"Spirits, spirits, one, two, three
Come appear and bow to me,
Spirits, spirits, I thee call
Come to me as darkness falls."

She finished her recitation, grinning merrily at her three friends as she did so. The girl on her left gave a small giggle, in her excitement coming close to knocking over the tall candle positioned at her left elbow. The little flame danced and bowed, and almost went out.

"Do another one!" She was hugely amused by the whole affair - by the entertainment of the spell-casting, and by the fun of being huddled together in the darkness, surrounded by bobbing candle flames and impressively ancient-looking books. A third girl, more serious than the rest, shook her head.

"I don't think you should. You don't know what might happen."

"Don't be such a spoilsport. Who's it going to hurt if I read out some of this stuff? It's not real." The first girl flicked through a few pages in the book placed before her, then giggled loudly as she found a new rhyme to chant. "Here's a good one."

"Don't do it Charlotte." The third girl seemed disturbed by the whole affair, but Charlotte merely laughed.

"It's not real. Go and hide in bed with the dolls if you're scared."

"I'm not scared." Her friend sounded indignant and angry, but also more than a little uneasy. She was scared, and with good reason. She had seen more than enough in her short life to be certain that playing with spells was not a game to be taken lightly. "I just don't think that you should say any more of that stuff."

"Ignore her." The fourth girl pressed forward, peering over Charlotte's shoulder to read the words of the new spell. "Let's say this one together."

"No." The third girl folded her arms, resolute. Charlotte sighed.


"I am not!"

"Prove it." Certain that she had secured the last word on the subject, Charlotte smiled a superior smile. Her friends giggled. The third girl, cross and upset, climbed to her feet and turned her back on her companions.

"Fine. You play your stupid games. I have better things to do." She bent to pick up her doll, which had lain at her side during the course of the early part of the spell-casting. Playing with its straggly blonde hair, she marched across to the beds at the side of the room and sat down on the nearest one, her back still to her friends. Charlotte giggled.

"Baby." Her two companions also sniggered, but they got no further reaction from their friend. Ignoring her the three girls bent together over the book before them.

"Ready?" The fourth girl, her eyes glowing with a hushed kind of excitement, reached out and took up the nearest candle, holding it over the yellowed pages of the book to allow for easier reading. Her two friends nodded.

"World of darkness, world of fear
World beyond the now and here
Break the barriers, tear the skies
Shake the earth and halt the tides
Send your soldier to walk the paths
Send the first to steal the last
Step before us, destroy the light
Bring forth the one who--"

"Shut up!" Unable to listen any longer, the girl on the bed leapt to her feet and ran towards her friends, kicking the book closed and sending several candles toppling onto the ground. The carpet caught quickly, but Charlotte, quick-thinking and capable, threw the nearest rug over the newly born flames and stamped them out. A plume of smoke filtered into the air, and the smoke alarm jumped into life. The loud, steady beeping filled the room.

"Oh no." The second girl, all traces of calm and confidence gone, looked about in terror at her scorched carpet, and at the smouldering candles still standing guard about the room. "My mother will be so mad if she sees this..."

"Quickly." Jarred into life after seeing the chaos caused by her intervention, the third girl grabbed the candles, blew them out, and shovelled them under the bed she had just been sitting on. Charlotte threw another rug over the scorch mark on the floor, then pushed the books after the still smoking candles. One by one the girls leapt into bed, just as the door was flung open and a woman burst into the room.

"Kids?" She stared about, smelling smoke but unable to see where it was coming from. "What's going on?"

"I don't know mom. The alarm just started going. We were asleep..." The second girl rubbed her eyes as though to clear them of bleary fatigue. "Is there a fire?"

"No. Maybe the battery just needs changing." Her mother advanced into the room and waved a duster at the alarm until the beeping stopped. "You kids go back to sleep. I'll take a look at it in the morning."

"Okay." Her daughter lay back down, stifling a triumphant grin under the bedclothes. "Night Mom."

"Goodnight Alice." Her mother smiled around at the other girls. "Goodnight everybody." She stepped out of the room and pulled the door shut. For a second silence reigned, before Charlotte gave a gleeful giggle.

"That was close." In the darkness one of her friends answered her laugh with one of her own.

"I thought we were really going to be in trouble."

"Could we finish the spell now? We had to stop it when we were just getting to the good part." Alice was sitting up again, smiling around at her friends. "We could light all the candles again."

"Don't be stupid." The third girl was also sitting up, her small frame outlined against the moonlight, looking strangely older than her nine years. "There's no sense in asking for trouble."

"Kat's right." Charlotte curled up in her bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. She was tired, and happy to call an end to the spell-casting. "It's a shame nothing happened though."

"No it's not." Kat pulled her doll into a closer embrace, and turned to look out of the window. She didn't like spells, and she didn't like it when people tried turning them into jokes. "Anything could have happened. We were lucky." For a moment a shadow passed across the moon, and she swallowed hard, curling up into a tight ball on the bed and turning her back on the scene outside the window. "I hope."

"What were you expecting Kat? Evil wizards and demons?" Alice giggled, and another of the girls joined in the mirth. Charlotte, however, frowned across at Kat through the growing murk of the deepening night.

"It was just a joke, Kat. It was nothing to be worried about." She no longer sounded quite convinced, although whether that was as a result of Kat's grim certainties or just her own newly awakened unease, she couldn't tell. "It's not like we were really making anything happen."

"I guess." All the same, Kat could not bring herself to take another look at the moon. It had seemed to her that there was a faint red mist beginning to float before it, and for some reason that made her feel very uncomfortable.

"You're worrying about nothing, Kat." Alice lay back and stared up at the ceiling. "Night everyone."

"Night." Charlotte closed her eyes and tried not to let Kat's worries disturb her own peace. Nearby Alice and the other girl whispered fragments of the final spell backwards and forward at each other as they began to drift off into sleep. Soon only Kat was awake, staring into the blackness of the room, her doll clutched painfully tight in her arms. Something was wrong, and she could feel it - even if she didn't understand how. She wanted her mother, and she wanted to speak to Derek Rayne. He always made her feel better. Even her mother couldn't make the shadows and the nightmares go away faster than could Derek. The thought of him made her feel a little stronger, and with her hold on her doll tightening even more, she finally turned her head to look once again at the moon. It had disappeared. She pressed down under the covers of her bed, and tried to convince herself that this was a good sign. The eerie red mist had gone. Somehow, however, she couldn't seem to make herself believe that it was for the best. She closed her eyes tightly, and made herself think of something else, but even so she could not banish whispered pieces of the spells from her mind. What if they had worked? What might they have conjured? Had they really been as ineffectual as her friends believed? She rubbed at her eyes, and thought about all of the terrible things she had seen so far in her short life. Too many things for her to take any of this lightly. She shivered slightly, and wished that she was not in a strange bed, in her friend's house. She wanted to be with her mother. For some reason she couldn't help feeling that she should be there, in her own house, at that very moment. She couldn't help feeling that her mother was in terrible danger.


Rachel Corrigan awoke in the early hours of the night, unaware what had caused her to leave her slumber, or what might have led her to fall asleep so early in the first place. A gust of wind blew across her face, moving the curtains at the window and drawing her eyes towards them. She stared at the gently swaying material, watching the patterns of the folds in the cloth as they blew to-and-fro. It was relaxing; hypnotic; and it began to lull her back towards sleep.

The creak of a floorboard made consciousness snap back into place with a frightening suddenness. She blinked up into the darkness, wondering if she dared turn her head towards the sound. It was probably Kat, unable to sleep for some reason, and seeking solace in her mother's arms - except that Kat wasn't at home. She was spending the night with a friend three miles away, and wouldn't be back until noon. Probably just the wind then, making the house move, making the floorboards settle. Houses were full of noise, in the most unexpected places, at the most unexpected times. Innocent noises. But when you spent your time working with the Legacy, there was very little that ever seemed to be innocent anymore. Very slowly, barely able to breathe, she turned her head towards the sound and sat up.

There was a man in the room, staring at her from across the length of the bed. He wore black; black trousers, a black shirt, and a long black overcoat that swirled about at his knees, somehow contriving to make him seem taller than he was. Tightly curled black hair clung to his head, the uppermost twists and loops blowing in the breeze. He was smiling at her, but she didn't like the expression on his face. It wasn't a friendly smile at all.

"Who are you?" She pulled the bedclothes tightly around her, clasping them to her chest. "What do you want?"

"Rachel Corrigan." He reached out towards her, and his hand seemed to caress her face even though he was standing so much more than an arm's length away. Redness swirled in the dark pits of his eyes. "I want you."

"Keep away from me." She backed away up the bed, wishing that she was better equipped, better prepared. A crucifix on her bedside table, or a suitable psalm or Bible quotation, memorised and ready to chant at the relevant moment. Instead all that she could do was to sit there, and try to remember the many things she had seen Derek do, in the many confrontations she had witnessed him enduring. The intruder merely laughed.

"You're mine." He reached out towards her, opening his eyes wide and his mouth wider. There was nothing within him. She could see deep into his skull, but there was nothing inside that should have been there. Instead there was only a vast empty blackness, broken by passing swirls of a faint red mist. Rachel suddenly felt intensely cold.

"Keep away from me." She tried to climb out of the bed, but her legs did not seem to work. She tried to turn her head away from the black emptiness inside her guest's grinning skull, but she found herself transfixed. The coldness within her grew. "I won't go with you."

"Yes you will." She could feel the darkness enveloping her, sucking her in. She was fighting it, struggling, trying to tear free, but there were icy hands resting on her bare shoulders, and her head was beginning to swim.

"Help me." She didn't know who she was calling to; who she was hoping might hear her futile plea. She wasn't even sure that she had heard it herself. "Please..."

"Come with me Rachel." She could feel a grip tightening on her throat, beginning to crush her chest. She no longer knew where she was, or even which way up she was sitting. Or was she standing? Or floating, upside-down and back to front, underwater perhaps, down where it was cold and dark. Somewhere inside her head a sly and calculating something laughed an icy and terrifying laugh. Rachel could feel herself drifting towards the sound, and could see the darkness and the red mists seeping out from deep within her guest's empty eyes. It was coming to get her; coming to envelop her; coming to drag her far, far away. She wanted to cry, but she wasn't sure how to make her eyes work. She was trying to summon up the last remaining energies within her, when the loud and jarring cry of the telephone made her world snap suddenly back into place. There was a rushing sensation - a jolting snap like that of a switch being thrown - and all was back to normal. The man was gone. In the cold darkness of her bedroom she could just see the telephone, lit by the faintest of grey lights from the world outside. She made a wild grab for it, shouting the name of the person she hoped was at the other end.


"Rachel." The soft Dutch tones of the Precept were as reassuring as ever, relaxing and focussing her. There was surprise in his voice, which she could sympathise with - but now was hardly the time for involved explanations. She struggled to get her breathing under control.

"Derek I've just had some kind of a visitation. I think. A-a-a man. Dressed in black. He was full of... emptiness, and he said that he wanted me to go with him. If you hadn't called when you did..."

"I knew that I had to call." He sounded faintly perplexed, although such experiences were not exactly unfamiliar to him. She managed a smile. Should have known that it wasn't just a coincidence. Derek probably didn't even believe in coincidences. "Are you alright?"

"Yes. I think so. I'm still here, still alive..." She shivered. "I'm coming over. Is that okay?"

"Of course. Kat...?"

"Kat should be fine. She's spending tonight with a friend. Some kind of pyjama party for a classmate's tenth birthday." She managed a shaky laugh. "I've never been so glad to have her out of the house."

"Good. She should be fine if there are others around." Derek, as usual, seemed fully in control, even if he didn't know what was going on. "Come right over. Don't stop for anything, and don't talk to anyone. Anyone at all, understand?"

"I understand." She clutched more tightly at the telephone receiver. Derek always seemed to know what to do. All the same, she couldn't seem to shake the vision of that man, with his dark and empty eyes, opening his mouth to fill her with that cold, despairing sense of loneliness. She could hear his voice, echoing around inside her head. "Thankyou Derek."

"I'll see you soon." He rang off without preamble, and she stared at the now dead receiver. So like Derek. All business, all practicalities. No time for anything else. Her mind began to wander - to wonder - until she remembered that she was alone now, and that it was still dark and far too silent in her far too empty house. She pushed away the covers tangled around her shivering form, grabbing a collection of clothes and pulling them on as she ran from her bedroom and down the stairs. Nobody jumped out at her from behind the banisters, and nobody shouted after her as she ran out of the house and hurried towards her car. Never before had it seemed so imperative that she fit the key into the car door quickly - and never before had the task seemed to involve such an impossible feat of dexterity. Only on the fourth try did she succeed in making the key turn, and then had to fight to open the door and climb in behind the wheel. Her hand shook as she pushed the key into the ignition, and the engine didn't seem to want to start at first. She glanced into the rear view mirror and looked back at the house.

He was standing in the driveway, staring into the car through the rear window, watching her with those empty black eye sockets that seemed to go on forever. Cold fear flooded through her, but she could not seem to start the engine. He began to walk towards her, hands reaching out to grip the car door. She gasped, and fought with the ignition, struggling to release the gear lever. Finally, after what seemed an age, the engine sprang into life.

"You're mine, Rachel Corrigan." He was leaning closer to her, close enough for her to feel the icy coldness of his breath upon her face. She slammed her foot down on the accelerator.

"Not yet." The car leapt forward. He stood very still in the drive, staring after her as she drove crazily out onto the road. When she looked back again there was no sign of him, although somehow that wasn't much of a comfort.

"I hope you know what this is about, Derek." She turned the car off the main road, heading towards the tidal road that led to the San Francisco Legacy House, and sanctuary. It was hard to keep her hands on the wheel, so hard were they shaking. She forced herself to calm down as she drove, and soon she was back in control. Still she couldn't lose the thought of those empty black eyes, or of the red mists that had reached out to engulf her. It was with the greatest relief that she turned her car onto the last stretch of the journey. Already she could see the eccentric architecture of the house, rising up out of the deepening night still descending upon the world. Mists of late fog swirled about the high roofs and the tops of the ivy-covered walls. It seemed desolate and empty, and it was scary in an odd sort of way - but it was welcoming too, and infinitely reassuring. She couldn't shake the thought, though, as she brought the car to a halt and climbed out onto the dew damp driveway of the familiar building, that things weren't going to stay reassuring for long.

And when he opened the door to greet her, the serious expression on the face of the Precept did nothing to make that thought go away. She had a feeling now that it was going to be a long time before she would feel reassured again.


Alone in the silence, Alex Moreau shut her eyes, letting her active, tired mind relax back through its long list of the day's accomplishments, until finally it ground to a halt. It was a nice feeling, to think about absolutely nothing for a while - to allow no troublesome thoughts or worries, no plans or deadlines, to invade the calm of her inner self. No thoughts, that was, except for the one that told her she had been at the museum for far, far too long. Everybody else would have gone home by now, leaving her here, in the dusty old storeroom, with nobody but a statue of Hermes for company. There were security guards around somewhere of course, but so far she hadn't seen any. Presumably the purpose of a security guard was to remain unseen, and then leap out at unsuspecting passers-by. She hoped that somebody had warned them about her presence, for she wasn't entirely sure how to work the complex combination locks and pass-card doors that she needed to get through in order to reach first the inner lobby, then the outer lobby, and then finally her car. She glanced self-consciously down at the identification card clipped to her collar. That at least was confirmation of her authenticity - proof, should she need it, that she had a genuine reason for being locked in a museum late at night, surrounded by a thousand priceless pieces from all around the world. Not that she had actually had a chance to look at the thousand beautiful things, of course. She had been sealed up in this dusty little storeroom for twelve hours, accompanied first by three eager young post-grad students, then by three decidedly bored post-grad students, and then finally by one bored post-grad student, one drunk post-grad student, and one identification card abandoned by a runaway. She had no idea where he had got to, or how he had made it out of the building, but presumably he had. Either that or he was lurking somewhere, in the renaissance section perhaps, or was lost forever in contemplation of the Escher original just beside the door to the inner lobby. Alex had made the mistake of looking at it too closely herself earlier, and she was sure that she could still make her head spin just by thinking about it.

"One other thing you owe me, Derek." She rose to her feet, brushing dust and packing straw from her clothes, and turned for one final look at Hermes. It was a beautiful statue, there was no denying that. It was in remarkable condition given its age - some two thousand years-old at least. She would have to wait for the analysis results to be absolutely sure, but as far as she could tell it certainly pre-dated Christianity. The nose was worn, as were the tips of the ears, and the wings on the beautifully rendered sandals were almost broken away - but still the statue itself stood proud and tall, and stared about at the dusty storeroom as though haughtily demanding the sort of living quarters deserved by a god. She patted him on the shoulder, careful of the cracks around his upraised right arm, and began pulling the canvas covering back over his head.

"Goodnight little guy." She smiled. "Sorry. That's no way to talk to a god, is it - even if you are only three feet tall." Hermes stared straight ahead, and she pulled the canvas over his stone eyes. "See you in the morning, probably. Either that or you'll get Derek here instead. That's if I can actually swing a day off some time this century..." Since there was no response from the stone god, in sympathy or otherwise, she finished covering him up and then headed towards the door. It was tempting to linger when she stood in the doorway looking back, for she liked the view of the brightly lit little room, with its sawdust- and straw-strewn floor, the broken crates lying about in the corners, and the sheaves of completed and not-so-completed paperwork thrown over every available surface. Evidence of a day's work done well. She hesitated with her hand on the light switch, and in her mind a picture stirred.

She was standing on a street, with darkness all around her - awe-inspiringly complete, consuming, terrifying darkness - but it was not the darkness of night. She frowned, her hand closed around the light switch, her palm pressing down hard on the plastic edge, the sloping switch digging into the heel of her hand. The lights blinked out. She tried to recapture the essence of her vision, but all had returned to normal, and her sight had been restored to those things external. She rubbed her eyes. Maybe she had been working too hard, although she knew that she should report her sighting to Derek anyway. She wondered what all of that darkness could have meant, and she wondered what there might have been in the storeroom that could have triggered her sight in the first place. Her eyes trailed across it once again - papers, crates, straw, sawdust, canvas-covered statue... nothing. Frustrated, she glanced instead towards the windows, walking towards them as though drawn by her sixth sense. Heavy blinds covered the glass, partly as insurance against thieves, and partly to protect the sometimes delicate treasures from unpleasant draughts. She pushed the barriers aside and stared out into the dark, dark night.

