. It was out of character for Philip to be the one calling the shots.
"Alex, it's time." Briony whispered to her, aware that she wasn't sleeping. Alex sat up, and threw back the covers. She was fully clothed. Briony grinned, "Clever girl, you knew too, didn' you?" Alex smiled grimly, and nodded. "Where is he now?" she asked, suspiciously.
"Don' worry, he's gone to get Derek up." Briony replied. "OK. Let's get Nick." Alex said. "Nick's gettin' dressed and will meet us in the Library." Briony told her softly as they left the room and headed downstairs. They met Philip at the head of the stairs. He had changed into his ceremonial cassock and was carrying a crucifix. He smiled as they noticed his costume "Every little bit helps." he said. The two women nodded in agreement, and all three went down together. Alex was relieved. She too had been worried about Philip trying to take on the thing alone.
When they were all assembled in the Library again, Philip looked at his friends and said "I'm sorry about this..." Alex cut short his apologies. "We understand, Philip. You can't afford to lose your advantage." He smiled at her and thought, "Alex. She always has known me better than I know myself, I think."
Nick said "Yeah. Too bad I didn't bring my revolver with me. You guys should have told me we were going into battle." Briony said, "Don't worry Nick, a gun wouldn't do us any good tonight, anyway." Nick had his own views on that, but chose to remain silent. He just said "OK Philip, what's the plan?" Philip smiled tightly, "Well Nick, I don' really have one at this point. I guess I'll be playin' this one by ear. Any suggestions?"
The others looked at Briony. She sighed and said to them "I really can't tell you what t'do next, you know." Then she turned to Philip and said "Just follow your instincts, love. God will do the rest." Derek felt that this was insufficient guidance, but held his tongue.
Alex spoke up, "Shouldn't we go into Ciaran's study...I mean that is where your dreams have taken place, isn't it Philip?" He nodded. "I guess tha's a good place to start." he said and led the way out of the Library and down the hall to Ciaran's private domain. For the first time, Derek noticed that Philip carried a large golden cross. "I hope he has more up his sleeve than that would imply." he thought, then chastised himself. He'd seen Philip defeat evil with less. He knew that he had to retain his faith in his friend if he was to be of any help. He clapped Philip on the shoulder comfortingly. Philip smiled up at Derek, glad that Briony had convinced him of their importance.
When they got to the study, Philip stopped and turned his ear to the door. He whispered to them "Do you hear that? And that smell, it smells almost like..." He opened the door suddenly and a figure jumped up, spun around and rushed at them. "Incense." Philip said, finishing his sentence just as he was shoved aside by the man coming at them.
Nick and Derek grabbed the man, forced him back into the room and pinned him to the wall. "Seamus O'Day" Philip said, surprised. "What're doin' here in the middle of the night?" he asked, and was shocked when the man spit at him. "What's it t'you, Priest? You've no business here. If you know wha's gud fer you, you'll take yer friends and leave this house. NOW!" he shouted.
Alex looked around at the candles, books and incense burners which were placed on the floor. "Philip...Derek, he's been practicing black magic." she said. Derek looked at Briony sharply, and she shook her head. "No, this one is trying to use the power of the amulet for his own purposes. He hasn't been sucessful, though." she said.
Seamus used Derek's divided attention as an opportunity to break their hold. Nick, smaller and lighter by about 75 pounds was unable to retain his grasp. Seamus grabbed Briony and a ceremonial knife he had been prepared to use. He placed the knife to her throat. "If you don' want me t'hurt her, yu'll leave me alone an' get outta here." he cried.
Before any of them could move, however, she pretended to faint. The large man was unprepared for this and she slithered out of his arms. When Seamus realized that she had tricked him he went wild with anger. He grabbed books, candles, anything he could get his hands on and threw them at the people gathered in the room. He picked up the amulet and threw it at Philip so hard that it would have caused him serious injury had he not caught it.
Suddenly, the lights in the room dimmed and a foul odor rose over the incense. Seamus sensed something behind him and spun around. In front of him a large dark mass was forming out of the shadows in the room. It's grossly misshapen and hideous looking body was coming together before their eyes. When it had what was obviously it's final form, it picked Seamus up and tossed him against the wall, so hard that they heard every bone in his body breaking. Then it turned to Philip.
Philip just stood holding the amulet in one hand, and his crucifix in the other. When he realized what he was doing, he dropped the amulet. The demon threw back his head and laughed, a horrible deep throaty growl. "A bit late for that now, boy. And YOU!" he hissed as Briony stepped forward to stand beside Philip. "I killed you. You don't belong here!"
