After the men left the hospital, Severance heard his name called across the parking lot. He turned and saw the sheriff, waved and walked over to him.
"Rick," Severance held his hand out. "Thank you for helping with Ninah." Rick had been one of the first people to find them in the woods, standing over the hole Ninah had fallen into.
Just as the rescue crew got to them, Rick had taken a rope from the back of his jeep, quickly made knots at regular intervals, tied it to a tree, and helped the guys steady it while Severance climbed down into the hole to check Ninah before the firemen came in to get her stabilized and move her to the ambulance.
Rick had military experience but Severance was damned if he could figure out which branch. The sheriff didn't discuss it and there was nothing in his office to indicate his history. Until he knew otherwise, Severance was voting for Marines. Rick had that 'Marine' feel about him, although he wasn't as unbending as some of the Marines he had met. Anyone who rolled around on the grass under a sprinkler with his children couldn't be all that serious. After the sight of Rick in only shorts, Sev and Shara spent quite a while discussing how much of a shame it was that Rick wasn't the least interested in other men. They were curious to know how he got those burn scars on his back, though.
"Anytime," Rick said. "How's she doing?"
One of those strange past-life memories inside of him stood up straight in recognition of a military leader. Another indication of Rick's past. Sev was confused; even Rick's aura didn't twitch at curious touches. He liked Rick, though; the man had a dry sense of humor, and there wasn't much that fazed him.
Severance was used to other energy workers showing off their egos in his presence. He referred to it as pissing contests. Rick not only didn't feel the need to make his presence known, but he hid himself so well that Severance couldn't sense the thick energy that magic workers tended to have gathered around them. The man had a glamour cast on himself, and nothing the men did could get past it. Irra was disgruntled when he couldn't dig up anything. Even Wolf had come down from up north to take a look at their mysterious sheriff. He swore his reindeer antlers told him the sheriff was part of their odd, dispersed group.
"She's rebounding fast," Sev reported. "Lots of spirit in her. I considered calling her family, but I don't know where they are; any idea?"
Rick shook his head. "No, don't know. I've barely spoken to her, much less discussed family. She's alright, though, so I wouldn't worry about it. Thayer might know where her emergency contact list is."
"He might," Sev agreed. They clasped hands again and Rick hopped into his jeep and drove away, giving Shara a wave. There had been another faint spark when they touched hands. Severance looked at his hand, not sure if the slight tingle was his imagination or not.
"I'm heading back to the dojo, unless you need me," Shara said from his Jeep. Severance didn't, and gave a quick peck goodbye.
Severance had always been able to feel energy in people, as well as see faint energy lines in the earth. He was an adult before he ever heard the term 'ley lines.'
When he was a child, he'd sometimes have the same dream over and over: a man wearing a leather skirt and holding a sword as he fought in a battle. Three other men were always at his side, and they always reported to a woman who was also dressed in leather fighting gear. Severance assumed it was some weird dream that boys have about women. No other boys mentioned it, though. He tried to ignore the dreams where he was kissing one of the other men. He liked the one where he was kissing the woman, but the one with the man disturbed him. Boys weren't supposed to kiss other boys.
When he grew up, he decided on medical school. Helping people interested him more than his stepfather's accounting firm. While still in residency, he was shot during a rotation in the emergency room. A drug bust had gone down badly, and the ER was filled with gang-bangers and cops. His fellow doctors worked for hours to save him, resuscitating him several times while his pregnant wife and two sons waited in the hallways. The stress of the situation caused her to miscarry.
He healed quickly, leaving his colleagues shaking their heads. Using the earth energies, Severance strengthened not only his body but also his mind. Much to his wife's confusion, he took up martial arts and sword fighting. His body became quick and hard. Nancy didn't complain about the developing muscles. She did, however, begin to have a problem with her husband spending so much time with his practice partner, Shara Beck.