She thought at first that her imagination, already spooked by the darkness and the silence, to say nothing of her eerie vision of something unpleasant, was playing upon her mind. Surely that wasn't a man out there, beyond the glass. How could he be there in the face of such security? She stared out at him, seeing a tall, dark-clad man who looked as though he was about her age; somebody built for stamina, with a lean body that bordered on muscular, and shoulders that were fixed, ramrod straight and stiff. She dismissed the possibility of it being an intruder, and decided in the end that it must be a security guard, doing a tour of the grounds before heading back to the office. She considered waving to him, attracting his attention to let at least one of the guards know that she was still inside the building. Maybe he would even come inside and help her through the myriad security locks. She could do with a hand, and his looked very much like the kind of hand she would enjoy having on her side. With this in mind she lifted her fingers to the glass, intending to tap on the window to call to the guard - only to realise, just as her hand came down, that the man in the garden was not wearing any kind of a uniform. Her hand froze; and at that moment, as she began to make a hasty withdrawal from the window, the man turned and looked towards her. She froze, certain that he could not see her with the lights in her room turned off, and yet deeply disturbed that he seemed to be staring in her direction so very intently. She took a step back, her unease growing, and the man, in tandem with her movements, took a step closer.

"Okay..." Her unease fast becoming something rather more urgent, Alex backed away until she felt her feet strike the raised edge of the doorframe. Her hands grasped the door handle, ready to make her escape for reasons that were not immediately clear. Certainly it was unnerving to see a man staring unexpectedly through a window - but why did she feel so horribly threatened? Her sixth sense, usually so faultless in its predictions, was shouting at her to run. She hesitated, and stared back through the glass at a man who should not have been able to see her, and yet clearly could see her very well indeed. He smiled at her, his expression one of an oily kind of amusement; his mouth drawing back in a ghastly grin that showed her, to her horror, that he had no teeth, no tongue, no usual mouth parts at all. Instead his throat was a gaping gulf; a vast emptiness that stretched onwards through an endless black void, interspersed with faint red mists. The mist was beginning to leak out, drifting into the night air, floating higher and higher into the sky, and tingeing the moon with its delicate red glow.

"This is definitely one that you owe me, Derek." She couldn't take her eyes off the figure, and couldn't steer her mind away from the thought that something, somewhere, knew exactly who she was and what she was a part of; had known that she was working late at the museum, and that she had been left alone. On the other side of the glass the lean figure had come to a halt, staring at her from just a few feet away, one hand reaching out to knock on the window, just as she had thought to do such a short time ago. His smile widened as he touched the glass, his face tipped closer to it, showing her that his eyes were as black and as empty as his mouth; showing her the depths of the emptiness that was within him. She felt cold - frighteningly cold - and her mind raged at her with visions and images inspired by her proximity to so close and powerful a force.

"Alex Moreau..." She heard the voice, although she was not sure how a man with no teeth and tongue - nor any other kind of internal workings as far as she could tell - was able to speak at all. He pushed his hands against the glass, and she felt a moment's reassurance when she remembered that the window was built to prevent forced entry. It did not so much as wobble, which told her that she was safe. The man could not reach her through such an obstacle. In a sudden panic she scrabbled for her cell phone, anxious to call for help even as she was making her escape. Perhaps Derek would know what this creature was, and would be able to tell her how best to avoid it. A few feet away however, outside in the cold night air, the creature gave a dull, echoing laugh and began to press against the window still harder. There was a curious noise - a buzzing sound, as of distant bees raging underwater - and slowly, gradually, but with horrible efficiency, the pressing hand began to glide through the glass. The cold transparent material moved aside for it, melting and changing and allowing him access. Alex couldn't help herself any longer. She screamed.

"Alex Moreau." The man was pressing his head through the glass now, his first arm already reaching out for her, the long, curving nails on his fingers ready to latch on to her, to hold her tight. She backed away, almost tripping up the slight step to the corridor outside, almost falling and losing everything. Behind her came a shout of anger.

"You cannot run from me Alex Moreau. I will have you. You are mine."

"Dream on." She slammed the door shut and broke into a run, hurtling down the corridors without thought or regard for security precautions. She did not hear the sirens that began to wail all around her, and neither did she notice the wildly flashing lights, sending waves of red and orange hurtling down the corridors in tandem with the rise and fall of the alarm's dreadful wail. Voices sounded in her wake.

"Alex Moreau..." She could hear the voice of her unearthly attacker in her head, and as long as it still echoed there, she did not feel safe enough to cease her flight. Only when the lobby doors hove into view did she skid to a halt, crashing into them and hurting her ribs. She glanced back down the corridor. Lit by the insane lights of the alarm system came the man, his wide open, empty eyes staring at her, and the red mists of his mouth reaching out to engulf her. She felt cold - colder than she had ever felt - and she could see a darkness beginning to surround her such as nothing that she had ever before been witness to. She had no route left for escape.

"You are mine." The man's voice was too loud, too deep, and yet at the same time too soft and too sibilant to be at all human. Alex tried not to look at him as he spoke, and tried not to see the strong hand reaching out for hers. She pressed herself against the lobby doors, trying to gain herself as many few precious millimetres as she could; as many extra seconds as were possible before she was lost. She no longer felt able to tear her eyes away from the empty skull before her, with its charging darkness and writhing mists. She felt his hand touch her wrist.

"Alex?" She knew the voice, but it took a second for her to respond to it. A frown ran through her eyes, lessening, for a moment, the hold of the man before her. The man growled, smoke gusting forth from his mouth and nose as if to illustrate his anger. Alex looked down at her hand, lying in the grip of the man, and she wondered why he was holding her, and why she was not trying to get away. She felt so cold though; so cold and so unable to move.

"Alex?" It was Derek's voice, and she could hear a low beeping sound - the sound of a number being punched into an electronic keypad. She tried to turn to face the door, but didn't seem to be able. Around her the red mists had seeped forth from the man's mouth, beginning to absorb her into themselves, tugging her closer and closer to that dreadful, yawning blackness. She began to shake.

"Damn it Alex!" The strong accent of her friend came to her, tugging her back, telling her to fight the mist and the darkness, and the all-pervading icy cold. She faltered, and the darkness ebbed closer. "What is going on in there?"

"Derek?" She wanted to turn and let him in, but she didn't feel able to do so. "Is that you?" She wasn't sure that she had spoken the words aloud, for everything seemed to be inside her head now - all words, all events, all feelings and fears. She heard a growl of fury as the blackness seemed to recede a little. Behind her there was the sound of the door bursting open. There was a loud, angry roaring, and the blackness and the mists vanished. There was only Derek left there now, standing in the doorway like some conquering hero, his face taut with concern.

"Derek!" She threw herself at him, reacting as she almost never reacted, led on by pure fear. He frowned, staggering slightly under the unexpected force of greeting. "Oh Derek. Thankyou!"

"Alex?" He pushed her away very gently, so that he could look into her eyes. Clearly he did not like whatever it was that he saw there, for the concern on his face grew greater, and he pulled her back into his embrace. "It's okay now. Don't worry. Everything's okay."

"Yeah." She glanced over his shoulder, seeing Rachel standing there, as white as a sheet and apparently drained. Next to her stood Nick, his face grim and hard, one hand held out as though ready to support Rachel should she need it. Suspicion filled Alex's mind.

"What's going on?" She looked up at Derek, but he smiled at her very gently, and began to guide her towards the door.

"We'll go home first." He was helping her through the door, not so much as glancing around for any sign of the creature his arrival had apparently banished. Presumably he had not seen it, but Alex knew him well enough to recognise the look on his face. Clearly he was sensing something.

"Then there is something going on?" She had been hoping he would smile and say that there was nothing to worry about, but he didn't. Instead he merely gave her shoulder a slight squeeze.

"We need to talk." He spoke very quietly, aware even if she was not, of the security guards standing close by. She nodded, already feeling herself beginning to regain her strength and poise. They brought with them the winds of indignation and rage, and took the shiver from her voice.

"Damn right we do."

"There have been some developments." He guided her past Nick and Rachel, leading the way out through the lobby to the world outside. She didn't object, nor even remember the existence of her own car as he guided her towards his, parked at the side of the road. Instead she merely climbed obediently onboard. Rachel and Nick got into the back, the former still relying on the latter for evident support.

"Is it bad?" Alex heard herself saying, although she was so exhausted that the voice did not sound entirely like hers. She could almost imagine that it was the curiously disembodied voice of the man who had just tried to attack her. Derek started up the engine.

"Home," he said firmly, and she didn't argue. There was nothing in the whole world that she wanted more right now than to be safely at home, sitting in the drawing room with a glass of whisky, waiting to hear the Precept explain what was going on. All the same, she couldn't shake the feeling that his explanation was going to be the last thing she wanted to hear.


Somehow the Legacy House looked less inviting than usual, although Alex could not quite put her finger on what exactly it was that made her feel that way. The old building looked just as it always had, with its creeper and its towering walls, its lead-lined windows and its huge, solid front door. Perhaps it been built to withstand only the elements originally, but it had certainly proved its strength more than once in standing up to the denizens of hell. Alex felt sure that it could defend her against practically anything - except that, having witnessed the dark creature's advance through a sheet of solid glass, she couldn't quite bring herself to feel entirely safe. Derek drew the car to halt, and flashed her one of his small, almost shy smiles.

"Feeling any better?"

"I always feel better when I'm back here." It wasn't entirely true though; not this time. Not when she was feeling so confused and unsure. Derek nodded, as always giving the impression both that he believed her, and that he was perfectly capable of seeing straight through the lie to the truth. He made no further comment on the subject however, and instead merely opened the door of the car and climbed out. She had not intended waiting for him to come around and open her door as well, but somehow he managed to reach it before she was able to galvanise herself into action. He took her hand and helped her out of the car, all the time with the gentle smile directed her way; then turned immediately to repeat the favour for Rachel. The psychiatrist smiled gratefully, clearly appreciative of the assistance, and only then did Alex see how drained and tired her friend appeared to be. She stepped forward in concern, her eyes wide.

"Rachel? What happened to you? You look dreadful." She broke off, smiling awkwardly. "Sorry. I didn't really mean that in quite the way it sounded."

"I know." Rachel smiled, but it was a wan effort, and made her appear a mere shadow of her usual self. "I don't really know what happened, but I have a feeling that it wasn't too different to whatever just happened to you."

"Oh." Alex looked towards Nick, who was standing nearby with one hand on the gun inside his jacket. "Er... and do we know anything about what exactly it was that happened?"

"We should talk about it inside." Herding them all towards the door with a quick glance at the sky, Derek brought a curt end to their speculations. Alex scowled at him.

"Care to explain a little further?"

"Certainly." He sounded as though he meant it, despite his legendary tendency to keep practically everything a close secret. "But inside the house please. It may not be safe to speak out here."

"Might not be safe?" Nick also glanced skyward. "What are we dealing with here, Derek?"

"I'm not entirely sure." The Precept opened the large front door and gestured for the others to precede him inside. Only when the door was shut and locked behind them all did he begin to look as though he might relax. Even Rachel seemed to regain a little of her colour once she was safely inside the building. It was she who led the way to the conference room, taking her seat with a fierce kind of determination, and waiting rather pointedly for Derek's promised explanation. He hesitated at the head of the table, remaining on his feet as the others all sat down.

"Well?" The others might have been prepared to try more subtle ways of getting the Precept to speak, but Nick, as always, was rather more inclined to resort to firmer methods. Derek eyed him with a faint, unwilling kind of amusement, understanding his colleague's desire to know what was going on, if not entirely willing to tell him.

"I don't know anything definite." He spoke with a guarded tone, his eyes fixed upon a point on the tabletop several feet before him. "What I am about to tell you is merely a deduction, based upon the things that Rachel was able to tell me earlier in the night." His tone grew more precise, the accent sharper and clearer with every sentence. "She was attacked by a figure - something in the shape of a man - which knew her by name. It was apparently more of a monster than a man, and it was filled with mists and shadows." He glanced abruptly towards Alex, his eyes hard and bright. "You encountered the same creature?"

"I think so." She shivered suddenly, surprising herself with the strength of revulsion in her memory. "It looked like a man - normal at first glance. He was average height, average build - maybe a little bigger, but not by much. Then suddenly..." She gestured rather vaguely with one hand. "There was darkness everywhere. It was inside him, stretching on forever. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before."

"Cold." Rachel took up the narrative as Alex began to lose her initial momentum. "Cold like nothing had ever been cold before. And so much darkness. He didn't have eyes, just empty holes that seemed to go on and on... If the telephone hadn't rung when it did, I don't know what would have happened. I couldn't fight him. He was just... just drawing me into him." It was her turn to shudder, and Derek nodded slowly in response. Her unease was evident, but he gave no real sign that he had seen it.

"And whatever it was, it was obviously after Alex as well." Nick leaned back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest. "So what is it, Derek? And how did it know where to find them both?"

"I don't know exactly. Whatever it is, we have to assume that its intentions are unfriendly." Derek caught the fiery glare thrown his way by Alex, and hesitated again.

"Derek..." Her stance mirrored that of Nick, but her face carried considerably more determination that did that of the former SEAL. The Precept twitched his lips in an unwilling smile.

"Alright Alex. Perhaps I do know a little more. But you have to understand that it is nothing more than guesses. The creature that Rachel described to me sounded very like a being once encountered by my father, early in his association with the Legacy. It was some kind of demon, apparently, conjured from the dark realms by a man who considered himself to be something of a sorcerer."

"A sorcerer?" Rachel smiled, her amusement a familiar reaction to Derek's theorising. "You're telling me that somebody chanted spells to make that thing appear?"

"Is that any more incredible than the fact of its existence in the first place?" Derek let out a long breath, then sat down at the table and rested his hands on its polished wooden surface. "This creature will be coming after the Legacy. It has already proved its knowledge by tracking down both Rachel and Alex, and I have no doubt that it will make its move on this House very soon."

"For what purpose?" Somehow it was moments like this that most strongly reminded Alex of her days at college, when Derek had been her Anthropology professor, and the ways and troubles of the Legacy had been unknown to her. Even now, listening to a story like this one, whilst still recovering from a near fatal incident, she felt as though she should be taking notes for some mid-term paper. Derek was silent for a moment.

"We all know that we are often the last barrier between the light and the darkness. The Legacy stands in the forefront of the battle against evil, and this creature knows that as well as do we. It came here to destroy us."

"How?" Rachel sounded tired again, as though her earlier fatigue was returning. "What was it trying to do when it reached out for me?"

"Kill you. I don't know the weapons that it uses, but I think we can assume that you would have died if you had remained in contact with it for any longer. From the information that you gave me, the details of the sensations of cold, I would imagine that it works by sucking the life from its victims. Perhaps it feeds on warmth or energy. My father didn't always go into as much detail in his diaries as I might hope."

"Yeah." Nick looked faintly amused, albeit with a measure of irritation. "Keeping things back is a real family trait, isn't it." Derek's expression gave nothing away.

"I'm not keeping anything back, Nick. From the description given to me by Rachel - which no doubt Alex will corroborate or refute - this man, or creature, would appear to be the demon encountered by my father. The only real information I have is that it feeds on humanity. It has a particular detestation of the Legacy, because of all that we stand for and against; however it will certainly not consider us to be its only targets. To gain strength in order to make its attacks on this House, I can only assume that it will feed on the inhabitants of the city first."

"You're telling me that there's some creature loose in the city that plans to kill anybody it can find?" Rachel was shaking her head, although apparently not through her usual scepticism. Instead she seemed shell-shocked and concerned. "San Francisco is a big city. This thing could devastate the population."

"I know." Derek leant rather heavily on the table. "I can only imagine that our friends at the police department are going to be dealing with a lot of unexplained, and apparently unlinked, deaths in the next day or so. After that the creature will come after us. If it destroys this House, it will move onto the next one and the next and the next... and it will grow increasingly powerful on the way. Beyond that, who can tell what its agenda might include."

"A real world-eater." Nick was idly cleaning the barrel of his gun on his sleeve, as though certain of the weapon's ability to protect him even against creatures conjured into existence by magic. "Lovely. We never get the cute demons, do we."

"So what do we do?" Alex was thinking about her experience with the creature, and could not help empathising with the many other people who, it seemed, were going to be going through the same thing. They would not have her experience to protect them - and neither would they have a band of friends coming to their rescue. "To restrict the death toll, I mean. Damage limitation?"

"I have no idea." Derek looked very tired all of a sudden, as usual taking this latest battle very much to heart. Derek Rayne took his responsibilities extremely seriously, and any battle against the forces of darkness was a personal battle in his eyes. It was always his fight in the end - every death and every setback rested on his shoulders. It often made him seem to age well before his years. "We can't exactly tell people the truth - there would be no point, even if they did believe us. All that we can do is try to destroy this creature before it can kill too many innocent people. It will not move against us again until it believes itself to be strong enough - or until we provoke it enough to force it to make some kind of a move."

"Which begs the question of why exactly it went after Alex and me. Are we really that easy to attack that it thought it could take us before it was at full strength?" Rachel sounded unimpressed, but Derek shook his head.

"Not at all. You were both alone at the time, and beyond the protecting barriers of the House. It clearly thought that an attack was a worthwhile gamble."

"And it nearly paid off." Alex remembered the creature's cold touch. "It's not at all pleasant to think about that creature being loose out there in the city, with all those defenceless people."

"Yes." He nodded slowly, staring at the table. "I agree. Unfortunately, at this point in time, I have no idea how to stop it."

"How did your father stop it?" Nick's steady determination was, as ever, a source of comfort to his colleagues - but Derek did not look particularly comfortable with the question.

"My father... did things that I am not proud of. Things that worked, in order to keep back the forces of darkness, but not things that I myself would wish to try. He believed very much that the end justifies the means."

