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Something Wicked - Legacies

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Legacies

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The Past

The wind whispered through the trees on either side of the game trail, causing shadows to dance in the pale moonlight. Absalom Walsh, of South Carolina, was not too keen to be out here in the night - especially with savages in the area - but not volunteering for the search party would have been a social disaster he could ill afford. His fortune and the fate of his family were at stake here; if they didn’t make a go of it in this unnamed territory it was back to England to face his debts, and that meant prison.

 

A sharp sound that wasn’t a stick snapping underfoot jerked Absalom back from his reverie and he shouted “Down!’ as he flung himself to the ground just as the guns of their unseen adversary shattered the night.

 

Absalom had landed on his own flintlock. He rolled over and, without even looking, discharged it in the direction of where the fire had come from. Others in the search party fired their guns as well and so it was with ears ringing and coughing from the powder smoke that the sound of steel on steel could be heard amid shouts and curses in both English and bloody Spanish.

 

The year was 1673, barley ten year since Absalom Walsh had sailed across the Atlantic to find his fortune. His goal then had been simple: acquire land and begin farming, then acquire a bride and begin a family. Goals he partly met.

 

Absalom had been the child of a tenant farmer in England and the only surviving son of eight. The Lord had seen fit to decide that the Walshes could no longer tend the land given into the family’s care and so they had been evicted and left with nothing. Absalom’s mother had died some ten years before and soon his father had succumbed as well to winter deprivation. Absalom was looking at destitution and a life of poverty and crime when happenstance arrived.

 

A young man by the name of Clairburn was traveling an English road when he was beset by robbers. The miscreants intended to take his horse and his money, and likely his life, however fate would have it differently.

 

 The stretch of road that Clairburn fell prey upon was in fact the remains of one of the many old roman roads which crisscrossed the land and at that very spot just off the road were ruins of what might have once been an ancient roman villa. Not much stood and none of it noticeable from the old road unless you were looking for it. Absalom had been looking and find it he did; an old man in London who had known his father had told him of these ruins and others like it that dotted the land. Places where items, artifacts, and even gold in the form of old coins worth much more for their age and origin than from the metal they were made of.

 

Absalom had scoured several of the ruins and found paltry for his effort; today he had moved on to this particular set in hopes of a worthy return for his efforts. He’d stopped in his search (search, not looting, for no cared for these places enough to protest, he’d told himself) for a bite of stale bread and hard cheese when he heard the horses. Crouching in the overgrowth, he spied the obviously well-to-do Clairburn and the three highway men accosting him. Ab knew that this was a lonely stretch and that the criminals were as like to kill as not, regardless of the chance of being caught. Absalom was not himself against a bit of larceny, but murder was beyond the pale and when the three drew sword and gun against the lonely one, something just snapped in the normally cool headed young man.

 

With a roar Absalom threw himself onto the road, grabbing a large fallen limb as he went, and charged the nearest highwayman. His roars startled the robbers and gave him opportunity: with a wild swing not at the highwayman but at the mouth of the horse, Absalom’s blow had the desired result. The horse, taken by surprise and painfully smashed upon the mouth and nose, reared up and threw the hapless highwayman from the saddle.  Letting go the makeshift club, Absalom followed through and jumped upon the man; with one hand he grabbed the thief’s pistol and the other smashed the man into unconsciousness with a vicious punch.

 

The other two horses, reacting to the pained bleating of the first horse, also bucked hard. While not enough to unseat their riders, it was enough to distract them for reacting to Absalom. Clairburn was forgotten and he took this moment to fetch a large horse pistol from the satchel hanging from his saddle. He drew this fearsome looking weapon and pointed it at the two men and with nary a warning let the flintlock fall on the filled pan. The oversized pistol roared to life, frightening the horses and the other two villains and while his shot hit neither, it gave Absalom time to aim the pistol he had taken onto the remaining two men. Seeing their fortunes quickly turned, they fled rather than risk death or incarceration.

 

And that was how Absalom Walsh and Becket Clairburn met and became lifelong friends. Clairburn explained that he was on his way to London to buy passage for him, his sisters and their mother to the burgeoning colonies in an effort to escape persecution. He asked Absalom to join them and, having nothing to hold him in England, the young man did.

 

Now it was five long hard years since then and Absalom had claimed land in what would become North Carolina. He’d married and started that family he’d wanted. His friend had done much the same and had been blessed by luck beyond that. While Clairburn prospered, Absalom seemed cursed instead. His farm in North Carolina failed, forcing the family to uproot in 1670, moving south and away from the coast into the wilderness that would one day become South Carolina. For a time thing s looked up for the Walsh family but then sickness struck his wife and two sons, leaving him a widower with a daughter that was barely past her milk years.

 

But then, Becket Clairburn showed up in their township, bringing some of his luck with him. He had grown bored farming and had decided to come south to try his hand at something new. With him came one of his sisters, Ruth. Absalom remembered her as a foolish little girl who had acted and dressed like a boy, but over the years she had blossomed into a ravishing young woman. Ruth took to caring for Ab’s daughter Abigail and within a year had married Absalom, tying the fate of the two clans together for eternity.