Several years later, it nearly killed Severance to stand in front of his wife and tell her that he was in love with another man. The divorce happened quickly. Severance took complete blame, much to his lawyer's dissatisfaction, and insisted on giving Nancy whatever she wanted for herself and the kids.
The youngest, Daniel, was only six at the time and didn't understand daddy leaving. He got used to it quicker than the older three, though, and accepted Shara more readily than his brothers and sister. Kerry came around after a while, once she was old enough to understand that mom and dad's issues were not her issues. Morgan and Shane, the elder two, were usually polite to Shara, and had begun to relax with him by the time they were out of high school.
The phone rang, disturbing Severance's musings. His sister's face was on the phone's caller ID. They had the same brown eyes and strong facial features, which they got from their mother. Karrin must have stock in Revlon, he decided, because whereas his thick, brown hair was mostly streaked with iron gray, his sister's brown hair was flawless.
"Hi," she greeted him. "How's your patient?"
"She's good," he told her. "She'll be going home this afternoon, provided her blood work is agreeable."
As far as he could tell, Karrin never had the same sort of weird dreams that he had. No unusual past-lives speaking to her. She did have the ability to see energy lines, and she made a name for herself among the clans for being their best architect. A clan architect did more than design and build buildings; they built along earth's natural energy lines and were able to create boxes and boundaries to hold nasty things in, or out, until a cleaner or guardian could come and deal with it.
Once Severance and his sister discovered what they were hiding from each other, their sibling relationship was forever cemented. Their parents didn't understand; they were simply happy that their children got along with each other. Usually.
"Can you come over this weekend?"
"I think so," she said. He knew from her tone that she was looking at her calendar. "Yes, it should be fine. What's going on?"
"In house," he warned. She'd keep information to herself until told otherwise. He filled her in on recent happenings including whatever it was that Rick was hiding. Karrin was silent.
"Kar, did you hear me?" he asked, wondering if their connection broke. It happened a lot with cell phones in their area.
"I heard," she said. "From what I've seen of her place, I'm not surprised she's here. Be careful, Sev; this one will run rings around you."
He snorted. "It's already happening." Just after she hung up, his phone rang with Shara's ID.
"You'd better get over to Ninah's," Shara said. Sev heard a smile in his voice. "She left the hospital without you."
"Oh, for the love-a…."
He should have realized that Ninah would wait until his back was turned before making her move. How did she get out so fast and why didn't anyone on staff call him? He's her attending, they should have called him. He circled a block and headed back to Main.
The door was open at the store. He stepped in, walking over the warding sigil on the floor in front of the door. It blinked for him again. He didn't know that it was also rigged to cause even the most psi-blind person to become agitated if their intentions were less than honorable. A couple of people had stepped on the sigil and immediately turned around and left. Most people were fairly honorable.
With the new information about Ninah in his head, he forced himself to relinquish control and just consider the sigil without the preconceptions he had been guilty of. The sigil was the work of a master magician, and he, a master magician, didn't begin to understand how it worked. He had never seen anything like it before outside of sand mandalas. The painting was beautiful, and having seen some of Ninah's doodles she left lying around, he knew she was the artist. He felt a little envious of her artistic gift. Maybe he could get her to do something with his patient rooms. How the hell did she manage that ward in it, though?
Alright, so maybe he came on a little strong; she was confusing him, out-distancing him in one area and leaving him covered in dust in other areas.
All the new metaphysics were confusing the hell out of him. Up until the past couple of years, magicians had only worked on the spirit plane; now there were things happening on the physical plane. No matter what Hollywood and the tabloids said, there was no solid, physical evidence of such things happening before.
Thayer took one look at him and pointed toward the back of the store. Severance followed the finger. He found her in a small break room, at the kitchen sink with a glass of water. She raised the glass at him with one hand while holding her phone with the other.
"Taking pills, see?" She stuck her tongue out to show him the small white pill, and washed it down. He stood, hands on his hips. "Gotta go, Mom," she said into her phone. "My doctor is a little miffed. Love you."
