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August 15th, 2020

9AM

The Book of Kells Occult Shoppe and Tea House

 

 

 

 

Graceful fingers lifted the match to her lips and she blew out the tiny flame.  Attention watched the curl of smoke waft from the newly lit candles in the window and incense, scent of Nag Champa always one of her favorites to calm the room.  Not that it was in need of calming, the tea house through the bi-level stairs bustling in it’s quiet murmur as usual- that was always moving but relaxed. This time of morning, the shop half was almost always empty and she could stock shelves and tidy books from the archival room in mostly solitary thought. 

 

Stick safely in its burner, she started to rearrange the glinting trinkets on the driftwood displays hanging in the front windows to either side of the door, pausing to wrap her hair around a fist and stick it up into a messy bun.  The shopkeeper went through a full range of appearances lately it seemed.  Hanging on more fondly to the semi-bohemian comfort than the ARMA needed tailored leather sheaths and clothing, her sandals, worn jeans and white linen shirt with red embroidery around the neck and sleeves made for a nicely lazy morning.

 

Nina and Jesse were tending the tea house, and she… was on her own to enjoy what she did best, turning the sign in the front door to “OPEN” while sipping her coffee.

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Through the slight glare caused by golden rays of morning sun that filtered through made the tall building that surrounded the occult bookstore Branden caught the movement as hands lit candles and swirling puffs of smoke arose for the burning incense. Through the marque window Brandon eyed a woman as she lit the sign that announced her ship was accepting patrons. 

 

He had been walking down Ninth street intent on his morning stroll hoping to find some odd job or even permanent work that paid enough to live. The click of his shoes against the hard pavement on the sidewalk had acted like a metronome moving him on though with no place in particular to go. Most of the surface had been replace recently, a testimony to the severity of life in their brave new world.

 

Adjusting the shoulder strap of his black backpack Brandon hesitated before making the decision to open the door and face his fear of the unknown. For a moment he felt in his pocket for an object that remained hidden then decided to move forward through the portal into the unknown.

 

Brandon smiled at the dark haired woman who had opened the door and gave her a nod, “good morning miss do,” there was a slight hesitation as he pondered his words, “do you have any books on Celtic knots?”  

His hazel eyes gazed at the woman, clear but with a faint hint of nervousness, the feeling one gets when setting out to discover something you're afraid to find out about.

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It was unusual to get one so early in the morning, but usually they always knew what they were looking for- having often been on their mind all night before making a beeline here. She nodded in good morning greeting, finishing lighting a set of glass cylinder candles behind the front counter, feeling another presence look up at him quicker than her own attention at the mention of Celtic knotwork.  An anxious pull in her chest was swallowed back into the depths as she started moving toward the book room.  Sometimes her ‘friend’ felt like an echo, pulling away slightly before it could catch up, or ahead until she could.  She didn’t like it, but it was her reality.

 

“Absolutely,” the warm hum of voice came after the smile.  He seemed nervous, but knew what he was looking for… he could be chasing something, something could be chasing him, or he could just simply be shy.  It was her job to try and figure out which and make sure he found what he needed.  She stepped through the wide doorway into the book room, a modest twelve by twelve foot area lined floor to ceiling with antique shelves and a heavy wooden table flanked with chairs in the center.

 

“I have books of art, books that document real extant examples, and special reference collections that move into the more.. magic related subjects.  Which exactly are you looking for?”

 

The twinkle of keys were retrieved from the back pocket of her jeans, finding the right one to open the antique barrister’s box on the far wall.  Knob drew out carefully, the glass door sliding upward over the books to allow him access.

 

“These are the historic extant volumes, the art books are on the normal bookshelf there,” she nodded toward the more mass produced books on the bookshelves to the left.  To the right, was another cabinet without glass, a locked case with solid doors.  “If you don’t find what you’re looking for, let me know and I’ll open the fun cabinet.”

 

Smile again was warm before she left him to his browsing.