"So what did he do?" Rachel looked as though she was not going to take any more of the Precept's prevaricating, but Derek still hesitated further.

"He killed the members of the coven who had summoned the creature." He almost blurted it out in the end, still not looking anywhere save at the polished surface of the table. "They were college students; eighteen at the most; just kids playing with spells they had learnt. They did not intend to release the creature, but because they had summoned it, they were linked to it. Their deaths forced it back into hell."

"So you're saying that the only way you know of to kill this creature is to murder innocent people?" Rachel shook her head. "No, Derek. There has to be another way."

"They might not be innocent," Nick pointed out calmly. She glared at him.

"Maybe not. But is that any reason to kill them?"

"No. Of course not." Derek offered her a faint smile. "I will never resort to my father's methods if there is any other alternative. Lives are not to be taken that lightly."

"We may not have any choice." Nick sounded curt and business-like, and Derek nodded slowly and unhappily in his direction.

"We may not. Many lives may be at stake, and to kill the coven... if it is a coven... will perhaps be the lesser of two evils."

"You don't believe that." Rachel's gaze was accusing. Derek shook his head.

"No, I don't. Evil is evil, and it's never a matter of which is the lesser of the two. I am not my father, and I don't work the way that he did. I just can't rule out the possibility that this is something we must keep in mind, if all else fails. It is not something I will enjoy, Rachel. I promise you that."

"So how do we find out who they are?" Alex spoke quietly and calmly, for there was no need for her to show Derek how she felt about the option of using murder as an end to their latest problem. Derek already knew that. He hesitated.

"The creature might be using a particular place to rest, or it may be working in a limited area for now, as it gathers its strength. In that case, its place of birth with be at the centre of that domain. We have to be alert."

"You mean we have to wait until the deaths start mounting up, so that we can look for patterns." Alex understood that this was really the only place in which to start, but that didn't mean that she had to like it. Derek nodded.

"That is exactly what I mean, yes. I'm sorry."

"And when we do find it? Then what?" Nick sounded as blunt as ever, as though the prospect of having to kill the people who had summoned the creature didn't bother him at all. That wasn't the case of course - but Nick was expert enough at hiding his true feelings behind professionalism. That much at least he shared with Derek. The Precept hesitated.

"We will use the time until then to find a means by which to destroy this creature. If I have to read every book in this house from cover to cover, I will do so. We will find a way."

"Then we'd better get on to it." Alex pushed her chair away from the table and stood up. "I'll get working on the computer right away."

"Thankyou Alex." Derek also stood up. "I am going to begin looking through my father's personal library. There are one or two volumes that I don't know as thoroughly as I might. They are as good a place as any in which to start."

"You think there's a chance then?" Rachel sounded almost derisory, but then she had good reason to be distinctly unimpressed with the methods used by Winston Rayne in his battles against evil. He had killed her mother, after mistaking her for her own sister, who had herself been skilled in the dark arts. Derek didn't look at her.

"I am not my father, Rachel." Perhaps it was too soon for her - too soon since discovering the truth about her mother's death. Perhaps she would never trust him again. He couldn't be sure, and certainly the look on her face now - the emotional vibes he could sense drifting from her troubled mind - told him that he had to win her back. He only wished that he knew how. She sighed.

"Promise me Derek. Promise me that you won't kill these people."

He hesitated. "I can't do that."

"You can't promise not to kill innocent people?"

"I'm sorry. Killing them may be the only way. I don't like it, but I may not have any choice."

"There has to be a choice, Derek." She stood up rather suddenly, and her heavy wooden chair nearly overbalanced. "We're supposed to stand for something--"

"You think you need to tell me that?" For a second he sounded very cold - then, slowly, he seemed to thaw a little. "I'm sorry. And yes, you're right. We are supposed to stand for something that should go a little further towards righting the wrongs of this world than my father ever did. Just understand that sometimes, whether we wish for it or not, the methods that we despise are the only methods available to us. It is the way it has to be when you are fighting the battles of the Legacy. Such things must be a last resort, and I promise you that in this instance they will be just that. But that is all that I can promise." He offered her a rather small, tired smile. "And now I have work to do." He nodded at them all. "Excuse me."

"That was a little unfair, Rachel." Nick waited until the sound of Derek's feet had faded along the corridor before he spoke. "Of all the people to preach Legacy goals to..."

"I know." She rubbed at her eyes. "I don't think I'm seeing things straight just yet. That creature..."

"All the same." Alex was halfway to the door, torn between wanting to go after Derek, and wanting to begin work on her own research. "Accusing Derek of being cavalier with lives - it's hardly sensitive. He's had the responsibilities of Legacy work hanging over his head since he was younger then Kat. The last thing he wants is for innocent people to die."

"I know." Rachel sounded hot, as though she was terribly tired, and beginning to find her patience wearing rather thin. "I know. I know Derek isn't his father, and I know that he'll do his best to find another way. I just can't shake the feeling that we're not going to be able to find one. After everything I've just found out about my mother, and how she came to die, I'm not sure that I can be a part of any more Legacy 'damage limitation' exercises. Killing demons is one thing. Killing people..."

"It's a very rare thing to happen, especially these days." Nick rose to his feet, putting his hand on her shoulder. "It's almost unheard of. But unless we get started on this research, it may not be unheard of for very long."

"Yes. Of course." She put her own hand on top of his for a second, and flashed him a brief smile. "Where do we start?"

"The usual. Endless shelves of books, a measureless stream of binary information, years of carefully catalogued newspapers and a large stack of Legacy diaries." Nick grinned. "Child's play."

"Oh!" Rachel glanced at her watch. "Speaking of which, I'll have to keep an eye on the time. I have to pick Kat up at noon."

"You can't go out alone. Derek will never allow it after what happened earlier." Alex glanced at her own watch. "Give me a call when you're ready and I'll go with you. It's a long time before noon, and I'll be needing a break by then. By that time my eyes will be about ready to desert. That computer screen can be a killer."

"Thanks." Rachel smiled warmly at her, and Alex, taking this as a good cue to leave, turned about and headed off towards the computer room. Nick watched her go, then heaved a long sigh.

"Ready to go to work?"

"Yes." She headed off after Alex, Nick following in her wake. "Maybe we'll get lucky, and find everything we need in the first book we look at."

"Dream on." He laughed. "If it turns into as long a job as I think it will, I'll introduce you to my special coffee - the way we used to brew it in the SEALs. All caffeine, no flavour."

"I'm not that tempted."

"No?" He frowned. "Maybe it is kind of an acquired taste. Helps though, when work gets on top of you."

"You don't think we're going to find anything, do you." She didn't bother slowing her step or turning to look at him. He sighed.

"It's a big city. Finding a demon, or the one or two people who chanted a few words to summon it... well it's hardly an easy task, is it. The odds are stacked against us. Even if we do find them, it may not make our job any easier."

"I don't think I can kill a man, Nick." Her step faltered momentarily, although she recovered herself well.

"Then don't. And anyway, we're a long way from having to resort to that."

"You're not optimistic though, are you."

"No." He put his arm around her, but for once she did not show any sign of appreciating his support. "I'm not. Just think of them as faceless strangers, Rachel. Try not to think of them as people."

"Faceless strangers." She all but whispered the words. "At least we have that much to lean on. I don't think I could stand it if I actually knew the people responsible for this."

"I know." They began climbing the winding staircase that led to the library, then fanned out once they reached the landing above. Quite suddenly the shelves of books looked daunting. Rachel took a deep breath.

"I suppose I'd better get the ball rolling." She reached out for the nearest shelf, and selected a book at random. It was heavy and sombre-looking, which was hardly unusual amongst this particular collection. "Something tells me that we're in for a long day."

"Yeah." Nick grabbed a book as well, and then followed her over to the tables at the other end of the landing. "I think you could be right."


It had been a long night, and Jason Foster was glad to see the end of it. There was a limit to how many times you could load up a delivery van without it becoming very boring indeed - but he consoled himself with thoughts of the good cause he was serving. The loaded vans would take their deliveries - food, clothing, a few toys - to people who really needed them. People whose lives would be improved just because he had given a few spare hours to help out with a tedious task. The thought almost helped to dispel the last of the fatigue from his mind.

"Warm..." The word was so distinct that Jason jumped. For a second he froze, staring towards the pale lights in the east, wondering if he really wanted to turn around - and then, gradually, he let his better side take over. Might as well see who it was. He was supposed to be helping people, after all. He turned very slowly all the same, wondering why the person behind him, whoever it was, had fallen so silent after having spoken only one word.

"Hungry." The man standing in the street croaked out his second word in a hoarse, heavy voice. He looked terrible, his skin stretched tight over his face, his shoulders hunched, his eyes narrowed to slits as though guarding against some blinding light that only he could see. He had the appearance of a healthy, well-built man who had lost a lot of weight very rapidly, for his clothes hung loosely on his shoulders and back, and there were loose folds of skin on his arms and hands. Jason gasped.

"Good grief man, you look terrible. There's a soup kitchen just up the road. They'll be closing down for the night, but I know the girl who runs it. She'll keep the doors open for one more."

"Hungry." The man raised his head slightly, mouth hanging open a short way. The light was bad, but Jason was sure that he should be able to see teeth, if there were any behind the drooping lips. Perhaps they had all fallen out - after all, this man didn't look as if he had seen so much as a bathroom in the last year or two, let alone a toothbrush.

"Okay. If you're hungry that's no problem. Just come with me and we'll find you some food. Maybe a bed for the night too. Like I said, there's a place near here where they'll be happy to look after you."

"You don't understand." The man raised his head a little more, his apparently toothless mouth twisting into a half smile. "I've found all that I need to eat."

"Where?" Suddenly nervous, Jason glanced up and down the street. It was deserted. He couldn't even hear the hum of traffic on the adjacent, more populous thoroughfares, for the large sandstone buildings in between dampened the sound. The man smiled on, then, as though a shadow had passed over his face and somehow reawakened him to the world, he opened his eyes very wide. Jason saw emptiness - vast, awe-inspiring emptiness, of a kind that made his soul despair to see it. He took a step back, feet uncertain, just as if they had become suddenly untrusting of the solidity of the road beneath them. The man before him laughed.

"You're mine." Perhaps he saw some flicker in Jason's eyes - perhaps he merely read the terrified man's mind, and saw that he was about to make a break for safety. Either way, no movement was quick enough. Jason saw the man stepping forwards, moving with a speed that seemed impossible. He saw rather than felt his wrist being seized; tried to back off; tried to fight; but instead felt his strength ebb and his mind begin to cave in. Everywhere seemed cold and empty, everything was filled with a terrifying sense of pointlessness. He gasped, and the world seemed to bend and crack around him.

"Help?" It was a whisper - a terrified question - and had no hope of ever becoming a fully-fledged cry. Instead it faded away, whispering itself into the emptiness that seemed now to surround Jason entirely. He saw a red mist - caught a glimpse of black hopelessness - felt such a feeling of cold that went beyond anything he had ever felt before. He was certain that if he began to cry his tears would freeze on his cheeks.

"You're mine." The voice filled his ears and his head, no longer hoarse and heavy, but instead filled with a terrible kind of new life. Jason quivered.

"I--" He broke off, no longer able to remember the words he had been about to use. The cold was numbing his brain, confusing his senses, breaking down every form of protection he could think of to use. Around his wrist, the hand of his attacker began to burn his skin. He thought that he yelped in pain, but it might just have been a thought rather than an action. he wasn't sure anymore. Around him empty laughs began to echo, and then there was no sound at all.

With a long, shuddering intake of breath the man with the empty eyes sucked the last of the life from his still shuddering victim, then cast aside his body with a grin. Already the taut skin on his face was regaining its fleshy shape, filling out and returning the look of the living to his skeletal frame. Existence was hard when there was no nourishment to be had, but now that he was beginning to tap into a healthy supply, he was feeling better all the time - in as much as he could feel anything at all. Stepping over Jason's finally stilled form he glanced up and down the street, just as his hapless victim had done such a short time ago. Everything was still deserted.

"Soup kitchen." He had no idea what a soup kitchen was, but he could feel the presences of a good many people emanating from somewhere nearby. It felt like a feast, just waiting to be enjoyed. Once again he drew in a deep, shuddering breath, tasting the sweetness of his recent kill on the air. He felt excited, and his excitement made the red mists that filled him float more readily up into the air. A moth, fluttering its wings gaily in the light of a nearby streetlamp, flew inadvertently into the path of the lazily drifting mist. It stopped dead in the air, its wings stiffening and its flight coming to an immediate and abrupt halt. In a burst of spontaneous flame its tiny body crumbled to a fine, dry ash. As though spurred on by this second of unrecognised tragedy, the red mists floated higher, and soon the moon itself was blood red. Far beneath it, empty eyes fixed on the promise of further food, the dark-clad man quickened his pace and struck out for the nearby soup kitchen. Already he could taste his next victim, and the disappointment of his failure to take the two Legacy women was fast beginning to fade. Soon, if the night went on in its current vein, he was sure that he would be able to go after them again. In the meantime he had a whole city on which to feed. Behind him, sprawled on the ground, the body of Jason Foster burst into sudden, inexplicable flame. For a total of just a few, frantic seconds, it burned with an angry, blue heat, before the flames ceased, the heat faded, and the last drifting ashes blew away across the tarmac. There was nothing left of Jason but the last lingering taste of his body's warmth in the mouth of his killer - and as the soup kitchen fell to the killer's first assault, there soon was not even that.


Alex yawned and stretched, rubbing her tired eyes with the back of one hand. Her other hand remained fixed to the computer mouse, constantly scrolling and clicking, always ready for the next article, the next picture, the next web page. Monotony had long turned to something that went far beyond boredom, but she had no intention of stopping. Memories of her encounter with the creature spurred her on to continue the search. There had to be something somewhere.

"Is there any luck yet?" She had not even heard Derek enter the room, and the sudden sound of his voice made her jump. He smiled. "Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."

"You always startle me. It's a talent of yours." She stifled a yawn. "And no, there's nothing yet. I've gone through everything I can think of, but nobody seems to know anything. You'd think that somebody would have spotted something, if this creature really has been here before."

"It, or something very like it, has definitely been here before." He brandished his father's journal at her. "The entries are coded, as usual - important information, hidden in notations that appear on the surface to be quite trivial... Long passages about illegal witch hunts in Louisiana in 1947, for instance. I've been able to uncover several oblique references to this creature that we are facing now. My father speaks of a man dressed in black, who appeared to exhale a red mist. He seemed to suck the life from his victims and left them as empty husks. Some were still alive, in physical terms at least. Not for long though."


"Meaning that the bodies of the victims combust after the feeding is over. My father wasn't sure how it happened, but he was sure that the creature left no trace once it had eaten its fill."

"Then our search for victims is going to end with a blank." Alex pushed the mouse away, and leaned back in her chair with a disgusted expression plastered across her face. "It could be killing people all over the city tonight, and we won't know anything about it until forty-eight hours from now, when the missing persons reports start coming in. So much for the plan."

"There is always another plan, Alex." He peered over her shoulder at the text on the computer screen. "What do we have here?"

"This?" She waved a dismissive hand at the screen. "I was running a search on unexplained deaths in the area. Since we have no idea when this creature appeared, I thought it might already have killed, and that something might have turned up on the news. There's nothing though. Unsolved murders galore, but nothing inexplicable." She tapped at the list with a finger. "Shootings, stabbings, a couple of electrocutions, a drowning, one guy who was run over seven times by the same car... no demon signatures." She scowled. "And now we know that there won't be." She flicked off the monitor then stood up. "I need a very long walk."

"Not on your own." He put the journal down on the table. "I'm sorry, but we don't know how safe it is yet."

"How safe will it ever be?" She put a hand on his arm. "It's okay, Derek. I understand. I'll take a break for a bit - I promised Rachel that I'd go with her to pick Kat up anyway - and then I'll hit the Web again. Maybe there'll be something on the news by then. Maybe somebody's seen something. You never know."

"Precisely." He smiled, and for a second she smiled back, the pair of them locked in a quiet moment just like on so many occasions in the past - seconds stolen in the heat of battle, with neither of them sure where to go on from that point. Then, just like so many times before, the moment was broken. Derek did not seem aware that such a moment had even existed, for his eyes were soon turned back to the journal.

"Perhaps I can find something more in my father's personal papers."

"Perhaps." She smiled slightly, almost amused by his dedication. "I'm going to try and scare up some coffee. Can I get you anything?"

"No." It was his turn to smile. "Thankyou, but I have a lot to do. I'm not thirsty."

She nodded. "Don't work too hard. You should take a break."

"I will." She didn't believe him, but she nodded anyway.

"Then I'll see you later."

"Of course." He turned on his heel and left, vanishing back out through the hologram hiding the door. Alex stared after him. He was tired, although he would never admit it. She was tired too - and there was still so much further to go. Trying to dismiss the thought, she turned her back on the computer screen and headed off through the hologram in her leader's footsteps. Quite suddenly she was needing that coffee more than ever. Perhaps, she thought, with a wry smile at her own reluctance, it was even time to look for something stronger.


The house in which Kat had spent the night was quiet, and apparently deserted. Rachel glanced at her watch.

"I was sure that I said I'd be round at noon. Maybe they've gone out."

"Maybe." Alex looked at her own watch out of reflex. "Or maybe they're just out back. It's a warm day. They might be playing in the garden or something. Maybe they're planning a barbecue for lunch." She grinned. "We could get invited, and leave it another hour or so before we have to get back to seeking out the evil demon creature."

"Do I detect a marked lack of enthusiasm, Miss Moreau?"

Alex laughed. "Not really. It's just that after last night..."

"Hear hear." Rachel was still finding it hard to concentrate, her mind being very much of the opinion that it should still be in shock. "Maybe we should claim sick pay, or some kind of a counselling entitlement."