Briony's head came up, and she stared the demon in the eye. "I belong wherever God wants me to be. And right now, that place is by his side." she gestured at Philip. "You have no power to remove me." Philip put his arm around her shoulders. The demon just laughed. "Oh don't I? Well we'll see about that."
Derek, Alex and Nick stood just inside the door, wondering what would happen next. They couldn't take their eyes off the demon. It was hideous. Huge and black, with smoldering yellow eyes. Alex thought about the dream Philip had had the night before and realized that he must have reserves that they didn't even know existed. He'd faced this thing down in his dreams. She shivered involuntarily at the thought. Derek and Nick weren't even aware yet of that little, tid bit. Her respect for Philip had grown enormously in the past few days, and this was the icing on the cake.
The demon moved to stand in front of the pair, and Philip put Briony behind him for protection. He was still clutching the crucifix in his right hand. Alex could see he held it so tightly that his knuckles were white. Suddenly he screamed in pain and dropped it. The icon glowed white hot. The demon laughed and said "You didn't really think that THING would protect you, did you boy?"
Philip looked Iuvart squarely in the eye and said "You have no power over me. Do what you must t'me, but I'll not bend t'your will." The demon bent his face to Philip's and he almost passed out from the stench of the thing's breath. He gripped Briony's hand so tightly that she cried out, but her cry went unheard by Philip. "You think that there's nothing I can do to convince you to relinquish your soul? What about her? How long will you see her suffer before you break, eh boy?"
With that he looked at Briony. She screamed. It was the scream of someone in utter agony. She clutched her abdomen and doubled over onto the floor. Philip released her hand and knelt beside her, crying her name. The others stood, powerless in this battle of wills. He looked up at the demon and yelled, "Stop it! She's already paid your price! It's me you want, so hurt me!"
Iuvart grinned, "Oh I've only just begun, boy. She'll not die until I'm ready for her to die...AGAIN that is. However, you can stop her pain with a word. Just agree to join with me." Philip looked down at Briony and hesitated. Even in her pain, she had the strength to shake her head at him. Philip groaned in frustration. He thought he had been prepared for a battle, but he'd not counted on Iuvart using Briony against him. He gathered his strength and spat at the demon, "NEVER!"
The demon held out his hand toward Briony and made a fist. Her screams were intensified as they heard her bones crunching. Alex realized that she was holding onto Nick's sleeve with a viselike grip only when he tried to move her fingers. She couldn't even tear her eyes away from the scene before her to apologize. Tears filled Philip's eyes as he watched the girl he had adored being tortured by the thing before him. He shook his head in mute agony. "Phiiiilllliiiip!" Briony screeched, unable to withstand the pain. He gathered her into his arms as she began to bleed from the open wounds the demon had begun to inflict upon her.
Iuvart chuckled as he said, "She won't pass out, you know. I won't let her. It spoils the effect, somehow." Philip was praying softly, tears on his face. The noise in the room was deafening to the three standing inside the door. With Briony's screams and the demon's laughter, they wondered how Philip was able to retain his grip on sanity.
Suddenly, Philip got to his feet, unable to take any more. "STOP IT! ALRIGHT!!" he shouted. As quickly as they started, Briony's screams subsided into whimpering. Iuvart leered at Philip and said, "So you have come to your senses, boy? I knew you were weak! Ha! It seems I have won afterall." The demon was gloating now.
Philip knelt back down beside Briony to help her into a sitting position. As he put his arms around her, he heard her whisper in his ear "Kill me." He looked at her sharply, and there was a pleading look in her eyes. He shook his head, horrified at the thought. Then she whispered the words he would never forget in his entire life. "Please, beloved. If you love me, if you ever loved me... do it now. It's the only way." Philip suddenly remembered the conversation they had had in his room back in San Francisco. She was right. He trusted her implicitly, and he knew that if she said there was no other way, then there wasn't. Philip looked quickly to see if the demon had noticed their brief exchange. Iuvart was too engrossed with his rewards in hell for obtaining the soul of a priest, to notice the pair on the floor.
Philip saw the knife that Seamus had been using on the floor next to them. Surreptitiously, he picked it up. Only Alex noticed the knife slip into his palm. "Oh my God," she thought, "What is he going to do?" She touched Derek's sleeve, and when he looked at her she mouthed the word "Knife." Derek looked puzzled for a moment, then looked at Philip and Briony on the floor. The knife that was there a moment ago, was no longer to be seen. He turned back to Alex, a question in his eyes. She nodded her head grimly.
Philip looked down at Briony in his arms and said softly "I have always, and will always adore you. Forgive me, my love." Then he looked to the sky and prayed silently to God that this would work. Suddenly, Philip shouted the demon's name. Iuvart ceased his cavorting and looked at Philip and Briony on the floor, "Yes, boy?" he said. Philip said "Don' call me BOY!", then crossed himself and plunged the knife deep into Briony's chest, piercing her heart.