 

“If you need anything, I’m Rorye.  I’ll be out in the main shop.” 

 

She usually didn’t ask for names, sometimes people didn’t want to give them.  If he wanted her to know, he would tell her.

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Brandon watched as she lit the candles feeling a bit more eat ease then he had at fist. Still, unfamiliarity always seemed to unsettle him a little. Trying to watch her and take in the unusual store with his hazel eyes that took on a bit more of a blue hue than normal as he listened to her instructions and moved behind her letting his pack slip off one shoulder and then into his awaiting right hand. It was a practiced movement one he had performed many times before. 

 

The man’s eyes widened as he saw the collection of books that looked even older than those that Yale offered in their tomes. He glanced from side to side following the woman’s description of what he would find lining the shelves around him. Brandon took in a deep breath as he switched the bag over to his other hand before seeing it down gently on the clean wooden floor. 

 

“Thank you Rorye,” the man replied with a nod as he fixed his eyes once again on the attractive woman. He offered and a broad smile to her as he replied, “my name is Brandon.” He drew in a breath and added feeling a bit anzious about the task before him, “I had no idea there were so many books on Celtic knots, Yale only had a handful.”

 

He nodded again and turned towards the books in the glass doored cabinet glancing at the well worn titles trying to make a decision based on something, just what he wasn’t exactly sure. 

 

Brandon reached back into the same pocket he had put his hand in earlier and withdrew a small folded paper and turned back towards the woman as he carefully unfolded it. He had repurposed a portion of a flyer, white paper with inked black words on one side and on the other blank side he had carefully taken a soft pencil lead to take an impress of the knots that encircled the stone of his brooch.

 

Glancing at the image first he held the small offering out towards the woman, “perhaps you have seen these knots before,” Brandon stated hoping she didn’t mind assisting him a bit more, “what’s in the fun cabinet?”

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He seemed ready to go, read, research, find answers...  Definitely one of those ‘up all night thinking about things’ types.

 

“Thank you Rorye,”

 

She nodded, “my pleasure.”

 

“My name is Brandon.  I had no idea there were so many books on Celtic knots, Yale only had a handful.”

 

“We do specialize in things of that nature, also because it’s a personal interest of mine too,” personal interest was an understatement of the year.  As he pulled something from his back pocket, she felt she needed to make him a bit more comfortable.  “Can I get you anything to drink, on the house for new customers.  Coffee?  Any kind of tea imaginable?”

 

Brow furled at the image he held out, fingers whisking a stray lock of hair behind her ear before they took the offered image to study a moment.

 

“Perhaps you have seen these knots before,”

 

Aww crap.  She had seen something like it before, and it was definitely in a place that wasn’t for the average shop-goer.  Lower lip was rolled through her teeth in thought, narrowed eyes studying the detail of the rubbing.  She really wanted to ask where it had come from, for her own curiosity, but he wasn’t here for her curiosity.

 

“Yes I have,” she said rather absently as she studied it like a jeweler would inspect a diamond.  “Something similar.  Celtic knotwork is a slippery subject, running through the ancient civilizations like rivers, all over Europe too.  It’s not just a mathematic marvel and art form, it has a lot of power associated with it that was just occult superstition until a decade ago.  It definitely has power.  Ancient power that makes even old school mages nervous.”

 

“What’s in the fun cabinet?”

 

Before he’d even asked she was punching the code on the lock for the larger cabinet.  Inside those doors were multiple shelves of books, antique… worn.  Next to those, a safe, old school and built straight through the cabinet back and into the wall.

 

“The expensive things… and the dangerous things,” fingers danced along antique and eclectic spines until she found the one she wanted, pulling it out carefully and putting it on the table.  It was quite large, the tome carefully wrapped in a leather binding that was opened after unwinding a thin braided piece of what looked like human hair.  “This is a book I picked up about a year ago.  I’ve been deciphering it piece by piece, mostly gibberish so far, but the knotwork is similar to yours.  Maybe you can find a match in the artwork.”