"Counselling?" Alex had to laugh, which helped her to feel considerably better. "Can you imagine that one? The counsellor would need counselling, after we got through telling him everything that's bothering us. I can just see it - 'So tell me your problems'. 'Er, well, I spent last month locked in a battle to the death with a zombie, and then nearly got eaten by a giant demon... I fought evil pixies from hell over the Christmas break, and I'm currently suffering from nervous exhaustion after nearly being murdered by yet another demon'. And that's just session one."

"Well put that way..." Rachel also laughed, and also found herself feeling considerably better. "Maybe a barbecue wouldn't be such a bad idea. We should tell Derek to have one occasionally. That garden is perfect for something like that, and it would be a great way for the Luna Foundation to increase its profile. Everybody loves a barbecue."

"Not Derek. I think he's allergic to fun."

"He just has a different idea of what fun is, that's all." Rachel cast her a surprised look. "And that's not like you. I thought you were still the devoted student following the great leader?"

"I didn't mean it in a bad way. I... well I just wish he'd do something occasionally that didn't involve killing demons or exorcising evil ghosts. If I ask for a change of scenery, he suggests re-cataloguing the Luna exhibits at the museum - and he thinks that's some kind of treat, or a well-earned break." She smiled, which rather negated her sorry sigh. "Maybe there's too much of my grandparents in me. Their idea of a hard day's work was sunbathing on the beach, and telling each other scary stories about voodoo. I guess Derek and I have a different idea about what makes up the work ethic."

"Maybe." Rachel, who was rather of the opinion that Alex was nearly as work-mad as Derek, declined to comment. She would have been hard put to find a pair more suited to each other than Alex and the legendarily dedicated Precept, neither one of which seemed capable of working at any pace slower than flat out. Suppressing a smile she looked past Alex to where a white garden gate was visible in a high, thorny hedge, apparently surrounding a garden. "Maybe we could try through there."

"Sounds good to me." Alex strode on ahead, pushing open the gate with an impressive squealing noise that suggested the hinges had never once been oiled in their entire working life. She winced.

"This place doesn't only look deserted, it even sounds as if it hasn't been lived in for centuries."

"Maybe they're not the DIY type."

"I guess not." Having reached the garden beyond the gateway, Alex stared around. "And I guess they're not the gardening type either."

"Yeah." Rachel had followed her through the gate. "You can say that again. Maybe we've come to the wrong address..."

The garden was dead. It was a large space, surrounded by a tall wooden fence that bore the long, black streaks of scorch marks, one or two still smouldering, as though recently blasted onto the wood by some madman with a blow torch. The grass was of a similar colour, varying between a dead, dried brown and a burnt and twisted black. One or two misshapen lumps that might once have been rose bushes hung lifelessly from the tattered fence, plumes of smoke rising from a few of the leaves that still clung grimly on. There were other flowers too, in flowerbeds that seemed to have been torn apart, the shrubs uprooted and flung about, the flowers blackened and dried, ash rising in plumes from a few of the larger blooms. Only the set of swings in one corner of the garden was apparently untouched by the decay and the presence of recent fire - they stood near to the gate, shining brightly in red and yellow coats of metallic paint, the new wooden seats of the swings themselves showing a recent coat of polish. Alex reached out for the swings, testing for residual heat - after all, some kind of heat must have been present in the garden very recently. She felt only normal, cool metal beneath her fingertips, showing no sign of dust or rust. Her touch caused the framework to wobble slightly, although it looked sturdy enough. One of the swings began to sway, as though some invisible child had just sat down upon one of the seats. Icy fingers brushed against Alex's hand, and for a second she was frozen. Visions came to her, showing her things that her eyes alone could never have looked upon. She gasped.

She was standing in a beautiful garden, the flowers strong and tall, the colours bright and gorgeous. Blues and reds filled the flower beds, the rosebushes were a bright mix of climbing, thriving shades of green. Even the lawn itself seemed beautiful, the blades of grass luscious and well-tended, the colour rich and warm. She recognised the place, even though she didn't think she had ever been there before. It was the garden of a family home. She could hear children laughing, and feel the breeze on her face as the nearby swings moved back and forth. A girl was shrieking with excitement as her swing took her higher and higher...

"Alex?" Rachel's hand on her arm startled the visions away, and Alex blinked. For a second she was silent, her breathing apparently out of rhythm, her mind confused by the present reality. It was a sense of detachment and disorientation that she was used to, however, and it took only a few moments to recover her senses.

"I'm back." She smiled. "Sorry. I think I - I think I fazed out there for a minute."

"You want to tell me about it?"

"I was..." She stared about at the ruined garden. "I was here. It was beautiful. The flowers..." She frowned suddenly. "I could hear Kat, playing on the swings."

"Kat?" Rachel turned towards the house as though her eyes were dragged there by some unseen influence. "Then this..."

" the right address, yes." They both stared at the building, the towering walls of which were in marked contrast to the neatness they had seen in the front. Black marked the white paint in streaks, showing lines of scorching and other damage. A faint covering of creeper on the walls had been reduced to twisted and blackened lifelessness, and the broad glass eyes of the windows were thick with dust and cobwebs. Spiders crawled across many of the panes, and others were thick with buzzing, swarming houseflies. One of the panes was cracked, and as they watched it the crack widened, tearing and splitting its way across the glass as the edges blackened. With a report like a gunshot, the glass shattered. A cloud of flies rose lazily into the air in response, then settled idly once again on the windowsill. Rachel began to shake.

"Kat..." Her voice sounded uncertain and weak. "No... No, not Kat."

"Rachel, she's probably fine. Just because these people don't take very good care of their house--"

"No." Rachel swung around to face her, eyes wide and hot, face flushed. "This thing came after you. It came after me. We're Legacy, and we were alone last night. Well what about Kat? Who's to say that she's not Legacy too. Who's to say that she isn't a target?" She ran a hand through her hair, unaware of the sweat on her brow, or of the tangled mess she left her hair in as she pulled her hand away. "I have to find her."

"It might not be safe." Alex reached out for her, trying to catch her by the shoulder to prevent her going towards the house. "We should call--"

"Call who? Call Derek? Wait for our glorious leader to come out here, with all of the chaos that he always manages to bring with him?" With a surprisingly violent shove, she pushed Alex's hand aside and turned back towards the house. "I have to find Kat." She broke into a run, her feet smashing the burnt wreck of the lawn, sending up residual smoke alongside clouds of powdery ash. Alex stared after her, echoes of her visions floating before her eyes. She could see the garden in all of its summer glory, the scene radiant and perfect, the sound of children's laughing rising through the warm, seasonal air. They were laughing in excitement, in merriment, in the way that children often laughed when they were doing something exciting, something illicit - something that they knew might get them into trouble. And slowly, so that she was not aware of it at first, the laughter began to change into something else. Words formed, floating around each other, mingling with each other, forming new strings of words that she couldn't interpret at first. Words that wrapped themselves around her mind. She understood it at last, although the meaning of it was of little importance to her. She knew a spell when she heard one, and she knew that the voices chanting it were the voices of children. Behind it all she heard Kat's voice, risen beyond its normal volume. It was impossible to hear what she was shouting, for the voices of the chanting children were growing louder and more insistent, and around all else a strong wind was beginning to blow. Alex could see chaos coming to the garden; could see fires ripping through the flowerbeds and tearing up the roses. She saw blasts of flame ripping chunks from the walls of the house, blackening the lawn, tearing leaves from trees and slates from the roof until the garden looked like a war zone; dead and ruined; beautiful no longer. A faint red mist hung over the ground, drifting aimlessly, with nowhere to go - but as Alex's vision cleared, and her consciousness returned to the present, the mist had gone and the chanting of the children had faded away, Only Kat's voice was audible now, coming from the room with the broken window.

"Kat!" Rachel had heard her daughter's cry as well, and with an almighty effort she pushed open the back door of the house. Clouds of black flies rose into the air, and an angry buzzing filled the garden. Alex dashed after her friend, pausing briefly on the doorstep as the flies buzzed closer. The floor of the house was carpeted with the dead bodies of more flies, and a few faint traces of the red mist lingered in the corners. Every so often a pile of the dead flies churned and moved in the breeze from the opened door. As she watched, one such pile burst into flame, burning brightly for a single second, then withering away to nothing. Alex drew in a long, deep breath, then struck out after Rachel. She could already hear the footsteps of her colleague, echoing loudly on the uncarpeted wood of the stairs.

"Rachel?" Alex dashed after her, aware of the same sensation of terrible cold that she had felt in the museum. "Rachel?!"

"Here!" Rachel's voice was faint, but Alex chased after it, arriving on the threshold of a child's bedroom just in time to hear Kat's voice shout out afresh. Alex dashed into the room. Cobwebs hung in the corners of the ceiling and dust was thick upon the floor. There were candles arranged on one of a dozen or so woollen rugs, the wicks blackened by recent use. An old book lay beside one of the candles, and a huddled figure was slumped over the pages. She turned to them listlessly, muttering to herself as though in the grip of a fever.

"She's been that way since last night. Ever since the man came and took the others." Kat was sitting on a bed by the window, hugging a blonde doll and looking very pale. She didn't look up as Rachel ran to her, encircling her with her arms. The little girl was still dressed in her night-clothes, and her bare feet looked blue with cold, even though the day was so warm.

"What man, honey?" Rachel was holding her daughter close, but not close enough to be able to stop the tiny shivers that ran through the girl's frame.

"The man that came when you chanted the spell?" Alex tried to keep her voice soft, but she did not have Rachel's experience with children, and her usual gentle nature was being overpowered by her growing unrest. Kat looked up at her, eyes bright with suppressed tears.

"I didn't say that spell. I said a few, for fun. Little ones, that were supposed to make the stars brighter, and to see if we could make it rain. I didn't say the other spells." Her eyes turned towards her mother. "I didn't say them. That's why the man didn't take me as well."

"It's okay, honey, We believe you." Rachel looked towards the figure huddled over the spell book. She knew the woman only a little, having met her more than once at the school gates. Currently she seemed to be in a severe state of shock. Climbing to her feet Rachel carried Kat over to the door. With no time to be sympathetic to the plight of the slumped woman, Alex pulled her to her feet and followed Rachel down the stairs. The woman showed no sign of resistance, but merely hugged the spell book to her chest, shaking and stumbling as though just learning to walk. Clouds of flies buzzed at them as they crossed back through the house, and the woman with the spell book leaned heavily against Alex, muttering and stammering all the way. It was a relief to be back out in the sunshine, even if it was only to go once more into the ruined garden. Kat stared about.

"Did he do this?" Her voice sounded very small. Rachel hugged her tightly.

"Don't worry. He's not going to do anything to you."

"He took the others." Speaking clearly for the first time, the woman with Alex muttered her words vengefully, and with real malice. "Why shouldn't he take her too?"

"Shut up Katy." Rachel glared daggers at the woman, who seemed unfazed. Instead she pushed herself away from Alex and brandished the spell book.

"He came. Your daughter called him and he came and took my daughter away. Who's to say he won't be coming back here for the rest of us? For all of us? Who's to say he's not on his way here now?"

"Shut up." Alex tried to hurry her towards the garden gate, but the woman shied away. Kat pressed closer to her mother.

"Is he coming back to get me?" Her voice was barely audible, and Rachel only just caught the words. She hugged her daughter more tightly.

"Of course not. You're perfectly safe, honey. Alex and I are going to take you back to the Legacy House. No one can hurt you there."

"Legacy House?" The woman with the spell book, Katy, swung around to glare once more in Rachel's direction. "What's this? Why should she be somewhere safe when my daughter's gone?"

"Your daughter summoned a demon." Catching the woman by the arm, Alex spun her about. "That book that you're holding - where does it come from?"

"What?" All of a sudden Katy's eyes were empty and dull. She stared at the spell book as though seeing it for the first time. "This is just a storybook. It's nothing." Her eyes flashed again as she glared at Kat. "What did you do to my daughter you little witch?"

"What?!" Her expression dangerous, Rachel seemed about to turn on the woman - but thought the better of it as she remembered Kat's nervous state. Instead she headed towards the garden gate. Behind her the flies were still buzzing, and it was a pleasant thought that she would soon be free of the oppressive garden. Alex followed on, concerned about Katy, but unsure what was the best thing to do. The woman was clearly fraught, and getting through to her would not be easy. Only when she had reached the gate, and had one hand on it in readiness for her exit, did she turn around again to look back towards the mother of the missing girl. She was standing by the swings, watching as they swung themselves to-and-fro in a non-existent breeze, the frame creaking and clanking as though suddenly affected by the signs of age. Lines of rust were appearing on the previously shiny and colourful metal, and the paint was blistering and fading before her very eyes. The red mists were rising from the ground, just as they had risen in her mind the previous night. Already they were swirling about the ankles of the vengeful Katy. Alex's eyes widened.

"Run!" She wasn't sure where the foreboding came from, but she was certain that the woman was in great danger. Empty eyes turned to look at her, and the spell book shook in Katy's folded arms.


"I said, run!" Alex took a few steps back towards the woman, but even as she did so she saw Katy's shoe leather beginning to crack. The skin around her ankles began to dry and fold, lines and snakes of growing wrinkles winding themselves up her feet and calves. Rachel, already out of the gate, ground to a halt and stared back.

"Alex!" Her voice almost cracked with worry, and Kat began to shake anew. "Get out of there!"

"We can't just leave her." Alex took a few more steps towards the woman, but the wrinkles were rising fast up Katy's body, and her skirt and blouse were rapidly turning grey and threadbare with age. She began to shake, and the spell book fell from her crooked and arthritic fingers. Alex made a grab for it, catching hold of the fluttering pages just before they descended into the rising red mists.

"Help me..." Katy turned to face her, her clawed hands reaching out for Alex's arms. Alex backed away. To leave another human being behind was anathema to her, but she could see that Katy was already beyond help. Her once young face was already a mask of building wrinkles, her dull eyes almost hidden by the folds of greying skin. Her hands were shaking so much that it was not hard for Alex to stay out of her reach.

"Alex!" Rachel sounded frantic, and Alex turned towards her at last, running faster as she neared the gate, the coldness that she was coming to recognise once again touching the back of her mind. Behind her she heard a shriek, rising in pitch, and as she reached the gate she stopped and looked back. Katy was lying on the ground, almost invisible through the mist. Her body was very still, and as Alex watched it appeared to shimmer, as though seen through a powerful heat haze. With a burst of flame the body disappeared and the red mist faded from sight. Katy had vanished, a faint ash that blew in the wind the only evidence of her passing. After a second the swings too began to crumble, collapsing in on themselves in a shower of sawdust and metal fragments. Alex fell backwards through the gate.

"Come on..." Rachel was pulling at her arm, trying to make her follow; and galvanised into action by the soft cries of the small girl in her colleague's arms, Alex allowed herself to be half-dragged back to the car. Rachel unlocked it when they were still several feet away, clambering into the back seat with Kat. Alex slid behind the wheel.

"I think we're safe now." She was staring up at the house with wide eyes, still uncertain as to what had just happened.

"I don't think we're safe anywhere. I don't think anyone's safe anymore." Rachel leant back into the embrace of the soft seat, barely aware of Kat's hands clinging to hers. "Let's just get to the house. Quickly."

"Yeah." Alex started up the engine, dragging her mind back from the empty house and the fire-ravaged garden. She wondered what had happened to Katy's daughter, and whether she had been alone in her fate. Perhaps Kat could tell her that, or perhaps Derek would be able to uncover something, after seeing the spell book. Her eyes strayed towards it as she drove, lingering on the leather cover and the large letters. She couldn't help wondering where a friend of Kat's could have found such a book, or who might have written it in the first place. Derek, undoubtedly, would have a theory on that. She only hoped that it would give him some clues that might help to destroy the creature which had stolen Kat's playmates. The little girl's gentle sobs in the rear of the car made her all the more determined to get to the bottom of the affair, but she couldn't help feeling that the book was not much of a clue. All that she could do was to hope that it would mean something to Derek, but beyond that they seemed no better off than before. Time, however, was clearly not on their side - for it was now painfully obvious that their opponent was gaining strength fast.


Derek heard the sound of the front door closing, even seated as he was in his office. Alex had wondered in the early days of her association with the Legacy whether he might have some hidden equipment in his office that told him when there was somebody coming up the drive - but she had since learned that it was merely his powers of hearing. Derek, true to form, never switched off. Perhaps he was permanently tuned in to the comings and goings through the front door, on the off chance that some unspeakable demon might be about to force entry. Perhaps he was always on the look out for the Legacy's more mortal enemies. Either way it seemed that he was never off duty, and so it was that he was waiting at the top of the stairs even as she was pushing the door shut behind her. She glanced up, unsurprised to see him there, and offered him a strained and somewhat breathless smile. He hurried down the steps.

"Alex. Rachel." His greetings were perfunctory, for them at least. It was Kat who held his interest, apparently, and Kat with whom he seemed most anxious to speak. He crouched down beside her, taking one of her hands in his.

"Hello Derek." She sounded very tired, and Rachel pulled her close. Surely whatever Derek had to say could wait? Why could he never see that other people simply weren't capable of keeping up with the pace that he always set for himself?

"Derek..." she began in warning. He didn't look at her.

"How are you, Kat?" His soft voice was gentle and reassuring - relaxing almost. Kat seemed to respond to it, as she always did. It made Rachel feel a strange but familiar twinge of jealousy, that as ever made her feel a little guilty.

"I'm okay." The little girl's eyes widened. "I'm sorry Derek. I didn't know what would happen. I tried to stop them."

"Of course you did." Although he had no idea what she might have been referring to, he gave her hand a squeeze, and glanced up at Rachel. "Take her to her room. It's ready for her."

Isn't it always? wondered Rachel. It sometimes seemed to her that Derek wanted them to move into the house permanently, for he apparently had their rooms in a state of perpetual readiness. That was a step that she was not willing to take. The Legacy might have her heart - although she wasn't always sure about that - but it most definitely did not have her soul. She still had a life outside of the mysterious workings of the Luna Foundation - and she was going to make sure that it stayed that way. She gave Kat a quick hug.

"Come on, honey. Let's get you into bed."

"No." It wasn't often that Kat argued with her mother, but there was a real determination in her voice now. Rachel frowned.

"You need your sleep."

