The Prius spun into the driveway, gravel flying and hitting the porch. The sharp little sounds ricocheted like machine gun fire in the quiet afternoon air. Belinda jumped out of the car before it fully stopped, or so it seemed to Brock. Great. Last thing they needed was for his sister to add her attitude to Gran’s, but it looked like that’s exactly what was going to happen. His heart sank.
The group waiting on the front lawn made her pause. The Guardians in full gear and with tense attitudes seemed to surprise her. Jon exited more slowly, no doubt the swords strapped on backs and hips unexpected to him as well. Brock hoped that the badges pinned below the exposed gun rigs reassured him. Doug and Merrick, as part of the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team, were allowed to wear them. Today, peace of mind, not official capacity, prompted the shields’ appearance.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me sooner!” Belinda shouted at him.
“I can’t believe you didn’t guess Gran already had one!” Brock yelled back.
The glare she answered with told Brock it had occurred to her as well on the drive over. She bounded up the steps, Jon’s longs legs letting him keep up with her. Brock didn’t miss the man’s considering glances at the Guardians.
“What’s with the welcoming committee?” she asked, waving behind her.
“They are the ‘bodyguard while moving the dagger’ team.”
“Gran’s giving it to us? And where is it going?”
“She vetoed the station, but it’s too dangerous to remain here so I suggested our safe deposit box.”
Belinda looked shocked. “She agreed?”
It was Edith who replied loudly from the lawn. “It’s not her call. I’m in charge of coven security and safety.”
His sister appeared doubtful. “So she went along with the decision?”
“No.” Brock smiled grimly. “That’s why we’re taking it.”
She followed him into the library, practically walking on his heels. He pointed at the box across the room without speaking.
“Oh, Goddess! I can’t believe it was there all this time!” she gasped.
Afternoon sunlight filled the narrow room. At one end, the small white wicker table still sat with three chairs surrounded it. They had destroyed the fourth during a game of Fort as children. The large windows on that wall made a warm spot for anyone reading or researching. Two cozy chairs sat in the middle of the room, sharing a floor lamp.
Books, of course, lined the walls. Some were magic texts, others the spy thrillers Uncle Matt adored. Their mother’s cookbooks were scattered among them and even some colorful Richard Scarry books left over from childhood for when little ones came to visit.
And at the other end of the room waited ‘the Box.’
The elaborately carved wooden box resided on a small pedestal table for as long as Brock could remember. It had a powerful warding around it, spreading out in a semi-circle radius. Behind it, the bricks of the dining room fireplace gave warmth to the room in winter. As kids they would dare each other to run through the edge of the wards, squealing as the magic shivered through their darting bodies.
The powerful relic that someone was willing to kill for, and they had made it into a childhood game.
Belinda just sighed and shook her head, drawing nearer to it. Brock wanted to smirk, but considering he had just figured out the location an hour ago he stopped himself.
Gran sat in one of the chairs like a little queen, watching them.
Belinda addressed her. “You won’t just hand it over, will you?”
Gran shook her head, a small smile curving her lips. “If you are powerful enough to take it, you can put it someplace else. If not, then it must be safe right where it is.”
His sister glanced at him. ~You’ve already tried arguing with her? ~
~Did my best. I think she’s seeing this as some sort of test for us. If we had more time and all ganged up on her she might cave, but the bank closes soon. ~
~Oh, goody! Well, this is more your area of expertise. Any ideas? ~
“First you can take out that contact before it bugs me more,” Brock replied out loud.
She glared and stomped off to the downstairs bathroom. With his sister gone, Brock took this opportunity to flirt with Jon. The large man hovered in the doorway. Seeing Brock looking at him, he glared back.
Well, this must be my day for pissing people off, Brock thought.
“I did call.” Brock tried to look contrite.
“You knew for two days.”
“Wasn’t mine to talk about.”
“But it is to take now?”
Brock’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not having my family at risk. Things changed.”
“Not proving to be very trustworthy.”
Brock bristled at that. Before he could make a rebuttal, his sister rejoined them. Jon glanced at Belinda’s mismatched eyes. Hers were the opposite of Brock’s and it eased something inside him to see them back to normal.
Brock bent and unlaced his hiking boots and Belinda copied him, sitting at the small table to shed them. Socks came off next and were tucked inside the abandoned footwear.
Uncle Matt joined them, his entrance forcing Jon further inside the room.