 

She took a step back to let him take over perusing through it.

 

“Talks about time, and pulling people through it using magic.  I'll get my notes so you can look at those too.”

 

It essentially was a blueprint for how the woman in her head could be reaching across a millennia and be attached to her.  She'd questioned if Red was really dead, or stuck somewhere neither here nor there.  Limbo maybe.  She’d been working on deciphering it in effort to understand the woman a little better, but had not been overly successful in translation.  Maybe he could get somewhere.

 

“Coffee?”

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With eager eyes Brandon took in the contents of the case as the doors were opened and the woman began to unlock the safe. He had heard her mention that they were expensive books, something the would have expected, and dangerous ones, which was something he didn’t quite understand. The light haired man hadn’t grasped she was referring to magic, hadn't associated the brooch with any power especially after a jeweler had told him it was pretty much just costume jewelry without much worth.  To him the article had a great deal of worth. It was his only, that and the tattoo on his back, to his past and it was something he wanted to know, wanted to understand deeply.

 

“Coffee would be great,” the Yale gad replied to her question looking up at Rorye, “black with no sugar will be fine, thank you.”

 

Brandon’s eyes sparked as he spoke and the little blue specks in them danced as she brought out the leather bound volume and he took in her explanation of what was placed before him. His expression was one of eager earnestness as he moved in to take a better look at all the artful illustrations and notice the latin sprinkled in on sidebars along the old English verbiage that gathered around the artwork and offered some explanation. 

 

His eyes weren’t on the woman now then had locked onto the text as if it had some sort of magic spell in and of itself, some mystical power to draw in his mind and capture his imagination. Brandon’s hazel eyes slowly moved about the open pages reading the words on the page. Looked at a series of circular renderings that were extremely similar to the rubbing he had made then began reading allowed in a voice fairly above a whisper, “tunc custos magica, et pr?,” Brandon began reading the latin heading written by an ancient hand and embellished with the scribes artistic touches of the knots. 

 

 

“Time Magic,” the man said with a bit of surprise, “you really think my knots have something to do with magic?”

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“Coffee would be great, black with no sugar will be fine, thank you.”

 

Mage.  Something.  Humans didn’t have eyes like that.  She wasn’t sensitive in any respects, that was good old hostess sleuthing. 

 

“Done and done,” she smiled.

 

She disappeared for a moment, returning with a fresh mug for him on a saucer and a refresher on her own mug- hearing the tail end of his outward thoughts.  Soft clink set it on the table near him, and she took a drink of her own while eyes traveled over the shelves again for another that could be helpful. The safe though, that was for when all avenues were exhausted.

 

“tunc custos magica, et pr?,”

 

A smaller tome was pulled out, not as ornate, focused more on the theories around the cultures with the knotwork.  Some had pagan magic, some used earth magic, some were god based.  It really depended on the area.  It was definitely massed produced now, but most were copies of common manuscripts or sculpture and jewelry because they weren’t copyrighted so one saw the same designs over and over. She had never seen this one before, which was quite a feat.  Her only train of thought was that it was older, or he had access to something she did not.  Stumbled across it, maybe. It seemed to be a rubbing, which meant it was probably carving- headstone maybe?

 

“Time Magic, you really think my knots have something to do with magic?”

 

“Honestly, nowadays that’s the first place my mind goes.  Over a decade ago, people always tried to prove magic was real.  My shop was a fun novelty.  Now, I assume everything is some kind of mojo in order to make sure it doesn’t try to kill me.”

 

She took another sip and set the other book down.

 

“Knotwork is something I know well, it can be a type of magic.  Real magic. Take a look through those and let me know if you need anything else.”

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“Done and done.” 

 

The phrase still hung in the air long after it was said as if they were being carried on the summer breeze towards his mind though he didn’t know exactly why. He was in a domain that was far out of his league. Brandon knew that full well but his desire to know the truth kept driving him deeper into the tome in spite of Rorye’s words about things in the fun cabinet being dangerous.