"I can't sleep. It's the middle of the day." She still held on to Derek's hand, her eyes wide and pleading. "Don't send me to bed, Derek. Please. I don't want to go. I want to stay down here with everybody else."

"You're scared?" He took her other hand, holding her as tightly as she was holding him. "Kat, if there is something wrong..."

"Everything's wrong." She was trying hard not to cry, but was not succeeding. "Alex and Mom are scared. I could feel it in the car. Something's gone all wrong, hasn't it. And it's all my fault..."

"Your fault.?" He stared at her, perplexed, before suddenly beginning to comprehend her initial claim that she had tried to stop somebody from doing something. He gasped. "Kat... what you said about trying to stop someone..."

"Enough Derek." Rachel sounded angry. "She's been through enough. Her school friends seem to have done something to summon this demon, and it tried to attack her. It took her friends away with it, and we've just watched the mother of one of them dying horribly. Kat needs to rest."

"But she does not need to sleep." He gathered the little girl into his arms and carried her to the living room, where large, comfortable couches were stretched about to promote relaxation - not that any member of the Legacy seemed to take advantage of that terribly often. Rachel stormed in his wake, seething at this apparent lack of concern for her daughter's welfare.

"Derek!" Her indignation was rapidly turning to rage, but Derek, his voice still soft, merely glanced towards her and frowned.

"Not now Rachel." He set Kat down on the nearest of the couches, then crouched on the floor before her. "Kat does not want to be alone just now. I can sympathise." He frowned at her, trying to fill her with a little of his own quiet confidence. "But the creature that you saw cannot harm you in this house, Kat. Its powers are not great enough to allow that. Not yet."

"I tried to stop them." She sounded as though she was not far from tears, and Rachel sat down beside her. She was beginning to appreciate Derek's calm and gentle manner, but she glared at him nonetheless. He seemed to understand, and bore the fierce expression with no apparent malice. "I didn't want to say the spells..."

"I know." He smiled at her again, and this time she almost returned the gesture. "If you had been a part of the spell casting, you would have been taken by the demon along with your friends. We don't suspect you of any wrongdoing." He glanced towards Alex, apparently seeing the spell book in her arms for the first time. "What is that?"

"It's a book." She handed it to him. "I assume it's the one that the kids got the spell from. I haven't had a chance to look through it yet, but it's pretty old." She shivered as she handed it to him. "And weird."

"Unpleasant vibes?" He weighed the heavy volume in his hands. "Not exactly standard bedtime reading, is it. I wonder where they got it from?"

"Alice said that it belonged to her father." Kat sounded almost her old self again, which apart from making Rachel grateful to Derek, yet again made her feel the odd sensation of jealousy. She wished that she could appreciate the bond that appeared to have grown between the two, but suspicions still lingered. It would take a while, she knew, before she could find it in herself to forgive Derek for all that his father had done to her family. The Precept frowned.

"Alice? Is she the girl that you were staying with?"

"Yes." Kat's face paled noticeably. "Her mother... She turned old, and then she died."

"She was killed in daylight?" Derek barked out the words so rapidly that Rachel almost failed to respond to them. Fortunately Alex was rather more on the ball, and nodded briskly.

"We didn't see the creature, but I could feel it all of the time we were in the house. It was a cold feeling, like the one I felt when it came to the museum." She shivered. "It's not pleasant. It feels like it's trying to crawl under your skin." A red flush coloured her face. "Not that that's terribly scientific..."

"Never mind science." Derek opened the book, flipping through the pages almost as if he knew exactly what he was looking for. Perhaps he did, for he was beginning to slow the rush of the pages; beginning to look through them with a certain kind of expectation; even before Kat announced that he was getting close. He turned a few more pages, and she let out a yell.

"That's it! I'm sure that's it."

"Thankyou Kat." He smiled warmly at her, and she smiled back, clearly already feeling much better. Rachel envied her. As a psychiatrist she was well aware of the resilience of youth; but somehow it never failed to amaze her when she saw it with her own eyes - and not least when it was her daughter that displayed it.

"Do you recognise the spell?" Alex was watching Derek, noticing the tiny, almost imperceptible changes in his eyes that showed his thoughts and feelings - tiny changes that would have been invisible to anybody else. He was silent for a long moment before answering.

"I don't think so. Certain stanzas are a little familiar." He glanced down the page. "It's a long spell."

"They didn't say all of it." Kat was frowning at the words on the page, and pointed at a section of verse. "Is that Latin?"

"It is indeed." Derek was reading through it, a slight frown upon his face. "Did they say these lines?"

"No. Only the English bits." It was her turn to frown as she read it through upside down. "Those bits." She pointed, glad to have been of some use. "It was fun at first. We found some spells about the weather. I thought it would be interesting. Then we found some other spells, and then I didn't want to do it anymore. I couldn't make them listen."

"You mustn't blame yourself, Kat." Rachel hugged her instinctively, but Kat did not seem to want to be hugged. She pulled away.

"I've seen things," she announced defiantly, almost as though she wanted to be blamed. "I know things that they don't. I should have warned them. I could have gone to fetch Alice's mother, or I could have... I could have blown out the candles or something. But I didn't. I didn't do anything."

"It's okay Kat." Rachel hugged her more tightly than she had in a long time. "There was nothing that you could have done." She smiled, intending to be reassuring, and hoping that she wasn't just being patronising. "We'll get your friends back. We will find them. Right Derek?"

"I hope so." He didn't sound convinced, but her warning frown had no apparent effect. It was likely that he had not even noticed it, for his eyes were fixed upon the pages of the spell book. Rachel couldn't understand his fascination for it, or perhaps was merely having problems believing that the apparently innocuous volume could be responsible for their current problems. Try as she might, she could not believe that a group of schoolchildren had read a spell, and in the process had summoned a demon. She certainly could not accept that a group of Kat's friends were involved. She remembered her conversation with Nick during the night, when they had discussed the possibility of killing whoever was responsible for summoning the demon. Her blood ran cold at the memory. Three little girls no older than Kat - three little girls that she had played with, and had invited round for tea more than once in the past. Would Winston Rayne have been as prepared to kill them as he had been to kill the teenagers who had summoned the demon before? Would his son have been prepared to kill Kat, if she had joined in with her friends in their spell-casting? She wished that she could be more sure of either answer.

"Does the spell mean anything to you?" Alex was still staring at the book and at Derek, reading the minute changes of expression in his eyes, and seeing things in them that Rachel could not. He nodded, his eyes never leaving the page.

"It's not exactly a spell, at least as far as I can make out. It's more a form of incantation, involving certain phrases in a number of languages that refer to many familiar aspects of dark magic. There are corruptions of sacred scriptures from a number of religions..." He glanced up momentarily. "We should be very grateful that the children could only read a small piece of this. If they had been able to read it all, the results would have been disastrous. According to these words, the purpose of the incantation is to bring twelve plagues upon the Earth. They were originally designed by a brotherhood of sorcerers who sought to open the portal into hell, and wreak havoc upon the world as vengeance for the death of their brother at the hands of mediaeval law." Rachel blinked.

"You got all of that from that book?"

"Not exactly. Some of the information comes from the books I have been reading today. This book just corroborates my research." He tapped the first segment of text. "It also tells me a few things that I didn't know. I had no idea of the full extent of this incantation. My father's dealings with this creature suggested that the summoning was the sole purpose for the incantation, but obviously that is not true. Were the whole of this to be read aloud, in the proper circumstances, there would be very few people left upon the Earth to see the end. It calls for torrents of blood to pour from the heavens; for the sea to boil; for all of the waters of the Earth to be turned to acid..." He shook his head. "I would very much like to know where the father of Kat's friend obtained this book. It should have been destroyed centuries ago."

"I can't believe that nobody has ever read it all before." Alex read the first few lines of the incantation under her breath, and whistled. "The wording is very strong."

"I think we can assume that very few of the people who have had access to this book were capable of reading all of it. According to the preliminary lines..." He scanned the relevant text, which was written in a very dated form of Greek. "It appears that nobody can make the spell work unless they actually understand the words - all of them. There are at least twelve languages making up the whole of the text - certainly one language for each section. I understand the Greek, the Phoenician, the Latin... but there are one or two languages here that I can't even identify." He tapped one part of the page. "This piece looks like Russian, but it's not. And this piece shares many similarities with Urdu - not that I can read that either. There is also some Aramaic, largely concerned with the summoning of cyclones and typhoons. Vast hurricanes intended to drag up every tree by their roots, and to destroy all but the strongest of man-made structures."

"Charming." Rachel sounded mechanical, as though numbed by the sheer weight of all that she was hearing. "Do you want me to call Philip? If I can get in touch with him, I might be able to get him over here. He could translate the rest of the text."

"Philip is in Ireland. By the time he can get over here this will all be over." Derek threw the book aside, apparently finished with it for the time being. "There is no reason to try to translate the rest of the spell. I think we can assume that none of us wish to understand it. Not in its entirety."

"I certainly don't." Alex looked up suddenly, her eyes widening as she caught the significance of Derek's tone. "You think that that's what this creature is after?"

"I imagine that it plans to unleash the full power of this spell upon the world, yes. If it can." He pointed to the third verse. "This part deals with the destruction 'of all barriers that stand in the way of the path of true evil.' That's what our creature does. It goes on to say that, once these barriers have been destroyed, all other walls will come tumbling down."

"It sounds as if that means that the incantation can be finished by the creature itself. Presumably it's capable of summoning all twelve plagues, provided somebody is able to summon it first." Alex sat down on the couch, her eyes fixed to a distant point on the carpet. "Nice. Still, if that's its goal, there's little wonder it dislikes the Legacy so much."

"But you said that your father had encountered this creature before - or another of its kind. If that's the case, then why haven't be heard about this before? Why didn't your father mention the book, or the creature's other intentions?" As always Rachel was searching for the more rational view. Derek conceded her point with a polite nod, as usual apparently respecting, and even appreciating, her different outlook.

"My father did not know the full extent of the creature's intentions. He did not know of the book - or at least, that's what I must assume. As for the creature unleashing the twelve plagues, I think we can be very grateful that he got to it in time. He sent it back into hell before it was able to do that."

"By killing the people who summoned it." Rachel nodded. Much though it pained her to consider such a course of action, she almost found herself feeling grateful that Winston Rayne had been so quick off the mark. He might not have known it at the time, but his summary justice had perhaps saved the world from a terrible fate. "But the creature learned," she heard herself saying, almost without realising it. "That's why it spirited its creators away."

"Yes." Derek's eyes trailed to Kat. "Although somehow I can't see us having resorted to my father's methods in this case."

"I'm glad to hear it." Alex sounded as though she was trying to inject some humour into the proceedings, but there was too much real feeling in her voice for that. Derek answered her words with a thin smile.

"We have a lot of work to do." He showed no signs of moving, and instead remained where he was, eyes fixed on Kat, whose own eyes were now closed. He wasn't sure if she was sleeping, but she certainly seemed unaware of his scrutiny, such as it was. In actual fact he did not see her at all, and instead saw the words in his father's journal. His sharp mind ran over the familiar words in the familiar handwriting - the sharp points of his father's sloping letters; the words almost flowing into each other; almost becoming one whole, so frenetic had the speed of their writing so often been. He remembered the cryptic sentences concerning the creature, and Winston's vague, indirect references to the way in which he had vanquished it. Not for him were the clear, definite admissions. Only once had Derek seen an open confession to a killing committed by his father, and that was one that he would rather not think about at all. He didn't think that he would ever be able to forget the look on Rachel's face, when he had had to tell her that his father had murdered her mother. That feeling alone was enough to make him more sure than ever that he could not use his father's methods now - even if he had had Kat's little friends grouped together before him. He rubbed his eyes, reaching out for the spell book.

"Where's Nick?" He asked it as though he was wondering it now for the first time. Clearly it didn't strike him that Alex and Rachel had not long returned, and had even less idea of their colleague's whereabouts that did he. Alex shrugged.

"In the kitchens?" It seemed likely, especially given the time of day; and even more especially given Nick Boyle's legendary appetite.

"He was using the computer." Derek did not seem to have heard her suggestion. "He shouldn't be on his own. We have no idea when this creature will become strong enough to challenge us openly. We should all stick together from now on."

"We're not safe here?" Kat had opened her eyes, and was staring at Derek as though scared to move a muscle. Rachel sighed.

"Well done, Derek." She tried to gather her daughter close, but the little girl was like stone in her arms, unyielding and unbending. "Is there anything else you'd like to say, just to make us all feel completely safe?"

"I'm sorry." He sounded it, almost, but his manner was still brisk and businesslike. He rose to his feet, gathering up the spell book and tucking it under his arm. "We should go to the computer room to be with Nick. He needs to be told what is going on, and then we need to find a way to destroy this creature."

"We've been through everything, Derek. There's no information about it in the house, and I can't see there being anything else in the city. We have the biggest collection of occult information for miles around, and time is too scarce to look much further afield." For all her love of research, Alex could not face the idea of returning to the books and computer files now. She wanted to be doing something, her direct experience of the evil that they were fighting giving her a greater impetus to do something more decisive in order to destroy it.

"True." Derek waved the book at her. "But we have more information now. I might be able to find a way to counteract the power of the incantation - to reverse its effects and send the creature back to hell in that way. Alternatively, it may be that the creature is focussed on the book somehow. It may come to us as a result. That might give us the opportunity we need."

"To do what?" Rachel was incredulous. "Let it suck the life out of us? You didn't see what it did to Katy Richardson, Derek. It was horrible."

"I'm sure that it was." He brandished the spell book. "But we are rather better prepared that an unsuspecting woman in the suburbs. We know what we're up against."

"That may not be enough." Alex was thinking about Katy, and the expression on her face as it had slowly been consumed by the rising tide of old age. She remembered the woman's desperate screams, and the feeling of all-pervading cold that she had herself experienced. She remembered looking through the window at the museum, and seeing those cold, empty eyes boring into her; threatening to suck out her life with one look. "It's going to take more than a few chanted words to get rid of this thing, Derek."

"Perhaps." He frowned, staring once again at the book in his hands. "We could try getting in touch with William Sloan. He might know something that could help. Or perhaps one of the other Legacy Houses. I remember hearing something once from the House in Mozambique..." He shook his head. "But that was a different kind of demon, created not summoned."

"You're tired." Rachel stood up, trying to coax the stiff and unresponsive Kat into her arms. "You're not thinking straight. None of us are."

"Are you suggesting we rest, with that thing out there devouring the population?" Derek brandished the book, although without any real sense of admonishment. "I can't do that, Rachel. I have to find a way to fight this."

"Perhaps something else from the book. One of the other spells, or incantations." Alex could see from Derek's face that this had indeed been his plan. He could go on almost indefinitely like this, she knew. Working hard, constantly on the alert, making no concessions to time or day, and not even stopping for meals unless they were forced upon him. He would carry on until he found a way to destroy the creature, or until it became strong enough to enter the house and destroy him. He would work until his skin had gone pale, until his eyes seemed unnaturally bright, and until he looked almost like a ghost of his usual self. She had seen it before; seen his dedication pushing him to the edge, past the edge, and far, far beyond. Then he would stop, coming to a crashing halt once the latest battle was over, sleeping for hour upon hour to make up for the nights he had spent poring over books and relics and endless Legacy journals. She worried about him, but she knew that there was no way to ever make him change. His father had seen to that, thirty years before.

"We should go to Nick." He tucked the book back under his arm, and headed towards the door. "He might have found something."

"Increasing numbers of spontaneously combusting dead people?" Rachel was beginning to feel the old sensation of hopelessness taking her over. She had experienced it before, in her weaker moments. They all had. If it hadn't been for Kat's presence, she might have announced her lack of faith to the world - but as it was she kept her feelings to herself, and began to lead her daughter in the Precept's wake. Alex followed on behind, trying not to yawn. It seemed inappropriate somehow, to show signs of fatigue at a time like this - and yet she couldn't help feeling tired. It seemed a long, long time ago since she had last climbed into her large, warm bed upstairs, and closed her eyes. Right now she wasn't sure that she wanted to sleep, despite her exhaustion. She knew that her rest would be disturbed by nightmares, and she didn't want to go through that. Not after everything else that she had witnessed of late.

"Are you alright?" Derek's voice was soft, his footsteps almost covering the sound of his words as they walked together. Alex wasn't sure at which point he had contrived to come alongside her, and allow Rachel and Kat to take the lead. She smiled at him, the expression strained and tired, and showing no sign of her usual warmth. His own smile was almost equally drawn.

"It's hard." She hadn't wanted to say anything, but she knew that Derek would understand, and as usual their bond was drawing them together. This time she thought that she saw real humour in his smile, albeit for only a second.

"I know." His hands brushed hers, just for a moment; long enough for her to feel a burst of something. Perhaps it was his fatigue, although it felt more like fear. She knew then that he was tuned in to the same things that she was, and that he was picking up the same sensations, the same vibrations, from the threatened city around them. It was at times such as these that it was truly hard to be so psychically sensitive. His hand fell away from hers, and she saw his grip tightening momentarily on the book under his arm. He was receiving flashes from it, of some ilk. She wondered what he had seen, but the expression on his face had not changed, and it was impossible to guess. She doubted that he would enlighten her, unless he thought it especially vital. Left to his own devices, she was fairly sure that Derek would never tell anybody anything. The thought almost made her smile.

"What do you think our chances are?" She spoke softly enough to cut Rachel out of the conversation entirely. Derek didn't answer immediately. Ahead the top of the stairs loomed before them. Rachel had already reached the top, and was heading towards the secret room where Nick was busy at the computer. Derek stared after her.

"It won't be long," he said finally, his expression unreadable. "I can feel things. It's growing."

"I thought so. I can feel the coldness again, even though it's not here with us. It must be getting more powerful for it to be so distinct."

"It'll be here soon." He ran one hand over the cover of the spell book. "Unless we can stop it."

"You don't sound too confident." She had meant it as an accusation, but he took it as a simple statement of fact.

"No, I don't. But we'll do what we can, Alex. Like we always do."

"And if it's not enough?"

"That's a risk we run when we join the Legacy. We always knew that it could happen one day."