The moment the knife touched Briony's heart, the demon released a wail like no sound any of them had ever heard before. It filled the house, and yet it didn't seem to leave the room. It was all around them and inside their heads at the same time. Nick and Alex put their hands over their ears, but it didn't seem to help at all.
Philip just sat there, holding her tightly as she died. He stood up when he was sure that Briony was dead. The demon had ceased his screaming. There was total silence in the room when Philip said, "She's dead. And when I chose, not you! I will NEVER betray her memory by giving in t'you. So kill me now, if you will, but know this. I'll never join you. Not in a million years." There was steel in his voice even though he spoke through his tears.
The demon growled at him, but Philip was unmoved. He realized that he no longer feared the thing. The worst it could do would be to kill him and send him to Briony. He almost wished it would do just that. However, Philip sensed that he was in no danger of losing his life to this beast. The demon just stood there, looking at Philip with loathing. "Now who's the coward?" he thought.
After a moment, he bent over and picked up the amulet. "Here."
he said to Iuvart, "Take this sacrelige and return t'Hell, where
you belong." He threw the amulet at the demon, who caught it in one
huge hand. Iuvart said "You haven't seen the last of me, boy! I'll
get even with you for this." then he vanished, as quickly as he had
Philip looked down at the Briony's still form, laying on the floor of the study. He sank down beside her in exhaustion and grief. To lose her once had been torment. To lose her twice was unbearable. He felt as if he had put the knife into his own heart and someone was twisting it viciously. He knelt beside her, sobbing, and lifted her head into his lap.
The others remained silent, realizing the enormity of what Philip had had to do. Tears were coursing down his cheeks and he sobbed into her hair as he pulled the knife from her chest and dropped it on the floor. "Why, Lord?" he cried aloud in anguish, "Why did she have t'die, again and at MY hand?" His cries subsided into sobs and then simply tears. Suddenly, Briony moved in his arms. He gasped, and sat up, almost dropping her head as he jerked upright.
Briony's eyes opened and she looked up into Philip's tearstained face with exquisite tenderness. "Philip" she whispered, and reached up to touch his face. She brushed the tears away from his cheeks and said in a stronger voice "It's over, beloved. You won." Philip pulled her into his arms and kissed her with all the passion he had stored away for fifteen years. The two on the floor were oblivious to the three observers inside the doorway. They backed noiselessly out of the room and shut the door. Once they were outside, they heard Philip laugh softly at something Briony said. All three were silent for a moment. "Do you think she will be ok?" Nick asked, finally.
Derek nodded, then said, "I don't think she will be remaining, however." Alex had been crying softly since she had realized what Philip was going to do with the knife. "Why, Derek? Why did he have to go through it all again? I just don't understand! How could God torture him so?" Derek put his arm around her, unsure of how to answer her. "It is not for us to question, Alex." was all he said in the end.
Over an hour later, Philip and Briony found the other three in the Library. They walked in, and Derek sensed that Philip already knew Briony must leave him again. He seemed sad, but that sadness was tempered with a confidence that Derek had not sensed in his friend before. The sun was just beginning to shine through the windows, it would be a beautiful day.
They appeared to have had quite a "discussion" after the others had left. Their hair was mussed, their eyes glowed and they were holding hands. When they were all seated around the table, Derek asked Briony to explain several points to them.
"Why was it necessary for us to be here, Briony? The demon didn't even seem to notice Alex, Nick or myself." he asked. Briony opened her mouth to answer, but Philip spoke first.
"I needed your strength Derek. Your's, Alex's and Nick's. Even while I was in the throws of my anguish, I felt your...well I can only call it love...comin' through. It gave me the strength t'go on." he said, blushing. "I know I've always cared for you guys and I guess the affection's mutual, huh?" he grinned.
Derek nodded. Nick and Alex just smiled, and Nick said "Hey anything to help. But of all times for me to leave my gun in my room back home..." Philip actually chuckled at that and Derek smiled. "Alright," he said, "I understand that. However, when Philip was beginning to weaken, why didn't the demon attack one or all of us as well?" Briony looked Derek in the eye and said, "Because, he couldn't."
All four started questioning her at once. "OK, let me explain," Briony said, holding up her hand to silence their multiple questions. "Iuvart had to play by certain rules. He imposed those rules on himself when he caused our car accident 15 years ago."
"How? And, what rules?" Philip asked. Briony took his hand in hers. "I was the only one he could physically use against you, Philip" she replied softly. "When he killed me t'get t'you, he ensured that I would be the one he had ta ultimately destroy t'actually finish the job."