 

“Really,” Brandon replied furrowing his brow at her mention of passing everything had powers and was going to try to harm her. 

 

He drew in a breath and glanced at the ancient words again and then back at the dark haired woman again. The man glanced up as she brought more books to the table for him to peruse and nodded gratefully.

 

“Thank you,” he offered pausing for a moment hesitantly as if he was about to say something and then continued his research.

 

Brandon was beginning to trust the woman, something he rarely allowed himself the luxury of doing. Life for the orphan had not been easy though it had not been pleasant for anyone since the events in 2010 that rocked the world sending it into the realms chaos as new inhabitants for other worlds, other realities collided with those of Earths and humans were forever changed, some more than others.

 

He returned his thoughts towards the large ancient tome taking in the words in Latin and old English that he could understand. The artwork was mesmerizing to him as his hazel eyes flicked from one carefully illustrated image to the next and taking in the vast amount of information that was new to the University graduate.

 

He bent towards the book letting a finger hover over the latin words as he spoke them aloud, “quod si nodum manu utebatur pro dextera igitur et antecedens est binding caput egit honestum. Si autem recta est inteded traditur in custodia tenebantur.”

 

“Left and right handed knots,”  He furrowed his brow as he turned the page only to find one of the knots in particular staring back at him. Brandon’s eyes widened as he spotted one of the unusually rare knots, “there,” he muttered a little more quietly as he moved the rubbing closer to the illustration. It appeared two times in the ring one left and one right at the one and six position if it were a clock face.

 

“There must be two spells one to ward and one to bind,”  Brandon shook his head and closed his eyes for a moment before continuing, “sort of a push and pull?”

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“Really”

 

“Yes,” answer was firm.  “I’m living proof that things are dangerous when you chase something down a rabbit hole.  Stones.  Drawings.  Books,” she nodded toward a candlestick mounted on top of a skull behind the front counter.  It seemed to twinkle back in acknowledgement.  “Even something as harmless as a candlestick.  Whatever you're searching for, could be a path to something terrible..  It’s the way of the world now, as you know, so be aware.”

 

“Thank you”

 

Nod was slight as she put down a few more to give him a wide range of things to look at.

 

“There must be two spells one to ward and one to bind, sort of a push and pull?”

 

“If your knot is linked to any kind of magic, it could be a lot of things.  Ward and bind, push and pull, key and lock.”

 

She drank a bit of her coffee, watching a moment.

 

“Just be careful what you play with when you find it,” she nodded and moved back into the store proper to start stocking the antique card catalog with stones.  One of her many interests was combing through former ruins of Hell’s Kitchen to find items to refurbish.  The obsolete furniture after a lot of TLC was perfect for keeping stones, trinkets, and whatever other little bits and bobs of ingredients they needed.

 

Her advice, sounded a lot like she had received once upon a time.  Sadly, she never seemed to heed it either.

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Brandon looked up as she spoke listening intently to her counseling words. He was aware that magic could be dangerous but his brooch didn’t seem as if it could be much of a threat. Still, he took her warning seriously. Yet the man wanted, needed, to know about his mysterious past whether it was dangerous to do or not. He didn’t expect that it contained any magic, let alone anything dangerous. Like many he expected things with magic to be ancient and made from really valuable material, not the low value trinket he figured the piece of jewelry was.

 

“I will,” he answered looking seriously at the dark haired woman, “thank you for the warning.”

 

As the woman moved away Branden glanced over at the other offerings left by his new acquaintance. The books were a variety of sized and shapes though most of them were older than he was and he knew it. His brow furrowed as he looked at each book cover and spine trying to discern which held the information he was seeking. There was one smaller than the rest. It had worn corners and gilding that was intended for the lettering had long ago vanished with use.

 

As he opened the rare book his eyes widener with keen interest though he still didn’t see exactly what he was looking for. The page marked the beginning of a chapter with another circle of knots above the bolded heading, “Knots With a Connection to Another World.”

