June 29, 1924

I received your message this morning. Words fail me. Of all the gifts through the years, you choose this one to make a stand? Why do I sense fear in you, even as your reply goads me to anger.

Too ostentatious? My dear, that's the point. You wear the jewel, and I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Too expensive? I do not measure my love- my faith –- in denar. I thought you knew that.

Silver is cold. - Yes it is. You cannot have fire without ice.

Silver is hard. - We cannot be soft now.

Silver will tarnish and fade. - No, never. Silver is strong, and that is why silver will set us free….

November 18, 2008

Mikal's father had willed him the family business and the contents of a safety deposit box. The first was not trivial, but Mikal had been groomed to shepherd his family, real estate, and even the animals towards their destiny. He accepted that burden. The love letters, diamond ring, and gun in the safety deposit box were a twist that he still had to unravel. How did the murder of Stephano Faas figure in a future he wished to build?

He still thought of the study as his father's room, even though he'd removed many of Dullin's things. This was a place for doing business and it seemed fitting to analyze the puzzle here amidst the oak and leather. On the desk, the letters were neatly piled in chronological order. The vanilla and robin's egg blue pages would not fly away under the weight of the weapon that rested on top of the stack. Chin resting on his fist, Mikal pinched the diamond ring and held it up to the lamplight. The canary yellow stone and the companion baguettes flashed held tight in a silver setting that had not darkened with age.

"She never wore it," Mikal repeated Navah's observation from a few days ago. Her tone had been convincing and she seemed to abhor the touch of it. "I wonder why."

Syera Camerescro was married to Tem, his great grandfather. While the ring did not look like a traditional engagement ring, it was still a diamond. Perhaps it was too public an admission of their affair?

Aurum had been willed to Nicolae Camerescro after Stephano's death, the resounding scandal shifting power within the clan from the Faas family to his own. It was revealed that the boy, then fourteen, was the bastard child of Syera and Stephano and therefore his heir.

Perhaps she had more than reason to murder him….

A polite tap on the door interrupted his thoughts. Dark brooding eyes looked up, knowing it would be someone who specifically ignored a command to leave him alone.

"What is it?" he grumbled, his voice gruff as his sister Giselle entered.

"A package arrived for you." She walked forward, presenting a box. "It is from Alexandre Tzigne."

"What does he want?"

"From this distance, I cannot read his mind. Perhaps if I came with you to Athens?"

Mikal rolled his eyes. "We have already spoken on this. You dislike travel and -"

"Yes, I know. I was not invited." Hands on hips, the younger Camerescro pouted. "I have been working hard on my riding."

"Enough that you are out unsupervised after hours, finding dead men half buried."

"Someone needed to find him."

Her word choice made him pause. "True. More's the pity."

"You would have left Chal to rot in the storm last night?"

He lifted a shoulder. There was no love lost between the men, but dead or alive he was not done with the Tzigne family. One of Mikal's hands ran over the brown paper wrapping of the package, his thumb twanging the shipping string. "Is there anything else?" he asked.

"I suppose not, unless I can stay and see what's in the box."

"That will be all, Giselle."

She inclined her head in a bow before she turned and left the room. The heavy wood door closed softly behind her.

Mikal didn't hesitate to tear at the wrappings. Inside the cardboard box was a book, black leather bound. The pages were yellowed with age, curled at the edges as though they'd once been wet. Setting the volume aside, he inspected the wrappings, looking for a transmittal note. He found none.

Now a fourth item was added to the mysterious pile on the desk. This one he flipped open. It only took a few pages for him to reflect on the gift and its relevance. Then cover to cover he reluctantly read a story about djinn - or 'genie' as it is written in fairytales - and a woman's wish.

Agonizingly slow was the march to his death. Although he dragged his feet in resistance, he still moved forward towards the light. The necklace with its bright stones surrounded by silver rested heavy in his palm, dripping like tears as it dangled. Bound- like a prisoner of hell- he had no other path but to walk to a god's anger and face the consequence of having been born.

The sentence for a promise broken…

"I can set you free," a voice whispered, as it had all the nights before.

At the end of the walk, his hand was clasped by something unseen. A shadow flirted with the light. It pawed at the stones, trying to grasp them, and perhaps draw Mikal forward. "Say the words."

And my fate is entwined to yours...
If I perish, so shall you...

Mikal woke up with a start, sweat covering his body like a thin veil. The darkness seemed almost unnatural, and his eyes could not even seem to adjust to the lack of light. The shadows were a fog that settled into his bedroom, suffocating and selfish.

He reached for the lamp, but he was tangled in the white sheets, and it took a moment to unwrap his wrist from the cloth. Fumbling, his fingers found the switch and he blinked at the blinding glare. Snapping his head, he looked around the room suspiciously. There had been someone in here. Sure enough, the soft dent of another body was evident in the crushed quilt.

Rolling out of bed, Mikal grabbed his robe, belting it with more force than necessary over his pajama bottoms. If this had been the first dream he would have dismissed it as his mind replaying the fairytale that Alexandre Tzigne had sent this day. But it wasn't. And that worried him. The stories of djinn were not forgotten from days of youth. His grandmother was a firm believer in them.

Mikal took a breath and tried to steady his thoughts. He could not allow fear to take over. As though tempting fate he placed his hand in the body size indentation. It felt warm.

Needing to walk, to find information, Mikal strode into the hall. His steps were purposeful as he returned to his study.

"Good evening," his grandmother said from the seat at the desk.

Reaching for the light switch, Mikal turned on the electric lamp, dispelling the soft glow of candles Rasia Camerescro had lit. She seemed pale and drawn, her face free of the makeup.