In response to the questions in their eyes, she said, smiling, "He had no idea that he was actually makin' his job harder by killing me than it ever would have been if he'd left us alone. He was just too anxious t'obtain the soul of a priest. That's what greed can do." She paused a moment and went on to add "According to God's word, demons cannot change the course of history. And God is still supreme, no matter what Satan thinks." They all smiled at that.
Alex asked the next question. "What would have happened if Philip had given in. Obviously, his soul would have been forfeit, right?" Briony looked uncertain about how much to reveal. Finally she addressed Derek. "Derek, do you remember me tellin' you that Philip and I had always been together, and would be together again in the next life?" He nodded, unsure of where she was leading. Briony continued, "That was the arrangement I had with Him. What I didn' tell you was that there were two possibilities."
She looked at Philip, worried about his reaction to what she was about to say. Finally, she continued. "If Philip succeeded, then we would be together in heaven, as God meant us to be. But...if he failed..." she paused, then said "Let's just say that I gambled my future on Philip's faith."
All four were horrified, but Derek spoke first "You mean to tell me that if Philip had given into the demon, you would have perished in hell too?" Briony looked at Philip and smiled serenely. "I told you, I believed in Philip."
Philip himself had turned white as a sheet. He jumped up and began to pace the floor. He was more furious with her than he'd ever been in his life. Finally, he spun her chair around to face him. "HOW COULD YOU TAKE SUCH A RISK?" he shouted down at her. He grabbed her up out of her chair and began to shake her with a violence that surprised everyone. Nick moved to stop him, but before he could take a step, Philip's anger subsided.
Suddenly, he pulled her into his arms and asked softly, "Why didna ya tell me what was at stake? Do you have any idea how close I came t'givin' in?" Briony smiled up at him, "Of course I know, but you didn't, my darlin'. That's what's important. Besides, my place is at your side, be that in heaven or..." she left the words unspoken. Each was awestruck at the idea that she had willingly risked her immortal soul to be with him. Derek felt tears prick his eyes at the realization that as deep as the love Philip felt for her was, it was nothing compared to the love she had for him.
Philip was softly stroking her hair. He still couldn't get over the possibility that he might have destroyed her right along with himself. Briony leaned back in his arms and told him, "I heard your prayer answered, Philip. As I lost consciousness from the knife wound, God told me everythin' was goin' t'be fine. I knew then that you had won. You trusted me, and you won." Gently she pulled away from him. "Now my job here is done and I must leave."
Alex and Derek had risen, too. Philip cried, "No! Not yet!" and tried to grab her again, but she eluded him. She opened the Library door and started across the hall. The others followed her, Philip in the lead. At the door she stopped. She turned around and looked at the man she loved enough to spend eternity in hell for. She put her arms around him and hugged him tightly, then raised her face for his kiss.
Ciaran, coming down the staircase was horrified to see Philip, a priest, kissing the young girl Derek had brought with him, "and quite passionately too, if I know what's what," he thought. The others, Derek included, seemed to find nothing wrong with their behavior and Ciaran shook his head at the lot of them. He went back upstairs to find Annie. He had to tell someone about this. Derek noticed his flight and wondered what Ciaran would make of the mess in his study. He smiled wryly to himself. "And he'll probably think we're the pagans who did it!" he thought.
When she could no longer postpone the inevitable, Briony broke the kiss. She turned back to the group in the hall and said, her voice breaking, "I just want to thank each of you for being such good friends to Philip. He deserves friends who care for, understand and accept him. I know each of you does. God bless you all." She hugged Alex and smiled at them radiantly, then walked out of the house and down the steps.
As she got to the street, she vanished completely. One short sob escaped Philip's lips when she disappeared. Alex walked forward, put her arm around him and led him back into the house. "I'll miss her too, Philip. You just have to accept that she's out there waiting for you." He smiled at her then, "I know she is Alex. That's the one thin' that'll keep me goin'."
"This is the stuff that dreams are made of..." William Shakespeare
...The sun was shining brightly, birds were chirping and a warm breeze blew over them. It ruffled Philip's hair. They were laying on a blanket in the grass, their bodies entwined. Softly they could hear the gurgle of the brook beside them at the old sawmill, their favorite place. Briony reached over and brushed the hair from his eyes. He caught her hand and kissed her palm. She trembled, as she always did at his touch. "I love you Philp Callaghan, more than life itself" she said. He smiled into her eyes and kissed her nose. "As I do you, Briony Murphy. Will we be together forever, my love?" he asked her softly. "Til the end of time, itself." she replied with certainty, smiling tenderly at him. He leaned over and kissed her lips then, hungrily. Words were no longer necessary.