 

Absalom and Becket had abandoned the toil of farming turn instead moving the fruits of others labor where it needed to be. Their overland shipping business was a success; with Becket still a single man and willing to doing the traveling necessary, Absalom stayed in the growing township to run the heart of the business and spend time with his family.

 

Then two days ago several nearby farmsteads had been attacked and burned in a night of terror: the men slaughtered, the women and children carried off. It was at first thought that savage renegade Indians had done the deed and search parties were armed and sent to track them. Absalom had obviously joined and so did Becket, who was present on one of the few occasions he found himself home. The search parties had fanned out traveling west but the group with Absalom had found a trail that led northwest and had followed the scattered, faint clues they’d found along the way.

 

In the heat and rush of the ambush, Absalom Walsh roared as he had once before. He shoved himself up to his full height, his rifle reversed to use as a club, and prepared to give as good as he was able before Spanish steel robbed him of life. But that wasn’t to be, for at that moment a body slammed into him from behind and, over balanced from the blow, the two men fell in a tangle of limbs. As the mercurial Fates would have it, the two had been on the edge of a ridge and so they rolled and rolled: spinning head over heels down the steep incline, gaining innumerous bruises and cuts and losing their weapons until, finally, they crashed in one last time against the bottom of the ridge and lay motionless in the darkness. Above, the sound of fighting continued. Absalom came to and after a moment of disorientation remembered that he’d been attacked. He grabbed at his sheathed knife only to find a strong hand on his wrist and his face inches from that of his friend. Becket had cut across his forehead and there was blood at the corner of his mouth, but it was his eyes that gave Absalom pause: they were not looking at him but rather beyond him.

Slowly Absalom looked back over his shoulders and saw a woman. At first he thought she was white then he realized that her color was her skin but paint. She was naked except for feathers in her long hair and tied at wrist, ankle, and waist; about her neck a coiled serpent of gold. As Absalom watched the woman he began to notice other form moving silently in the dark, painted as she but male. Silently they glided up the face of the ridge almost as if they were floating. Movement brought his attention back to the woman as she raised her hand to her mouth and blew something from the open palm into his and Becket’s face and the world went black.

 

 

I

The present

The doors to the foyer flew open at Dylan’s push as he and Silas, still holding hands and seemingly unaware that they were, moved quickly into the room.

 

Dylan glance around, quickly picking Evelyn out of the circle of kids. When she saw his face, she cocked her head to one side. "What is it Dylan?" she asked in a firm voice.

 

He looked around at all of them; Silas squeeze his hand reassuringly. "They don't have the Book. It's missing."

 

All the color drained from Evelyn’s face. “Go find Uncle, Dylan. Isis?” She looked around as the cat leapt up onto the back of a chair and meowed.  “The grounds.” The cat jumped to the floor and raced off past Silas and Dylan still standing in the doorway. It was only then that she remembered the rest of the kids.

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Jordan told herself she wasn't scared, only surprised by the sudden return of Silas and Dylan, right after telling the story about her mother maybe being chased by what may have been a bear. She gave Silas a scowl, flipping her loose braid of pale hair over a broad shoulder, just now realizing he hadn't been around for either Roach's or her own story.

She was about to ask Silas how long it took to go to the bathroom and if he needed Dylan to hold his hand, when Dylan mentioned the Book. At that, the impressively athletic teen girl's scowl was joined by furrowed brows, her voice low and terse. "You told him 'bout the Book, and the Cave and what all, Sy?"

When Isis meowed in almost demanding inquiry, Jordan noticed Banner getting tense. When she bolted out the door, Banner flowed to his feet instantly and seemed about to followed but halted at Jordan's sharp, "Stay!"

The big Kangal Shepard looked from the door to his mistress, then back again, chuffed, then sat on his hunches, still poised to moved. Jordan cocked her head, surprised. Banner would chase animals away from what he considered his territory, or anything he might consider a threat to her, but he didn't chase after cats or squirrels or whatever as a matter of course like most other dogs.

Giving Banner another considering look, making sure he wouldn't take off if she took her eyes off him, Jordan glanced over at Evelyn. "What's the big deal 'bout this Book? It was just old and Roach lost it anyway." Jordan frowned, her back straightening. "And how'd you even know 'bout it?"

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Dylan hesitated, glancing over at Silas. The younger boy squeezed his hand and then let go, silently indicating that he was fine; Dylan nodded faintly and then disappeared back into the house to fetch the older man. 

Silas moved a little nervously back into the room and sat down in one of the antique looking chairs. "I didn't tell them about the book. I mean, they already knew. They were looking for it. They thought it was in the box we brought back. Dylan said it's dangerous. . . but he didn't say how. He said that wasn't his story to tell, not entirely." He turned to look at Evelyn at that last bit, giving the girl the floor but also clearly putting her on the spot to catch the rest of the group up on whatever it was that was actually going on.

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"Okay, one...I didn't LOSE it," Roach retorted. "It VANISHED. I had it, then it was gone. And two...I thought there was something off about this whole thing! I would say I hated to tell you so, but I think we ALL know that's a huge lie. I LOVE telling you I told you so."

 

She thought for a second and shrugged. "Even though, I think in this case I didn't actually TELL you so, per se. It's the thought that counts. Anyway! This whole thing was just pumping us for info about the damn book, wasn't it? And the whole...altar of greyskull thing."

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