"But it's not just the House that could fall this time. It's everything."

"It's still a risk that we run every day. There is nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide, no one who can tell us what to do, or where to go from here. Do you want to back out?"

"No." She couldn't help remembering the first time that she had faced true conflict, shortly after joining the Legacy. She was feeling all of those fears and uncertainties again now. Derek smiled.

"Good." He put his hand on her shoulder, and she realised that if she had experienced some of his emotions through their contact, he surely must be feeling some of hers. "We will find a way through this, Alex."

She nodded. "Of course we will."

"That's the spirit." He took his hand away, and the coldness of the growing creature flooded back to her. She wondered how he had managed to keep it at bay. "If my father found a way, so will we."

"Yeah." They fell back into step, heading once more for the hidden room. Alex could almost feel her confidence growing again, although she was not sure why. She let her eyes trail once more to the book in Derek's hand. "Do you think that the creature will really come here, after that?"

"If it truly wishes to finish the incantation, and release the twelve plagues, it will have no choice. It will have to come after the book." He raised the sizeable tome, brandishing it as though it were a magic wand, and he was a magician forging a spell. "It will come soon enough, anyway. It has to. Its primary purpose is to destroy the Legacy."

"Then I wish it would just come, and get it over and done with."

"So do I." He glanced towards the window, which looked out towards the rest of the city. The tide was in now, isolating the house from the rest of the world - or perhaps isolating the rest of the world from the house. "Many people will die, now that the creature is so obviously gaining strength."

"And we should be out there stopping it."

"How?" He laid a hand on her shoulder, and once again she felt a little of the dread and the cold ebb away from her mind. "We have no way to find it, and no way to tackle it. Not yet."

"That doesn't make it any easier."

"I know." He closed his eyes briefly, and his hand fell away from its post on her shoulder. "And even if it was easy, and the creature was on its way here right now for certain, we'd still be in no better a position. We still don't know how to kill it."

"Not without tracking down a bunch of kids, and then killing them." Her voice was barely audible. "Maybe even killing Kat."

"My father would say that that was a small price to pay." They had reached the hologram hiding the entrance to the secret research room, and they knew that the others were waiting for them, wondering what they were doing, and what they were talking about. "He'd tell us to remember our oath to protect others from the shadows."

"He'd kill a bunch of school kids?" Alex didn't know why she was shocked. She had heard a lot about Winston Rayne over the years, and learned a lot more about him in recent months. All the same, it was hard to think that Derek's father could be so cold and heartless. So single-minded in his battle against darkness that he had long ago become what he professed to despise. No wonder Derek was so intense. He was probably worried that he would end up the same way. She wanted to lay her hand on his shoulder, the way that he had done to her. She wanted to tell him that everything would be okay, and that he would find a way through, just as he always did. Instead she smiled rather coldly, and gestured towards the hologram.

"They're waiting for us."

"Yes. They are." His lips twitched into the tiniest of smiles. "They may have the answers for us."

"Then we should go and find out." She wanted to stay where she was. She wanted their conversation, their solitude, to last forever. Instead she stepped through the hologram. There would be time enough some other day to think of their personal lives - of the world beyond work. Time enough when the hordes of hell were not about to start hammering at their window frames. The trouble was, she had been thinking that way for years, and somehow that 'some other day' had never quite managed to arrive.

And now of course, maybe it never would.


The demon roamed San Francisco, feeding whenever he could. Blood charged through his system, nourishing, fulfilling, strengthening. It tasted good. Power tasted good. The lives of the humans were beginning to give him new life of his own. He stood on the Golden Gate bridge, enjoying the relative solitude of the early part of the night. There were fewer pedestrians now, and the world had been transformed into a contrast of black skies and flashing golden lights. Cars streamed past, as never-ending rivers; lights glowed in roads, from buildings, from huge signs that flashed and changed. Noise was everywhere, but it was a different noise to the endless drone of the day. This was a new noise - the noise of people alone in their homes; the noise of lives escaping through open windows; the noise of people lying helpless in alleyways, with nowhere to go. The creature loved it all. There was power in noise and music - the kind of noise and music he created with his own brand of death and destruction. The noise of terror, and the music of screaming. It gave the creature pleasure, inasmuch as he was able to feel such things.

There were no pedestrians on the bridge, and the creature, after taking one last deep breath of the cold night air, turned back towards the close set buildings where the greatest delicacies were to be found. A man scurrying home late from work fell easy victim; a construction worker left behind on night watch was even easier prey. The creature watched the last wisps of red mist rise higher into the air, enjoying the effect as the last strands appeared to colour the moon. A bird screeched nearby, presumably from somewhere close to the sea. The demon turned his head to watch, easily manoeuvring his face through one hundred and eighty degrees in order to catch a glimpse of the bird. It was flying his way, ducking and swooping as it headed inland towards its nest. The demon plucked it from the heavens with ease, watching for a while as it writhed in his hands. It was not much in the way of food when compared to the humans, but the creature was starting to lose interest in food at all. He was growing strong now; strong enough for all food to be required only as entertainment, rather than as nourishment. The bird had been amusing to watch in its death throes - but what he really wanted now was stronger, richer prey. His dark, empty eyes turned towards the headland, and the stretch of high tide that separated the Legacy House from the city it protected. The water was black by now, lit only in patches by the lights from the city, and the bridge and the few small boats still out at sea. It was a long way to the house - a long walk that might have taken the rest of the night; a long drive had he had access to a car; and an even longer swim. The creature hated water, despite its coldness and the darkness that lay at its depths. He should have felt at home in such an environment, and yet somehow the mere idea of submersion in the water made him shiver. Not for him. Not for him at all.

"Alex Moreau..." He remembered the name from earlier, when he had encountered the woman at the museum. There had been another one too, at a house earlier in the evening. He remembered her name too, and the sound of it on his lips was like music to his ears. "Rachel Corrigan..." Rich pickings; real food. Real nourishment, that would replenish energies such as the ordinary inhabitants of the city did not even begin to touch upon. His wide, empty mouth twisted into a broad grin, and further wafts of red mist drifted forth. Had he been in possession of a tongue he might have licked his lips at that moment, and thought about the taste of his victims. He might have recalled the touch of blood on his mouth, and the warmth of each life as he drained it. Instead he merely thought about his next meal, and what sweet nectar those lives would be to drain. He closed his eyes.

It was only a thought; one brief image in his mind of where he wanted to be. He was there immediately, standing at the edge of the black water, looking out towards the house in the distance. At low tide he would have been able to walk there, had he had the inclination to do such a thing. Now there was no such possibility. He wondered about the security precautions in such a place, although no doubt they were already expecting him. Maybe they even knew that he was after the book, as well as them; that he would stop at nothing in order to get it. If that was the case, there was really no point in worrying about security precautions.

"You want a lift across there?" It was an old voice; thick and hoarse, and filled with salt. The creature turned, careful to keep his mouth almost shut, and his eyes backed against the glare of the lights across the water.

"You can take me?" He had no need for human forms of transport, but he wanted this man to come closer. There was no need to kill him of course, but the creature did not just kill for food anymore. He killed because killing was what he did - was why he had been created. He destroyed life, just as he would soon destroy the world, once the spell book was in his hands.

"Sure I can. I've got a boat just over there a ways. Small, but it'll be fine for just the two of us. You got business with the Luna Foundation?"

"Luna Foundation?" The words meant nothing to the creature. All that he was interested in was the Legacy. He knew nothing of covers and aliases.

"Yeah." The sailor frowned, his thick white brows beetling together, meeting in the centre of his darkly tanned, weather-beaten forehead. "The Luna Foundation. Charitable organisation, owns that house. It's run by Doctor Derek Rayne." His eyes narrowed. "You do have business over there?"

"Yes. Yes, I have business." The creature smiled, keeping his lips close together. "Doctor Rayne has a book that he has promised to lend me. A very old book, that once belonged to..." He trailed off, unable to say 'to my creators', or 'to my masters'. Instead he merely smiled. "To my family. An old heirloom, of a kind." His voice had sunk in volume and tone to a veritable hiss. "I'm anxious to see it again."

"Really." The old sailor didn't sound convinced; as though he thought that the creature was lying, or that his intentions were far less innocent than he was trying to make them appear. "Well Doctor Rayne has a lot of pieces in his collection, or so they say. He's been known to lend them out before."

"As he will again tonight." The creature laughed lightly, turning his head once again to look out towards the house. He had not expected to be able to move against it so soon. Another few days at least... He had fed well though, and richly. He had gained strength fast, spurred on by the youth and vigour of those who had summoned him. That would stand him in good stead as he went now to meet his enemies. He turned back to the sailor.

"I want to be there as soon as possible. Can we leave straightaway?"

"If you want." The old man was sounding less enthusiastic by the minute. "Do you want to call the Foundation first, and let them know you're coming?"

"Oh they already know that." The creature smiled more broadly, and for the first time let his mouth open a little. A faint trail of red mist rose up into the sky. The old sailor took a step back.

"That's one weird kind of tobacco you've got there, mister." He turned his own eyes towards the house. "Maybe we should leave this until morning."

"Because I smoke a strange kind of tobacco?" The creature wasn't sure what tobacco was, and he wondered if it was the bitter substance he could taste in the air around the old man's bulky body. He wondered what it did to the taste of the man himself, and moved a little closer. "I think I shall go to the house tonight, thankyou. But you may remain here, if you wish."

"You're not taking my boat without me." Indignation fired in the violent eyes. The creature smiled.

"I'm not going to take your boat." He reached out, and his hand stroked the man's arm. "You are... Jonathon. Jonathon Handover."

"How in the blazes-?" Handover took a step back, but the hand on his arm prevented him. "Let go of me. If you want a boat ride, you've got one. Beyond that..."

"Beyond that there is nothing." The creature pulled him close, enjoying the look on the old sailor's face as the coldness and the fear began to take over. Red mists coloured the air between them. "Beyond that there is only my feeding, and my victory. Beyond that there is only the destruction of all." Handover stared back at him, faint glimmers of defiance lighting his face and his eyes even though he was now beyond the brink of death. He seemed to be trying to say something. The creature laughed aloud, and new floods of red mist drifted from the emptiness within him. Handover was floating in that emptiness now, alone on the tides of death, adrift in infinity. He could feel the last of everything ebbing away. The creature let his lifeless body fall.

"Derek Rayne." It was a new name, and a strong one. One that pleased him. He turned to look back towards the house, hearing but not seeing as Handover's fallen body erupted into flame. No heat arose from the flames, and no sparks or smoke rose into the air. There was only coldness; coldness and mist. The creature smiled again, and sent his red mists flying out across the waters; sent them to suck the last drop of light from the windows of the house across the water. He sent them to pull the warmth out of every crack, and to steal every flicker of humour or happiness that lingered unguarded in the corridors. Then and only then did he think his way out across the bay. It was to ivy-covered walls that he next opened his eyes. Ivy-covered walls speckled with dark windows, mirroring his own darkened eyes. There was a face in one of the windows, and the creature stared up towards it. He knew that the face was staring back at him. There was understanding on the face, like the resolve in the eyes of a man who knew that he was about to die. The creature smiled. He was ready to make his entrance. Time to see what the Legacy was capable of.


Derek had been standing at the window for a long time, locked in all manner of thoughts. Since rejoining the others in the operations room he had lapsed into silence, leaving Alex and Rachel to update Nick. The ex-SEAL had been fascinated by the book, and Derek's three colleagues had pored over it for some considerable time, before turning once more to their research whilst their Precept worked on the book alone. Kat had sat on her own in the corner, listening with half of her mind, listening out for the creature with the other half, all the time pretending to read a story book Nick had found for her in the library. Derek could feel her fear, although he preferred not to mention it. It was unfair to draw attention to her worries, and in the process risk embarrassing her, when they all had so many worries of their own. Perhaps he was wrong to think that she would prefer her fear to be kept a secret - perhaps she would rather have had it out in the open, so that the others would comfort her, and tell her that everything was going to be okay. The truth was that such consolations were fantasies, and there was no way of being sure that everything would indeed be okay. Derek could remember many occasions when he had been the terrified youngster, surrounded by Legacy elders, unable to truly understand what was going on around him. His father had always left him to his own devices then, and Derek was doing the same to Kat now. It might have been heartless, it might have been the most supportive thing that could be done - or it might just have been a matter of practicalities. The truth was that he did not have the time to make small girls feel better, any more than he had the time to wonder where her little playmates had gone. He had the time only to think, and to plan, and to wonder at what he was going to do next.

"Derek?" Rachel's voice called him from his thoughts, but he did not look up.

"Yes Rachel." He had to be there for them, no matter what concerns he had of his own. He was the Precept, and it was his duty to do what was required when the members of his House needed him. He heard footsteps, and felt a hand touch his shoulder.

"You need rest." Rachel was always telling him that he needed to slow down, or that he should be resting. He appreciated her concern, but as ever he paid little attention to what she was saying. How could he rest? How could he ever rest? Perhaps he was not quite as driven as his father had been, but he was still far from being his own man.

"We all need to rest." He glanced down at her, offering her a gentle smile that imbued her with a new sense of confidence and purpose, however much she still wanted to be cross with him. "But this is not the time. There is too much to do."

"Such as staring out of windows wondering what's going on in the world?" She shook her head. "We all need to sleep, so I think we should do just that. We don't need to leave this room if you prefer, and we needn't all sleep at the same time. We can take it in turns to watch the computers, or the security cameras, if that's what you want." She narrowed her eyes. "Although you did say that this creature shouldn't be able to attack us yet. We should be perfectly safe enough sleeping in our beds."

"We should be." His tone of voice, falsely light, told her that he didn't believe for a minute that they would be. "The responsibility is mine as far as that decision is concerned, Rachel; and I think that we should all remain here, together. If you want to sleep, then sleep. Perhaps it will be for the best."

"Derek..." Her exasperation was beginning to grow. "There's no sense in running yourself into the ground like this. We need you to be fresh, and ready to face this thing if need be. You can't do that if you're dead on your feet."

"But I'm not." She wished that she was psychic, so that she could be sure of that, for his tone was light enough to suggest that he was telling the truth. He looked almost carefree. "I will stay up and keep watch. You others should sleep." He smiled gently at Rachel and at Alex. "Especially you two. You haven't had much chance to rest since you were attacked, and no doubt the experience has been a drain. Nick and I will keep a watch on security."

"I do feel a little drained." Rachel hated to admit to it, since it was Derek that she really wanted to see resting. He would otherwise carry on until victory was his, and since this was the first opportunity she had had to suggest sleep to him, she had been determine to see that he took it. It would probably be her last chance to insist upon such a course of action until they were sweeping up the remains of their latest enemy - or, indeed, being sucked into oblivion following their own defeat.

"So do I." Alex was sitting in front of the computer controls, the spell book lying beside her. She and Nick had been running some experiments on it, scanning some of the text, and testing the chemical make-up of the pages. They had discovered little, and the length of the day was truly beginning to take its toll. It was hard to believe that it was still less than twenty-four hours since she had been attacked at the museum. It was beginning to grow dark, and the world beyond the windows was slowing down - yet predictably enough Derek Rayne was just discovering his second wind, and Nick was looking as steadfast as ever. Alex just wanted to go to sleep, no matter how many nightmares she had to face first.

"We'll call you if anything happens." Nick grinned as he said it, aware that there would be no need - nor any time - to call anybody should they happen to be attacked. Alex glared at him.

"Nothing's going to happen. It's all going to turn out to be a false alarm, and we'll feel like total idiots." She stared at the spell book, wishing that her words were true. "But either way, I'm going to take a match to that thing as soon as possible."

"That mightn't be such a bad idea." Derek shrugged. "But on the other hand, if it finds that the book is beyond it, there's no telling what the creature might do for revenge. It's certain to be very angry if we destroy its property."

"Not half as angry as I'll be if it destroys us." Nick banged his fist down on the book, making the table jiggle and wobble on its ageing legs. So much of the equipment in the secret room was state of the art - the newest of the new - and yet so many of the non-essentials seemed to date back to the time of the Legacy's inception, practically with the birth of humanity. Rachel found herself smiling.

"I still think we should all just get some sleep." She knew that she was fighting a losing battle, but she persisted anyway. "It's not as if we're in any immediate danger..."

"It's getting colder." Kat's voice startled them all, and made everybody turn towards her as one. A frown furrowed Rachel's brow, but when she moved to step towards her daughter, Derek held her back.

"Colder, Kat?" His voice was light, as though they were discussing her schoolwork, or her favourite television programme. "How do you mean?"

"Like the sun has closed its eyes." It was a strange thing to say, especially since the sun itself had already sunk into the sea. All the same, Derek knew what she meant. His eyes met with Alex's, and his associate answered with a short, brisk nod.

"There something the rest of us should know about?" Nick had grown used to being in a minority around the house now - to being at a disadvantage compared to his psychically endowed colleagues. It was not often, however, that he felt at so much of a disadvantage. Kat turned to look at him, her young face changed by strangely old eyes.

"It's coming. It's like it was before. We were all in bed, and they'd finished doing the spell, and we thought nothing was going to happen. I thought I had been making a fuss about nothing, and then suddenly all the warmth went away, and even under all the blankets, all curled up, I couldn't feel warm. And all of the lights were gone, and the candles, and I couldn't see the moon or the stars, and the streetlamps outside didn't seem to work anymore either. And that's when it came, and the others were crying, but I couldn't see them." She turned to her mother, her eyes now bright with unshed tears. "It's coming."

"Kat..." Rachel ran to the small girl, holding her tightly. "Derek has already told us that we're safe here. I know that you've seen some horrible things today, and last night - but you have to believe that the creature you saw has no way to hurt you. It's not strong enough."

"It wasn't strong enough." Alex shivered, and immediately withdrew her hand, which had strayed onto the wall surrounding them. So fast and suddenly did she snatch the offending limb, so much as though it had been bitten or stung, that everybody turned to look at her. Rachel gasped.