The 'Mom ESP' had been flaring hard; Ninah found a dozen messages from her mother when she checked her cell phone. Sara Fiero was almost ready to rent out a jet to fly from Arizona to Washington State, if Ninah didn't return a call.
"Oh, chill, Sev," she told him as she hung up. "I feel fine. A couple of hours wasn't going to hurt anything."
"I'm worried, that's all."
Ninah walked past him, gave his cheek a saucy pat, and went into the main room and down the stairs that were along the north side of the store. He was still for a moment and then shook his head, turning to follow her down the stairs.
The basement was large and open, and had been turned into a temporary apartment. Through a decorative arch at the door, a couch and loveseat cornered in the middle of the room, a coffee table, and a throw rug gathering the seating arrangement together. At the far end of the flat was a bedroom set sectioned off from the living room area with carefully placed book cases.
He liked it. It was comfortable. It also cancelled out some of the psychic noise of the outside world. Another one of her hexes hidden in plain sight? He looked around and noticed a small clay cone above the door and in the corners. Oh, right, Thayer mentioned them, he remembered. And they did look like middle eastern cones. The group may need a lesson in shamanic magics, because he had no idea how she was doing it.
"Deep hole, bad land, knocked out; ring a bell?" Sev asked, frowning in irritation as he sat opposite her. Doesn't she have any common sense? Maybe Irra had a point; traipsing into unknown situations, giving herself a world-tour without a buddy for safety…
She remained silent, blinking at him and waiting. Sev took a deep breath and let it out noisily.
"What's on your mind, Severance?" she asked.
Irritated at being so transparent, he crossed his legs and considered the woman who was irritating him.
"Control issues; I see," she said at his silence. "How can I help?"
"I don't suppose you could be a little more malleable?" he asked. She smiled and shook her head.
"Sorry," she said. "That one's beyond my control. I can, however, be a friend; I have strong shoulders and I listen well. To hearts, that is, not orders."
"Nothing," he said after a moment, shaking his head and blowing out air to release some stress. His issues with her were his problem, not hers.
"How about this?" she began, redirecting his attention. "Rick keeps showing up when I'm doing something with energy. And ignoring Rick's hidden talents, how about the rest of the town? This is a small place, and I haven't seen this much energy play in large cities, much less a small town like this."
That was true enough, he thought, pretty sure that Seattle was pagan-central for the US... He paused. Why?
"We've noticed it, too. It isn't just New Babylon, though, it's the entire region. Take a ride around, some day, and you'll see it." It was still fairly new, though, he reminded himself. He was born and raised in Seattle, and he was sure all the magical occurrences were mostly in the past couple years.
She got up, went to her bookcase, and took out an atlas. She winced and Severance took the large book down for her and laid it on the table. As she opening it, she thanked him and searched for Washington State. "Are there any mysteries about the Olympics or Cascades?" she asked, looking at the surrounding mountain ranges.
"Not a thing," he said, wondering what that had to do with the topic at hand.
"Really?" she questioned, looking up at him. "In a highly native area, and these two major, and very ancient, volcanic mountain ranges have nothing unusual going on?"
Severance took his cell phone out and dialed. "Do the Cascades or Olympics have any mysterious happenings?" he asked when the line was answered. After a few seconds he held up his hand. "Wait, wait, I'm putting you on speaker. Ninah's. Yeah." He clicked the speaker on and set the phone on the table. "Go ahead," he said. "It's Terry," he told Ninah.
"The occasional Big Foot sighting, but nothing concrete there," Terry said from the phone. "The term 'flying saucer' was invented here, though."
"It was?" Severance was surprised, not having heard that before. Ninah leaned in.
"Yeah, back in 1947 this guy was flying over the Cascades, heading for Rainier, and he saw a chain of them, about nine, I think it was, said they were like saucers skipping across the water. Then you've got the mysterious lights and sounds coming from Mt. Shasta, although that section of the Cascades is in Northern California. I don't buy that one, though; I've camped there, and I've never heard or seen anything unusual."