 

“Woe,” Brandon whispered as he sat the book back down open on the stack of tomes. 

 

His eyes darted across the pages words.  His eyes looked up and around as he placed a finger on the page and reached into his right front pocket and took out a small pill box. It was obvious the container had seen many days of use. Its black pained metal surface was scratched and chipped and the white words “Murphy's Pills” was nearly worn away. He unscrewed the lid releasing the worn rubber seal and revealing a small piece of white tissue. Branden picked up the tissue and gently folded back the edges to reveal the small brooch and held it in his hand as he returned to the text. 

 

On the page was another of the knots he had never been able to identify before and the words claimed it was evidence of an item whose origin was not that of Earth. Though the chapter did not identify on it’s pages where they felt it was from but rather that individuals who had identified it as an extremely rare knot believed not to have been used by any known Earth sources.

 

Brandon read the words eagerly as he palmed the small item and turned the yellowed pages. He shook his head as he opened his palm again and then went back to reading the book. His completion was paler as he fought back the shock of the realizations that just kept coming.  

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“I will, thank you for the warning.”

 

Nod was slight, leaving the book room quietly with her coffee in tow.    She refreshed it, standing at the front window for a long moment to survey the street that was waking up.  He was a curious one, that was for sure.  Searching for something.  Some searched for curiosity, others for fun.  Then there were those that searched out of need.  He struck her as the type to fall into that category.  Who knew what he was searching for, but when she set her coffee on the front counter to continue putting out the new stock of various stones, observant eyes didn’t miss the slip of something from a worn and treasured box into his hand.

 

Now, that was interesting.  Not only because she liked interesting things, but… she like to acquire interesting things.  Her shop was full of them.  Some hiding in plain sight like the skull artifact and the Sky Disc on the wall behind her, others locked down in a vault because they were so dangerous they weren’t to be handled except by their new owner.  She was loyal to ARMA, but there were a lot of things she slid under their noses that they didn’t need to worry about.  Old habits did die hard.

 

Was this one of those things?  Or just an innocent fascination.  She cleared one box of new stock, keeping a close eye on the avid reader, and twenty minutes or so later returned to the room with a fresh pot of coffee.

 

“Refresher?” she asked quietly.  “Find anything interesting?”

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The man’s eyes trailed up from the book he was currently absorbed in. Before his spread out on the table were a number of books open to various section with illustrated examples of the various knots. His finger hovered as if he was afraid to actually touch the yellowing pages of a smaller book while with the other he was comparing one of he knots to the actual brooch readily visible to anyone. The metal box sat on the table, the lid placed to the side revealing the piece of paper that once housed the artifact. Based on his careful handling of the books it was obvious he knew how to care for them and cherished such things yet he seemed rather naive on idea that he should be keeping the existence of such an item a secret.

 

Based on the widening of his eyes it was obvious he was more than a little surprised as he came back from his own little world of concentration to the reality everyone else seemed to share. Their color was still the same with a few more specks of blue as he delved deeper into his research.

 

“Oh hi Rorye,” Brandon said letting a smile cross his face, “I certainly have."

 

He glanced over at his empty cup not remembering when he had finished it, “I guess I could use some more coffee.”  

 

He smiled broadly at the dark haired woman and extended the small brooch towards her like a child in show and tell. “It was my mother’s,” he explained as he gently held the object, “it's not valuable or at least that's what I have been told and I’ve been curious about the knots for some time.” With his empty hand he motioned towards the books spread out before him and continued like an eager scholar ready to share his research,“from what I gather these knots are extremely rare and one of them,” he motioned to his last book, “mentions something about it being from another world.”

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“Oh hi Rorye, I certainly have."

 

Expression was friendly, thoughts hovering that this might be one of those situations she should very likely bring up to ARMA.  The twinkle of coffee refreshing his mug was soft, pondering speaking to him about it.  Never would have done it before.  Things had somewhat changed, and that gave her a sense of pride but pissed her off at the same time. Protecting her own, versus protecting the greater whole.  Not being exclusively loyal to her neighborhood circle just didn’t sit right for someone so diligently loyal to her own community.  An internal argument for another time.