“Why don’t we go to the other end of the room?” he suggested to the detective. “I’m Matthias Gary, their great uncle, by the way.”
As Brock watched the two men shake hands, he realized that he neglected to make introductions to this grandmother. Well, the way he was feeling, politeness was not heading his list. He saw Uncle Matt give Belinda a hug before sitting in the chair she vacated. Jon gingerly lowered himself into one as well, not seeming to trust the sturdiness of the wicker.
Brock paused to strip off his shirt. It was not by chance that he chose to do it right in front of the other man. He got a covert inspection before Bee’s snort reminded him that they were on a time constraint.
Together they padded barefoot over the hardwood floors closer to the box, stopping at the edge of the ring of power. Brock pulled his athame from his back pocket. The dagger was more than a ceremonial blade, it held a sharp edge. He cut the pad at the base of his thumb and returned the knife to his pocket.
At his sister’s frown he explained. “Gary blood was used to make this ward. I’m hoping it recognizes like-to-like. You’re going to hold my hand and anchor me while I cross into the circle.”
“You’re using your weaker hand?”
“Less dominant, not weaker. Besides, water flows,” Brock replied, referring to the tattoo of swirling waves that covered his left forearm.
His sister stopped close to the invisible edge, one not seen, but felt by both of them. He noted with approval that she had rolled up her slack hems when removing her shoes. Belinda planted her right foot under her, slightly turned like a dancer. The delicate vine tattoo encircling her ankle grounded her for this endeavor. Her left foot stretched out and the extended toe just rested on the edge of the circle. On that ankle he had tattooed a modified compass cross years ago. Inside the compass lay the triple moon symbol with each point inked to represent an element. The North point colored green for earth, East gold for air, South red for fire and deep blue on West represented water.
On the top of her foot, the red star outlined in black for protection seemed more brilliantly scarlet, than Brock remembered.
“Are you going to remove your gun?” he asked.
“It’s a part of me, of who and what I am.”
Brock nodded at her reply. She took his right hand in her left, reaching her right back into the air behind her. Despite Gran’s refusal and her desire for this game, neither twin doubted that she would grasp that waiting hand, adding to the chain of power, if this went crazy.
Breathing evenly and deeply, Brock stepped forward. Power cascaded over him and seemed to grow thicker as he drew closer to the box. He paused, panting, in front of it. He slowly extended his arm, mentally imagining it as not solid, but fluid like the element inked on it. Sweat rolled down his back, and from far away he heard Belinda singing. His own tattoos pulsed in reaction and the effort behind lifting the lid seemed tremendous.
Brock had no idea how much time passed.
After the box sat open he removed his hand and sighed with relief as some of the pressure eased. Peering inside the metal gleamed up at him, but the depth of the container appeared more than it should be.
“Gran, is it booby trapped?”
“I honestly don’t know. I didn’t think you would get this far. I couldn’t.”
Her voice sounded closer, as if she had already left her chair and approached them. Brock didn’t look to verify that, all his attention centered on the dagger. It seemed to move, quivering on the faded red pillow, and he didn’t think the wards were the cause.
He knew it wasn’t him.
He ‘felt’ with his magic and realized that the wards surrounded the box, not attached to the dagger itself. The weapon radiated its own power, separate from the protective spells.
“Belinda, call to it.”
Her singing changed and power surged through him, using his body as a conduit to enter the circle. He held his hand above it and the dagger vibrated more violently.
He felt a snap, as if his ears popped, but throughout his entire body. The dagger flew up and landed in his waiting hand. Swiftly, he stepped back and slumped with relief when he was outside the circle.
Giving the dagger to his sister he staggered over to one of the armchairs and sank into it. She studied if for a moment before a passing it off, to their uncle and not Gran, Brock noted with amusement. She knelt in front of him, her hands on his knees and peered up into his face.
“Hey, you okay? Done showing off?”
He grinned and cuffed her rather weakly on the side of her head. He wiggled next.
“Damn, my athame doesn’t like being sat on,” he told her, pulling it free.
“The dagger didn’t like being kept in that box, either,” she noted.
“It was lonely,” Uncle Matt announced, turning it over in his hands.
“Well, now it can be lonely in a nice bank,” Brock said firmly. “Afterwards we can decide what to do with it. Maybe carry it around on field trips or something.”
They had more important things to worry about than a piece of metal’s feelings, like making his family and city safe.