"You can feel it." From disbelieving entirely in the whole psychic phenomenon, Rachel had come to hold much store by her friend's abilities, and she knew that physical contact could often place thoughts and images in Alex's sensitive mind. Alex might not have the strength of psychic ability as that possessed by Derek, but so well ordered and rational was her mind at all other times, that Rachel felt very much inclined to trust in the things that Alex saw.

"It's coming?" Perhaps Nick was scared, or perhaps he was looking forward to the chance of conflict. He did not allow his feelings to show, whichever end of the scale they belonged at, and instead he merely reached for the spell book. It was heavy and cold in his hands. Above him the lights flickered. "Derek?"

There was a silence, punctuated only by Kat's ragged breathing. Held tightly in her mother's arms she was beginning to shake and sway. Rachel glanced towards the Precept, who was still standing by the window. Under the scrutiny of her gaze he turned his back, and stared out across the bay beyond their isolated little world. A boat bobbed about in the distance, probably belonging to some pleasure seeker who had stayed out longer than intended. In the old days the San Francisco Legacy House had done its bit in the rôle of coastguard, and Derek remembered more than one old journal entry, written by his long-dead predecessors, which mentioned the hurried rescuing of some unfortunate soul from a boat caught in rising tides or brewing storms. Every well-meant gesture, however small, was a blow struck against the shadows and the night. These days, though, such gestures were no longer required.

"Derek." Rachel's voice carried just enough irritation to remind him of his more immediate concerns. He sighed.

"I don't know everything, Rachel."

"But you know this."

"Yes. Maybe." He turned about, leaving his thoughts behind him. "I feel the coldness coming, and the darkness. It certainly seems likely that we are about to have a visitation. It could just as easily be the mere fact that the creature is growing in strength."

"And we're supposed to just wait and see?" Rachel glanced down at Kat, still quaking in her arms. "Sorry, but I can't do that. I have responsibilities outside of this house, and whether or not that creature is coming here, I have to get my daughter away, to somewhere where she'll be safe."

"There will be nowhere safe if we do not defeat our enemy." Derek finally abandoned his window all together, and strode towards little Kat. He knelt before her, ignoring Rachel's indignant attempt to sweep her daughter aside.

"Is the man coming?" Kat's eyes were large and round, and her face was unusually pale. "Like he came to Alice's house?"

"Yes." For the first time, Derek spoke with real certainty. "He's coming. I don't know quite when, but I don't think it will be long." He brushed a few strands of her long brown hair away from her face. "I confess that I have rather underestimated his abilities. My information has been a little unreliable."

"It's getting colder." She pressed against her mother, and also against Derek, trying to gain strength and reassurance from both of them. Nick nodded, surprised to find that he could feel the strange sensation too.

"Like the sun had shut its eyes." He smiled rather uncomfortably, understanding now exactly why Kat had said such a strange thing before. "It's like there's no more warmth to be had anywhere."

"I don't feel it." Rachel glanced towards Alex, who was huddled up in her chair as though desperate to retain some degree of heat. Derek laid a hand on the psychiatrist's determined, defiant arm.

"Stop looking with your own beliefs, and try looking with somebody else's. I'm sorry Rachel, and I know that you want to make sure that Kat is safe - but I cannot permit you to leave the house tonight."

"You can't stop me." She sounded enraged, but Kat stared up at her, some small amount of colour returning to her cheeks. Very slowly she lifted her small hand, and laid it on her mother's arm, alongside Derek's own hand.

"Mom?" Her mother turned to her immediately, all thought of her argument with the Precept put aside.

"What is it honey?" As she spoke the words, she felt a shiver run through her, as in a moment of extreme and unexpected cold. She shrugged it off.

"I don't want to leave." Kat sounded determined. "I want to stay here and help."

"I'm not keeping you here when there's something planning to attack this place, looking for that infernal book." She stared into her daughter upraised eyes, and sighed heavily. "Unless you're really determined."

"It's Legacy work." The little girl sounded resolute. "And I want to find out what happened to my friends."

"Of course you do." She didn't know whether to be infuriated or pleased; or whether just to blame it all on Derek and the infernal powers of the Legacy. Instead she merely smiled, looking sad and more than a little tired. "Then I suppose we stay."

"You stay." Derek sounded as if he had never doubted that, which presumably he hadn't. Quite how he would have forced them to stay Rachel couldn't imagine, but she felt sure that he would have done so, had he believed it to be necessary. Perhaps she and her daughter were safer within the walls of the house, rather than alone and isolated beyond them. She didn't feel safer, but feeling, presumably, wasn't everything. Her mind made up, she ceased to hug Kat so tightly, so protectively, and instead turned her attention towards Derek. Kat ran immediately to Nick, who moved aside to let her sit beside him, and began to show her the results of the earlier analysis of the spell book. Kat was always interested in the work that he did, and in the experiments that went on within the secret room. He could hear Rachel and Derek beginning to speak in hushed voices, and although he could not hear enough to be sure of what they were discussing, he let himself cease to care, concentrating instead on keeping Kat distracted. Alex was watching the spell book, her eyes fixed upon it as though she expected the unleashed demon to appear from within its pages. She was shivering slightly, evidently extremely cold. Nick could feel the chill upon Kat too, as she pressed closer to him, and he felt it growing within his own body as well. A deep sense of cold, such as might be capable of freezing the blood. Even as he thought about the possible implications of it all, the lights in the room dimmed and flashed, and the hologram wavered in its setting. Derek glanced up, eyeing the now-dead lights in the ceiling as though considering something of greater importance. Ending his conversation with Rachel with a curt word, he turned to the nearest cupboard, and extracted a pair of candles. It appeared to Nick as though the Precept lit them with an almost feverish hate - but no sooner had the wicks collected their light when the flames abruptly died. With them went their warmth, and the last of the heat that still lingered in the room. The hologram gave another stutter, and then it too vanished. Alex gasped.

"Derek?" She was on her feet now, as was Kat. The Precept glanced towards the book, lying untended nearby.

"I think we'd better head for somewhere a little easier to defend." He caught up the book and tucked it under one arm, at the same time ushering Rachel towards the door. She moved blindly, the lights returning momentarily as she did so. For a few, lingering seconds the entire room was bright and almost cheerful - then once again was plunged into darkness. Derek pushed the spell book into Nick's hands and strode back towards the window.

"Do you see anything?" Even as he spoke, Nick was bending over the monitor screens connected to the powerful closed circuit security system. He could not see anything that looked out of the ordinary, nor even remotely demonic. The faint glow from the monitors lit up the room, making his shadow dance on the far wall. It was a considerable relief when the main lights burst back into life - but in almost the same second there was a blast of icy air, a feeling of thickness and foreboding that even Nick felt, with his limited five senses; and the security monitors clicked off one by one. The computer screen - the huge, brightly lit rectangle on the wall - followed suit, blinking itself into obscurity. It was barely a moment later when the other screens followed suit. This time, when the main lights also turned themselves off, they did not come back on again. Nick fumbled for a match, but could not make it strike; and Alex, searching hastily for a torch in the nearest cupboard, found herself unable to light a single one. She shook them, struggled with them, banged them against the cupboard door. Nick threw the matches aside, and tried his luck with a cigarette lighter instead. Nothing would work. It was as if every source of light and warmth in the building had become worthless and contaminated.

"Derek?" From somewhere in the darkened room, invisible to all save herself, Rachel turned her head in the direction in which the Precept had last appeared to move. Her answer was a shuffling of feet from a completely different direction, and the soft voice of the leader.

"When it comes, stay together, in a group. Remember that it will try to disorientate you, and to get close enough to touch you. You must not let it do that."

"That's our great plan for victory?" Nick's voice sounded out across the room, too loud for Rachel to be able to get a fix on it. It seemed to echo from everywhere at once. "Don't let it touch us? And then what? Hope that it gets bored and goes away?"

"No. We hope that we stay alive long enough to find a way to destroy it." Derek's footsteps rang out across the floor. "Now I suggest that we go downstairs, where there is more room. We're too hemmed in here."

"The entrance hall." Alex was already moving past him, her sure feet finding the way that she knew so well, despite the extreme lack of light. She could no longer see her own hands, and her feet had faded into the blackness around her. Around and about her the others were finding the same problem, no longer able to see themselves or anything else.

"Good idea." Nick caught up Kat in one of his arms, and with his free hand drew his gun. It might prove to be useless, but until somebody came up with a better suggestion he didn't see what alternative he had. He didn't need to check the clip, for he already knew that it was full. "Let's get moving. Mind the stairs."

"Derek?" Alex had moved towards him, or to where she had thought that he was. She met only with empty air. Around her she could hear footsteps that told her the others were heading towards the stairs, going back down to face a demon that should not yet even be a threat. Derek's footsteps, however, did not seem to be amongst those that she could hear.

"I'm over here." His voice was very soft, and she headed towards it. He was standing at the window once again, staring out into the gathering darkness. She couldn't see him, even though logic told her that he should be framed against the light from beyond the window. She couldn't even see the lights from the shore now, or from the boats still out at sea.

"I can't see a thing." She hated to be so blind, especially given the circumstances. Derek reached out for her, his hand finding her arm. This time when he touched her there was no lessening of the cold.

"Neither can I." He was staring out into the night, and she knew it - although she didn't know how. She wondered what he was hoping to see out there, when none of them could see anything at all. She didn't know that there was one point in the grounds of the house which the light hadn't deserted completely - a small point almost directly below the window, where a figure was just visible. Framed against the vegetation around the driveway, the figure looked powerful and dark. As Derek watched, the figure lifted its head and looked right up at him, its empty, gulf-like eyes shining clearly through the murk. A few faint traces of red mist clung to his outline, and the smouldering shape of a dead night bird was gripped in one, slightly raised fist.

"Is there anything out there?" Alex tried to see past the Precept, to look out into the darkness herself. Derek pulled her away.

"Nothing." He headed towards the door. "Come on. We must join the others. It's not safe to be alone."

"Of course." She hurried after him. "Do you have any ideas?"

"None at all." In the darkness his hand found her shoulder. "But we'll think of something." Close by the front door banged open, the wood crashing back against the walls. Alex grimaced into the darkness, and wished fervently that she could see what was going on. Derek's apparent confidence was not nearly as comforting as it might have been, and she could only wish that she was able to feel quite as confident herself. She smiled into the anonymous shadows.

"That's a nice sentiment," she told the blackness that might have been Derek - and might just as easily have been nothing at all. "But if we're going to come up with anything useful, something tells me that we'd better start thinking fast."


The shape of the man glowed with a faint black light, that should have been impossible in itself, and yet wasn't. The light was somehow darker than the surrounding blackness, and yet at the same time it was still a light - an illumination that lit nothing save the man himself. He was not a man of course, and Nick, setting Kat down on the floor and raising his gun in readiness to fire, knew that as clearly as he had ever known anything. If something looked like a man, it did not necessarily follow that it was a man, nor even that it was alive.

"Hello Nick Boyle." The man took a step forward, smiling all over his broad face. He was almost handsome, or at least he appeared to be so, in the limited light. It was not really possible to see much beyond the line of his jaw, and the set of his cheekbones. Faint wisps of red drifted from his mouth, but they were barely visible in the darkness. Kat pressed against Nick's legs.

"That's him. He took Alice and Charlotte and Jemma. Did he kill them?"

"Get back Kat." Nick tried to push her away, but she seemed almost to be glued to his side. He thought about being more firm, but somehow couldn't bring himself to be so hard on the girl. She obviously needed his support.

"Kat?" Rachel's voice sounded strange in the darkness. The creature's empty eyes swivelled instantly towards the source of the noise, opening wide and showing their empty depths clearly. Whatever the creature was made of, it was something that was darker than the darkness itself, for somehow the empty voids of those endless eyes managed to seem blacker still than the premature night. Was it premature? Nick didn't actually know what time it was, but he was sure that it hadn't been this dark before the demon had arrived.

"Rachel Corrigan." There was a trace of amusement in the voice, which made Nick wonder if this creature wasn't perhaps a man after all. Maybe it had been human once, and still retained a few emotional capabilities. "You escaped from me before, Rachel Corrigan. Tonight you'll be mine."

"Don't bet on that." Rachel sounded incensed, and Nick almost smiled. His associate could be overly cautious at times, particularly when her daughter was present, and yet at other times she could be as foolhardy as the rest of the team. Somehow he always found that amusing, no matter how inappropriate such amusement might be.

"Rachel?" Derek's voice sounded out from above them, "Remember what I said. Don't let it get close to you."

"I can't see it, Derek!" She sounded frustrated. "How am I supposed to avoid something I can't see?"

"It's by the door." Nick could still see it, thanks to the faint outline of glowing darkness. "Any ideas yet Derek?" He was shouting the words into blindness, and the answer came from blindness in return.

"Try your gun."

"The gun won't work." The demon figure, framed with its peculiar glint, seemed to throw back its head in apparent laughter. "Nothing will work, unless I want it to." There was a faint stream of red mist, barely visible. "And a little less of the 'it', if you don't mind. I'm sensitive about these things."

"Very likely." Nick aimed his gun in the direction of the voice and pulled the trigger; but just as he had been promised, the weapon did not fire. He scowled. "And what's with the ego? I thought you things were supposed to be the cold and unfeeling type?"

"Maybe I'm a better class of demon." The lack of emotion in the voice suggested otherwise. Even the brief show of humour seemed to have evaporated. "You're mine now. All of you. Surrender and I'll make sure that your deaths don't hurt."

"Well that's tempting." Nick hefted his gun in his hand, unwilling to abandon it just yet. "You really know how to sell a notion, don't you."

"Don't make it angry." Alex had come down the stairs to join the others, and was standing beside Derek. She felt uneasy, for reasons beyond just simple fear. The close proximity of the creature was increasing the lingering sensations of cold and fear in the back of her mind. Inside her head the creature laughed, and she knew that it was aware of her psychic ability. She wondered if Derek and Kat could hear it too, although neither of them showed any sign that they could.

"Any plans Derek?" Nick's voice came from further away than it had before, suggesting that he had changed his position. Perhaps he was trying to work his way around behind the demon, trying to trap it in a circle of its intended victims. Such a plan was so very like him.

"There's no way to defeat me." There was the sound of a scuffle, a yelp from Kat, and the soft thud of a body falling to the floor. Rachel let out a cry, and Alex's heart leapt into her throat.

"Kat's alright." It was Nick's voice, coming from near to the door. He could feel the cold air blowing in from outside, but he couldn't see anything. It was as if his eyes had ceased to work, although he knew that they hadn't. The impossible black glow around the demon's form told him that.

"What's going on?" Alex was pressing forward, the sensation of foreboding pushed to the back of her mind by her concern. The emotional vibrations within the room were almost tangible now, creating the strange illusion that she could reach out, and plunge her hands into passing rivers of fear, or of madness, or of despair. She could almost see the rivers, churning like pathways of ultra-blackness through the impenetrable dark of the night. Her head spun.

"He touched me." Rachel's voice sounded empty and dull. "I fell. It's nothing, I'm okay."

"You're mine." The disembodied voice of their glowering nemesis seemed to come from every direction at once. "All of you. Give in to it. Surrender to it. Let yourselves go. Death doesn't have to be so great a step."

"Rachel?" Nick's voice cut through the darkness like a knife. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"Yes." She took deep breaths, feeling a little of the sense of the living returning to her. Her wrist was like ice where the creature had touched her. "Kat?"

"I'm fine, Mom." It was impossible to tell from the child's voice exactly where in the room she was. "I felt it when he touched you. It was horrible."

"Just keep back." Rachel had obviously found her way to her feet, for her voice sounded as though she were on the move. Perhaps she was looking for her daughter, or perhaps she was just looking for a way out. In any event her attempts to move were useless, for the demon, his all-seeing eyes fixed upon her anxious form, was moving in for the kill. Evasive manoeuvres were useless against him, and Rachel was beginning to realise it. Already she could feel his cold hands on her throat.

"Rachel?" Her sudden silence told Nick that something was wrong, even before Kat's sudden whimper told them all of Rachel's plight. They all heard the whisper of their enemy's hoarse voice, fading in and out of the darkness as he pulled Rachel towards him. She began to shout, but her voice was cut off by the icy breeze that flooded her lungs. It was only the thought of Kat that gave her the strength to break free from the debilitating grip - and only then was she able to stumble back a short distance, and lose herself once again in the night. The creature's voice echoed after her, but it sounded further away. She closed her eyes and tried to breathe again, and wondered how long she would be able to avoid these persistent advances. It felt as though every moment stole more of her strength and resilience.

"Stay where you are, Rachel." Derek's voice cut through the darkness in just the way that the demon's own voice did. It was filled with authority, but it took several moments for Rachel to respond to it.

"Derek?" Nick had moved again, his voice no longer by the door. Instead it sounded as though he was by the stairs, perhaps heading for the swords from Derek's collection. It was a good idea, but somehow Derek doubted that even those strong, cold weapons would be of any use against their inhuman opponent. "What do we do?"

"Die." A cold laugh came from every direction at once. The loud sound of Derek's footsteps almost drowned it out.

"Alex?" He was moving forwards, heading for the place where he felt sure that the demon stood. Perhaps his instincts were leading him, or perhaps it was something stronger. Alex went to him immediately, led by the determination in his voice. She met his hand reaching out for her, and took it with her own.

"What are you doing Derek?" Ever the soldier, Nick was looking for something positive to do. The only answer was the firm, cool voice of his leader.

"Kat? Come to me."

"No!" Sensing rather than knowing that Derek was planning some kind of offensive, Rachel tried to intervene. "Not Kat."

"We need her, Rachel." Derek didn't raise his voice, nor display any overt notion of admonishment. Instead he was merely as firm and as steady as always. "Alex and I may not be able to manage this alone."

"Manage what alone?" Alex had no idea what he was planning, although common sense told her that it had to be something that involved their psychic powers, if it needed the three of them to take part. Derek didn't answer her.

"Kat?" His voice was only for the girl. "Can you hear me?"

"Yes." She ran to him through the darkness, almost as if she could see her way. The demon answered in a voice tinged with amusement.

"This won't do you any good. Better just to die."