 

She could be wrong, but over a decade of learning to read people never really let her down.  She didn’t need any special powers to think this was the search for something unusual.  He seemed kind, somewhat trusting, and his search was going to walk him into the wrong place with the wrong people someday soon.  Pharos.  The Order.  There were a cluster of not so savory people that would take advantage of his situation if they even merely suspected something like this.  She could take advantage of this situation at the moment.  If it could make a buck, she was usually secretly interested in her smuggling-type activities  She’d looked the other way for so long when it came to people outside of her neighborhood…. now her connection with the “good guys” had rubbed off on her.

 

Internal argument had tipped slightly.  He deserved protection if her hunch was true.  He also deserved to go about his business in peace without some big organization claiming him as their own and sticking their nose in it.

 

….dammit she hated being a good guy sometimes.

 

Coffee pot was set on a tea tray table that had extra cups and such, put there for the exact reason she didn’t want it sitting on the main table.

 

“It was my mother’s, it's not valuable or at least that's what I have been told and I’ve been curious about the knots for some time.”

 

Smile soft, quirked slightly sideways.

 

“From what I gather these knots are extremely rare and one of them, mentions something about it being from another world.”

 

Both hands cupped around the outstretched hand in attempts to close his fingers around his prize.

 

“You need to keep this closer to the vest.”

 

She pulled out the chair across from him and sat, elbows on the table to lean forward slightly.  The conversation was low.

 

“It could just be that, an heirloom.  It might not be,” lower lip rolled through her teeth, the rich timbre of her voice making one at ease.  “Anything can be anything now, and so can people.”

 

She picked up one of her go-to books and turned it around to face her.

 

“Celts had a lot of ethereal lore.  Gods. Goddesses, a lot of which were considered to be able to fluctuate through planes of existence.  They believed in magic, and that time could perform real magic, so anything is possible.  Worlds could be planes, or time.  Depends how you translate it into English.”

 

Eyes scanned the drawings he seemed to be focused on, her words said with utter belief they were true.  She knew them to be true.

 

“Was your mother a magus?”

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Brandon furrowed his brows and she reached out toward him closing her hands over his. 

 

“You need to keep this closer to the vest.”

 

He had never thought of it as more than a trinket, a souvenir of a past he couldn’t remember, and now it seemed to be becoming something of importance. His hazel eyes had settled heavily on hers as he listened to her advice and warning, still, how was he supposed to research the broach if it was to be done with such secrecy. The man’s thoughts were that of puzzlement though he knew what the shop owner was saying was for his own good.

 

 

“Was your mother a magus?”

 

“Not to my knowledge,” Brandon admitted taking in a deep breath and shaking his head to the negative, “I cannot remember anything about my life before I was thirteen.”

 

What he said was true, honest to a fault one might say as being so forthright could be as dangerous as his behavior had been with the brooch. Still, if he was to learn, if he was to gain her trust enough that she might help him honesty was to him was still be best policy. 

 

“The Resonance,” Brandon began taking back his treasure and placing it back inside of the worn metal safe he carried, “it destroyed my memory of anything before it. I’m just trying to see if something will trigger those memories.”  

 

He picked up the lid and began closing it on his treasure then looked back up towards her, “perhaps I should just let it be I guess.”

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The furl of his brow was expected.  Thwarted, or "encouragement" of keeping things under wraps when someone was trying to find answers was often frustrating.  She felt for him, more than she thought he would ever know.  Who could she talk to about her particular problem, next to nobody...


 
Hearing he didn't know of his mother's status, or that he couldn't remember anything prior to the Resonance made it very possible this was bigger than he knew.