"What about the Olympics?" Ninah asked. "Anything going on there?"
"Mmmm… not that I've heard," Terry said.
"The only rain forest on the North American continent and there's nothing unusual?" she questioned, not believing it. Ancient places tended to have power nodes under them, concentrated energy hubs.
There was silence for a moment. "I can research it, but no, I haven't heard of anything."
Severance looked at Ninah. "For an area steeped in prehistoric geological events, it is pretty quiet here, isn't it?"
"Come to think of it," Terry continued, his own curiosity caught, "sightings are usually over farms and just outside military bases. Except for Tunguska, which was probably an exploding alien ship, I've never run across reports of sightings over natural features."
"I'm not talking about aliens, Terry, I'm talking about ley lines and the type of energy they attract. Even pyramids sit on top of the hubs, and yet there's nothing on or around the hubs in this area of the country."
"I know that," Terry snapped from the speaker. "What I'm saying is these sightings are good indicators of where the hubs are; check out the maps of hubs and you'll find military installations. You'll also find stories of poltergeist activity."
"And the farms?" Sev asked.
"Not too far from the military. Why is that? Why would the military build bases near farms and ranches? Remember Roswell? Who first reported the crash? A rancher."
Severance squeezed the bridge of his nose. "…won't convince me that the military doesn't know more than they're letting on," the man continued over the speaker.
Exploding alien ships… With a mental snort, Severance thanked him and hung up. Terry was completely taken in by those so-called space battles that had the internet in an uproar for a couple years, now…. He thought about it and then shook his head. Coincidence.
"Well, he does have a point," Ninah told him.
Oh, no, not her, too…. "What point is that?"
She wasn't fooled by his bland tone. "Hey, I grew up in Phoenix. I witnessed the sightings myself in '97'. Take a look at the dryness of the land between Phoenix and Mexico, sometime, and notice the ancient mountain ring just before hitting Tucson. Those aren't mountains brought up by tectonic plates; that area is an ancient caldera. And the area was also completely submerged millions of years ago. There's a major hub smack in the middle of that caldera."
He debated giving a rest order to Ninah, and then images of levin bolts decided him against it. She was a big girl; if she wanted to knock herself out and end up in the hospital again, that was up to her.
"Something else is odd," she told him. She opened the small fridge, took out a vitamin water and handed it to him, and took one for herself. "Do you read science sites online? They are all talking about experiments that have been going on for decades, and yet their computers are giving them new information which is bringing together a lot of the experiments."
"That doesn't surprise me," he said. Did she pick that up from him? Irra said her background showed nothing unusual. "Scientific theory has always done that; you get a bunch of labs doing experiments on the same subject, it isn't unusual for plans to come together about the same time."
"But no one is taking credit for entering the new parameters from which the computers need to draw from. And then there's talk about the sky being different, more stars are crowding the telescopes."
"Again, not surprised," he said. "It takes light a long time to make it to this point; the light from old stars is now showing up." He did notice what seemed to be a more crowded nighttime sky, but assumed that it was caused by less light pollution from surrounding cities.
There was still something about it all that was speaking to Ninah, but she was unable to verbalize her thoughts on the subject. There were new, and unexpected, things happening in the world of science. Even the armchair scientists were online arguing over odd events. The recent meteor hit on Jupiter had them all examining the footage, with the usual declarations of cover-ups.
A yawn at the bottom of the stairs took their attention. Kissa was telling Sev it was time for her dinner. She had a kitty door, she could go home and eat her little nuggets, but daddy opening a can was much more interesting.
"If I don't feed her, I'll find a hairball in my shoe," he told Ninah. She smiled and waved him on. Her smile warmed him, the gap between her two front teeth enchanting him as did the freckles across her nose. He wasn't looking forward to the teasing from Shara about his attraction to the young woman.
"Go," she said. "I'm fine, really. I promise to take it easy and call you if I need to."