"Oh shut up." Alex was angry, despite the irrationality of such an emotion. It made far more sense just to be scared, but somehow anger seemed more constructive, although that might just have been as a result of the emotional turmoil she could sense in the breezes that filled the room. She was so cold now that she could no longer feel the hand Derek held, and the numbing sensation only fuelled the anger that it should have chilled and smothered. She heard the sound of light footsteps, and knew that Kat was holding Derek's other hand.

"Kat!" Rachel was trying to move forward, trying to put herself between her daughter and the demon. It was futile, for she had no idea where either of them were.

"Stand back Rachel." Somehow Derek had seemed to have tapped into the demon's ability to make his voice come from everywhere at once. "Let us handle this."

"How?" Nick checked the load in his gun, uselessly, since he couldn't see the bullets. "What are you going to do?"

"We can feel it." It was simple logic, and almost certainly flawed. "It can probably feel us."

"A psychic attack?" Alex sounded impressed with the notion, either too cold or too scared, or just too tired to consider its shortcomings. The demon laughed.

"You can't hurt me with your mind tricks."

"What do we do Derek?" Kat sounded pitifully young. Derek held her hand a little tighter.

"Close your eyes. Look inside." He wasn't sure how to make this work. He only knew that there were enough shooting tides of psychic vibrations filling the room to confuse and disorientate him. If those tides could run one way, they could almost certainly run the other. He took a deep breath, and felt the cold that embraced him. He let it take him, let his freezing body move towards the coldness that told him where the demon was. In his mind's eye he could see a drifting red mist, and could smell something burning with a cold, red flame. Faces drifted through his mind; the faces of strangers, that he somehow knew. The faces of the those that the demon had killed. He looked for three small girls amongst them, but he could see no sign of them. He heard the voices of dead men, and the sounds of Nick and Rachel fading into the background. Alex's hand in his was heavy. Kat felt like a dead weight dragging at his arms. There were other, similar weights dragging at his mind, the tides and rivers of ice sparkling through his conscious like ropes that twisted and turned, trapping him in a psychic cat's-cradle. He held on tight to his friends, feeling their presence as an anchor; a weight that kept his feet on the ground, and prevented him from being swept away by the force of whatever it was that he was struggling to confront. A new face rushed into vision - a determined, unpleasant face, that might have been good-looking had it not been for the gaping black emptiness of its eyes and mouth. A laughing, grinning, mad face that mocked him. Derek stared back at it, challenging those empty eyes to try and suck him in. Beside him Alex was shaking. She was seeing the same things, he knew. So was Kat, and he could barely imagine what it would do to her. He could do nothing to lessen her pain. Her presence was vital. Taking a deep breath that froze in his lungs and made his eyes water with acid tears, he took a mental step forward and met with the demon in his mind. Red mist engulfed his consciousness, and emptiness filled his brain. Standing at last in some new place, he focussed the last of his energy and opened his eyes.


It was daylight, or at least was bright enough to appear to be so. The ground was black and broken, covered in rocks piled high, like debris discarded by melting glaciers. There were no trees, no grass, no flowers. No houses were in sight, and no water broke up the landscape with its presence. Derek didn't think that he was in a real place at all, for the sky above him, grey and heavy, seemed lower than it should have been in the real world, and his feet were all but lost from vision in a grey-white mist that swirled above the ground. It smelt like bonfire smoke, acrid and unpleasant. In places it was tinged with red.

"Welcome." The voice sounded off-hand, and when Derek turned he saw a man walking towards him. He could see at a glance that it was the demon - the creature summoned to destroy him and his friends - and yet something about him was different. It didn't take much to see what that something was. The eyes were real at last, bright blue and intense, and the mouth was filled with white teeth. A red tongue licked cautiously at the lips, and the throat twitched as though with unfamiliar nervousness. The demon ran a hand through his hair.

"It was clever of you to come here. Clever, but not clever enough. Your friends..." He gestured with one hand, and Derek spun about. Alex and Kat hung above him, suspended from the grey sky by ropes that he could not see. They were watching him, awake and anxious. He could still feel their minds, and he let his own mind dwell on that. It was, after all, their minds that he needed in this place. Here all that they were was minds - and it didn't matter that the representation of their physical selves was in trouble. It couldn't matter. He couldn't let it. The demon in the shape of a man wandered closer, eyes hard and yet clearly amused.

"So this is the Legacy. A man, a woman and a child playing parlour games." Smiling all over his suddenly animated face, the creature - or whatever it was that he had now become - waved an demonstrative arm at Derek and his associates, and laughed a short bark of a laugh. His teeth flashed in the grey light. Alex found herself wishing that his features would disappear again - for at least as an inhuman monster he had not been quite so predatory in appearance. There was something about those teeth that she didn't like at all.

"You think this is a parlour game?" To Alex's ears it was clearly evident that Derek's accent was thicker - minutely perhaps, but noticeable to her practised ears. That meant that he was tired, or scared, or under great pressure. Any one of the three might not bode well for their future. Fortunately, however, their nemesis did not seem able to notice so tiny a point.

"I think that you feel you have some kind of an advantage over me. I think that you thought you could beat me at my own game." The creature sauntered closer, its newly human appearance giving it greater scope with which to menace and intimidate. "You're wrong. Perhaps I have more of a human appearance here, but I'm no more human than I was before we stepped inside. Here you see me as I was - as my creator was - before the laws of a bunch of priests in 1689 condemned him to death. They tore out his teeth, and his tongue and his eyes, and they left him to die over a slow fire. His brothers had their revenge - and here I am."

"Ready to try to unleash your twelve plagues." There was contempt in Derek's voice. Alex could feel his mind, and could feel his exhaustion - or perhaps it was just her own. Kat's mind was little more than a quiver in the back of her consciousness, but even as she thought the little girl's name, she thought she felt a smile in the back of her mind. A brief second of something, like the psychic equivalent of the squeeze of a hand. Derek answered it with a sign of his own. Wait, it said, as clear and as firm as an audible word.

"You needn't worry about the plagues. You won't be alive to see them." The demon took a few more steps forward, his bright blue eyes staring about with a keen interest. "And yet still you seek to stop me. Your deaths are as certain as the fate of the world at my hands... and yet still I hear you trying to speak with each other." He raised a hand, and Alex felt her mind bend. Kat gasped.

"Derek?" Her voice was a quavering note that Alex barely caught. Even so the keen eyes of their leader turned towards the small girl. It looked as though he was smiling, although it might just have been a grimace.

"There will be no twelve plagues." His eyes were cold and hard. The demon laughed.

"You think that you can kill me. You think that you have some kind of a winning stroke to play. But you don't." He tapped his head. "All of the people I've taken are here, Derek. Every one of them, alive in my mind. If you kill me, you're killing them."

"You've already done that. Perhaps some part of them is within you. Enough to keep you sustained, enough to strengthen your physical form. Perhaps even enough to help you perform the incantation you need to release the twelve plagues. That's all. No more than that. You destroyed their bodies, so how can they be alive? What chance do they ever have of living again? They are as good as dead, by your hand and not by mine."

"Perhaps." The demon came closer, eyes on Kat now, still suspended above him on invisible strings, or caught in the psychic web of some dream-world spider. "But there are three others. The three who gave me my form. The three who summoned me. They are still alive. They still have their bodies. Three little girls, like this one here. Friends of this one I think - didn't I see her in the room, when I was brought to your world again?" He nodded slowly. "You'd be killing them too, if you kill me Derek. Three little girls, like your friend here. Her friends. Can you do that?" His eyes burned into Kat's. "Can you let him do that, my dear? Together we can defeat him." He held out his hand. "Come to me, Katherine Corrigan. Be mine. Be with me. Be with your three little friends. It's the only way to save them."

"Derek?" Kat's eyes widened to their greatest extreme, the panic showing brightly in her face and in her mind. Derek's own mind sang with the confusion of the small girl. "Derek!" Her voice rang out again, and Alex struggled uselessly to free herself.

"It's okay Kat." She gasped the words out, but her throat felt dry, and the words would not properly take form. The bright blue eyes beneath her snapped violently in her direction, burning powerfully and terrifyingly into her mind. She felt her form twist and contort under the sudden rage of a psychic attack. Kat screamed. Beneath them, caught by surprise, Derek staggered. In the real world, unseen or unheard to the three now fighting their own battle, Rachel heard Kat cry out, and shouted aloud in reply. Nick held her back.

"Not now Rachel."

"But--" She struggled in his arms, trying to get to her daughter, or to where she thought her daughter must be. Their world was still in darkness, and she could see nothing at all. Nick held her close.

"There's nothing we can do." It infuriated him too, although possibly not as much. "You have to trust Derek."

"How can I trust Derek? Kat might be hurt!" She fought against him, but he was far too strong for her, even when she was so driven by desperation. He tried to hold her at arm's length, and even though she couldn't see him, she recognised the expression on his face from the sound of his voice.

"I know!" There was anger there, and desperation, and no small amount of pain. "But if they don't do this we'll all be dead soon - and then the whole world isn't going to be very far behind. Remember the twelve plagues. The winds, the acid - remember that, Rachel!". He shook her and she slumped against him. "We don't have any choice."

"I know." She spoke as from far away, her thoughts with her daughter even though her mind itself could not be. Nick felt her despair in the weight of her body, and heard it echo in the dulled sound of her voice. "I know."

"Mom?" In the place where she had found herself, Kat thought that she heard her mother's voice. She looked up, the demon's hold on her thoughts momentarily broken. "Mom, is that you?"

"Concentrate Kat!" All too aware that there was no way that Rachel could be with them, Alex was worried that this might be some trick. Kat, however, seemed refreshed by the imagined sound of her mother's voice.

"Mom!" She shouted it to the hovering grey skies, and a look of fury crossed the demon's face. Alex felt his growing rage in her mind, and tried to shield herself against it. A burst of pain awoke within her eyelids, beginning to spread through the substance of her thoughts. No sound came as she tried to express her pain. Kat shuddered and shook, and the world felt as though it were beginning to slip away. Tears rushed into Alex's corporeal eyes, but she was no longer behind them to see. Everything around her crashed and faded - and then, almost at once, strengthened and cleared and once against became whole. In her mind she could hear Derek's voice.

"Listen to me Kat." He spoke softly and quickly, the accent thicker than ever. "Your friends are gone. They are dead. If this creature has them within his mind, there is no chance for us to save them. I'm sorry."

"I know." Her voice sounded shaky and dry, but there was determination in every syllable. "I thought I saw them."

"Perhaps you did. Perhaps they are trying to help you." Alex felt his smile through his words. "So is your mother, Kat. You thought that you heard her before, and she made you strong again, when the demon made you weak. Focus on her, Kat. Think of her. Let her make you strong."

"What are you doing?" The voice of the demon began to echo and wail around them. Alex felt a strange urge to duck aside, and to try to find somewhere to hide from his building rage. "I can hear you. You're talking amongst yourselves, and that's forbidden."

"Alex." Derek's addressed her rapidly, just as he had done so with Kat - no time for niceties, and no time to be sympathetic or understanding. "We have to hit it hard and fast. I will distract it. You and Kat have to do what you can to disable it whilst it is busy with me. Do you understand?"

"I think so." She began to gather her strength. "Concentrate Kat. You have to concentrate."

"Think of your mother, Kat." Derek sounded tired, which was hardly surprising. Somehow it was his mind and force of will that had brought them to this place, and was holding them here. Alex knew it, in just the same way that she knew he could not keep it going for long. Here, in a world where their demon nemesis looked human, they might have a chance of destroying him. It was almost certain that they would have no such chance in the real world. Perhaps the demon itself was aware of this, or perhaps he had just read her thoughts, for immediately she felt him snapping in her head. The grey lights around her dimmed.

"Time to go home." The voice was like a conspiratorial whisper in her ear. "You don't play fair. Time to end the game."

"No." Derek was walking forward, his fists clenched by his sides. Alex felt the waves of cold and anger washing in the air between them. "You will not send us back."

"How do you propose to stop me?" The creature was laughing. Alex felt sick.

"Never mind how." A strong, steady hand reached out, and Derek's long fingers gripped the demon's right shoulder. In the failing grey light, Alex saw the glint of the Legacy ring. It was a power centre, and she had seen Derek use it as such before. His other hand raised, dropping itself onto the demon's other shoulder, struggling to do so as if fighting against a powerful wind. The ring burned a little brighter. The demon winced.

"More parlour games." He struggled to free himself, but did not seem able. On Derek's finger the ring began to burn even brighter still.

"Now Alex!" The Precept's voice was cold and hard, and Alex was shocked at the lack of humanity within it. She felt her mind quaver and struggle, then leap as though into battle. Before her she saw Derek beginning to shake.

"What's going on?" In her mind the demon was panicked. At last Alex understood. Derek's physical contact - or as physical as any of them could be in this world - was acting as a conduit. Pure psychic energy from himself and from his associates was feeding itself through his own body and into the demon. The creature yelled aloud in pain and fear, and mingled with his voice came Derek's, shouting with a pain of his own. His grip on the demon's shoulders began to fail.

"Derek!" She shouted as loud as she could, and felt his mind respond. "Stay with us."

"Derek!" Kat's voice sounded uncertain, but no less determined. "We're here."

"Alex? Kat?" He seemed to gain strength from them, fighting back as the demon tried to break his grip. Inside his head he could feel the heavy burden of coldness - the attack of the creature as he tried to drag him into that black emptiness that had claimed so many others since th reawakening. Derek almost felt such a fate to be inviting, so tired and drained did he feel. He focussed his energies again, and felt Alex and Kat alongside him, focussing and concentrating; shouting and hanging grimly on. Through Kat's mind he thought that he heard Rachel's voice, and alongside it the shouts of Nick. There were other voices too, that he didn't know so well. Other voices backing him up. The voices of strangers, that somehow he knew. Again he looked for the three small girls amongst them, but the girls were not there. So the demon had been telling the truth, and he hadn't taken them when he had taken his other victims. Did that mean that the girls were still alive? Was Derek killing them now by killing the demon? And was there really any other way to triumph over the creature, without resorting to such an extreme? He knew the answer to that one just as he knew that he would not be doing this if there was any alternative. Perhaps the girls were alive - but at the same time they were as dead as Derek's own father. There was no way to save them. In the back of his mind he thought that he heard one of them cry out, but whether it was in fear or in encouragement, he couldn't be sure - and he knew that he never would be. Once chance, one option. In the real world his hands did not move, but in the world of psychic action his fist began to clench around the demon's neck. Pain lanced through his mind. Kat screamed. Alex fought back and he felt her hands within his mind. They were focussing him, strengthening him. Behind her Kat pushed onwards, helping him forward. The demon began to quail.

"No..." He was gasping now, his hold on the three human minds a little less powerful, a little less intense. The coldness was not quite so powerful as before; not quite so overt. Still the pain burned Derek's consciousness, and still the acid tears stung his eyes. He thought that he felt his heart beginning to shake.

"Keep going Derek." Alex's voice was like music to his ears. He would have smiled, had he had the control to do so. Instead he merely tightened the grip of his hand. He thought that he could feel Alex's hands on top of his own, and Kat's on top of that. The pain in his mind exploded into a fearful crescendo. His heart leapt and quivered. The demon howled.

"Derek?" Alex's voice perhaps, or maybe Nick's. Maybe it was his father's, or the voice of one of the three little girls he had lost. He didn't know.

"Derek?" A different voice, perhaps Rachel this time. Perhaps it was Kat, or Philip. No, that couldn't be right could it? Philip was in Ireland.

"Alex..." He spoke the word to the grey skies above his head, and saw the demon's own face towering above him. The Legacy ring gleamed brightly against the creature's throat. Derek smiled. The demon screamed.

And slowly, very slowly, with the fires of a thousand hells burning in his mind, Derek let his fingers relax, and his mind relax with them. His eyes were reopening, and were seeing new things. His head was beginning to return to itself. Beside him he felt Kat's grip on his hand beginning to loosen. He thought that he saw starlight, and the glimmer of the lights on the shore. A hand touched his face in the real world. Finally beginning to realise that everything was safe, Derek closed his mind and opened his eyes, then let them close tight once again. He didn't care if he was lying on the floor of the entrance hall, with the front door wide open before him. Wherever he was, be it in reality or in the world of his mind, it was time to go to sleep. Relaxed and safe, Alex rolled into the crook of his arm, and slept alongside him.

We learn things all the time in the Legacy. Sometimes we learn who our enemies are, and sometimes we learn who are our friends. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that, even though such things should always be apparent. Hesitating for a moment, Rachel Corrigan stared at the words as they wrote themselves across the fresh, clean page of her journal. Her pen hovered in mid air, the nib poised to strike once more at the paper. I doubted the Precept of this house, because of something that his father did many years ago. That doubt almost caused me to walk out of the Legacy, and the effects of that would have been catastrophic. Even when I had been persuaded to stay, my actions almost led to our downfall. I tried to prevent Derek's use of my daughter in his battle against our enemies. Had I done so, this House would have fallen, and the world would soon have fallen with it. She hesitated again, the thoughts clear in her mind, but the words unwilling to translate themselves to her waiting page. A drop of ink welled up on the nib of the pen, and she lowered it once more to write. We learn things all the time in the Legacy, either through research, through battle, or through near defeat. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that of trust. Together we have a chance to defeat the shadows, but apart I don't know what our chances are. Shadows attack us in many ways, and mistrust is one of the darkest shadows of all. It's not always easy to trust someone. I suppose everyone knows that. But it's a good deal harder to face the shadows alone. She lowered the pen, ready to blot the ink and close the journal - ready to turn her back on her desk, and go to wish her daughter a good night. At the last minute she paused, and then lifted up the pen once again. Perhaps some part of me still wants revenge for the wrongful death of my mother at the hands of Winston Rayne. Perhaps it always will. Today that desire for unobtainable justice could have destroyed everything I know. It's easy to think of the demons we can see as the true enemies, but there are plenty of others who are far harder to spot. Demons that corrupt without magical powers; that destroy without using spell books and incantations. Tonight I think that my mother is resting in peace for the first time since the day she was murdered. It almost took the end of the world to prove it to me, but now at last I think it's time to move on.