 
Dark eyes settled on the box he kept it in.  She had something for that.  Something that might come in handy.  Her favorite scavenged treasure was only a step outside the door to her library- a massive card catalog from a public library she had painstakingly restored and repurposed for her shop.  Stones, crystals, it was a perfect cabinet for those items.

 

"The Resonance, it destroyed my memory of anything before it. I’m just trying to see if something will trigger those memories.”  

 

She'd often wondered if the book that had essentially both ruined and restarted her life simultaneously had been in that vein.  Would she remember eventually?  Had she been that other person ever?

 

Drawer was slid out on her cabinet, a carved wooden box taken out before she returned.

 

"No, I don't think you should stop looking.  Just be prepared for what you find."

 

She placed the box next to him, it was just large enough to fit his treasured metal case.

 

"Real magic," she smiled slightly,  "exists.  This is warded, I would like you to keep it, thinking bout storing your piece in it.  If by chance your heirloom gives off something that can be sensed by anyone that shouldn't know you have it, that will hide it, and you by proxy."

 

Her own unusual eyes blinked slowly, the deep chocolate slowly over time had been taken over by green.  They were rimmed in it now.  One step closer to the unknown.

 

"My experience has been to chase after it before it sneaks up on you and slaps you in the face."

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Brandon watched curiously as she walked over to withdrew the small wooden box. His brow was still furrowed as the questions played on his mind with few answers and more questions arising as he tried to answer the ones he already had. 

 

The woman had been kind, a trait he didn’t see often, and he was grateful for it. Her help had gotten him this far though Branden felt with the knowledge he now possessed he was in a more precarious position then ever before. If his mentor, of sorts, was correct there really was more to worry about, more to explore and more to keep hidden from prying eyes.

 

"No, I don't think you should stop looking.  Just be prepared for what you find.”

 

“So if I put this in the box," he asked tilting his head as he looked at her faint smile, “if it has magic others won’t be able to detect it?” Brandon shook his head and smiled sheepishly, "sorry warding wasn’t covered in any of my classes.”

 

Without allowing time for a clear answer to his question he posed another that was probably more urgent on his mind, “I’m up for the chase, but if it does have real magic how will I know and how do I, um, prepare for it?”

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“So if I put this in the box, if it has magic others won’t be able to detect it?” 

"That's the rumor anyway.  Can't hurt."

She knew it worked, one of the other little problems she was constantly getting in trouble about.  She trafficked magic items, and sometimes dangerous ones at that.  Some she kept, some she sold, some she gave up to the magic police.  This one was relatively innocuous, so it was in her shop.

"Sorry warding wasn’t covered in any of my classes."

She nodded softly and finished her own coffee, leaning back in the chair with a relaxed posture.

"I’m up for the chase, but if it does have real magic how will I know and how do I, um, prepare for it?”

"That's the eternal question.  My particular problem came from knowing what I was fiddling with had some sort of hoodoo.  Come to find out later I'd been attached to it all along and it was just waiting for my hands on it after hundreds of years to spring it's surprise."

She took another drink, eyes settling on the rest of her quiet shop for a moment.

"I still don't know everything about it, or what will happen day to day, but I'm just prepared something always will and I've created a network of people that can help me if it does."

Eyes moved back to him.  

"I'm connected with ARMA, but I have other sources should you need anything or run into trouble."

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Branden tilted his head as he pondered all the woman words. She had been honest with him, at least as far as he could tell and he had no reason to doubt her. The shop owner had even shared a little of her own struggles and her connections to the somewhat questionable organization ARMA and, other sources, however reliable they might be.

 

He drew in a breath and glanced over at her feeling a bit sheepish for his childish eagerness to solve what could be an ancient mystery shared by all those affected when paths of so many world collided in a single day. Many changed forever and the rest wondering how to cope with the aftermath.


“Do,” Brandon began as he glanced at the wooden box again and then back at his hostess, “do you know where I might be able to, um, explore this in a little more safety and secrecy?"  He  sat the box down gently on the table and added, “I’d like you there, that is if you could spare a little time.”

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