"What are you doing here?" he asked making note of her half empty tea cup and the black leather book, which he had locked away, now open on the desk.

"The tea showed me you would be visited, therefore I came here and waited. I knew you were coming." She looked at her grandson, "I have an old sight, Mikal, and some of the works of my trade are becoming blurry to me, but my intuition tells me something will befall you."

"History should warn you. Particularly if you believe in the curse, which you have told me you do." His tone was disdainful even as his own fear bubbled below the surface. "Who would visit – I have let no one in the house."

She did not look away. "Marid."

Mikal was typically dismissive. "Folklore."

"The dreams have started, am I right?"

"You know this because-?"

"I had the same dream."

Mikal stared at the woman with incredulous eyes. All of them knew that she had dreams which were sometimes less than fantasy, but it had never been known what the content of said dreams were. She had never shared the details, merely provided warnings or insights. Yet she had always seen the events occur through her eyes, not those of another.

Like now...

"A marid is not one to be taken lightly, Mikal. If it sought seeks you, it wants something."

"But-" Mikal looked at his grandmother suspiciously. "What do you know of it?"

"It is not for me to tell you, dear." she replied sadly. "This is a matter that has already been set in motion; all I can do is advise you now. Perhaps the cards…."

A colorful deck of Tarot appeared as if by magic on the wooden space before the old woman. Mikal took a deliberate step in retreat.

Rasia fanned the deck. "Take one."

He looked on her silently as her bony fingers touched the top most card. Her eyes never left his as she taunted, "It's not like you don't know how."

"I remember your lessons," Mikal said. He remained calm even as he wondered why she was insisting. "That is my deck."

"Read the cards, Mikal. Use the skill you have."

A strong believer that his fate was his own, Mikal rebelled. "Why don't you choose for me? You seem to know which one I'd find."

"Don't speak to me with disrespect," she cautioned.

Patiently he explained it was the craft, and not her. "There are things in life I trust, and those I do not."

"Am I one of those things? Just because you don't like what it says, doesn't mean it is not true." She selected a card, pushing it towards him face down. "The future."

He walked forward so that his thighs touched the edge of the desk but did not reach for the card she presented. Instead he selected a second. He turned it over to display 'The Tower' of the classic tarot deck. "Disruption, Chaos."

Rasia flipped her original selection to reveal The High Priestess. "You brought her here."

"My father sent her away. Nothing has been right since."

"That depends on your point of view." Rasia sipped her tea.

He placed a hand over his eyes. A throbbing pain pulsed behind his temples. "Father believed she could help, that a Faas who started the curse would know how to end it. He asked her for help and she declined." That was what he had been told and it was what he believed. Left unsaid were his own plans.

"You love her. Are you prepared, truly prepared -"

He hated the words even as they formed in his mind. "I don't know."

"Payment, and payback." Rasia toyed with a third card, but it remained face down. Eventually her hand moved away. "If you are going to bed, go to your parent's room. The marid will not look for you there."

He walked away, unable to finish the sentence that hung in the air between them. 'because it already found what it was looking for from your father and mother.'

Her advice was sound, but Mikal was loathe to take it. Leaving the master suite unvisited, he retraced his steps to his own room.

It appeared that his night of surprises was not over. Navah was hovering by the open door. Her feet were bare and her hair loose was covering the thin straps of her nightdress.

"Are you lost?" Mikal asked.

"No," Navah said. She appeared nervous, chewing her lower lip in that way she had to manage her anxiety. Her hands twisted together.

Mikal paused on the threshold. "Why aren't you in bed?"

"I couldn't sleep."

"Grandmother is awake. She brewed tea." He stepped inside, prepared to shut the door. Navah pushed her way through.

"I don't want tea."

There was a smirk on his face, "What's the matter? Nervous about the trip to Athens?"

"No."

"I'll need you alert tomorrow to help manage the horses. You should -"

"I can't stop thinking. My mind won't quiet enough for sleep."

He sighed. "I wanted you here for my own reasons. But if this isn't working for you we can discuss it. In the morning." The final words were said with emphasis. He wasn't going to debate at 2 a.m. Mikal made a great show of yawning. Walking over to his bed he took off his robe and sat bare-chested on the edge.

Navah hovered at the door. "Being back here brings back memories. I'm more restless than I thought I would be."

There was a pause, but Mikal didn't look at her. Pulling back the covers he crawled underneath.

"And I'm worried about you," she surprised him by saying, walking to stand a bit closer.

He snorted. "Heaven's why?"

"You're pale and look like you haven't slept."

"If you went away…" he hinted, then shrugged his shoulders as though it mattered not what she did. "The business with Chal is…distressing."

Now she was sitting on the bed, an arm's reach away. "Have the police found anything new?"

"No. They searched again yesterday, but shared no new information." Tipping his head to the side he said, "You're worried I'm not sleeping and then you sit here chattering. How does your mind work?"

He turned to snuff the light but his hand stilled as she said, "You've been dreaming."

His eyes narrowed. Suspicion once set was difficult to shake. Fresh from the discussion of mysticism with his grandmother he asked, "How do you know so much?"

She straightened, started to lean away from him, perhaps rise. He grabbed her wrist. "You have these dreams too?"

"No," her hand moved to cover his as she rushed to explain, "At least, not now."

He would have ordered her to move from any room in Aurum that gave her such dreams, but it seemed by her hesitation that the bond was in the past. "With Seth," he guessed, needing to look at anything but her. One of his old sports trophies, a white ribbon, those now claimed his attention as he loosened his grip and looked away. She wasn't concerned for him, but haunted by old memories – maybe guilt. "Go back to bed, Navah."

"It bothers you."

"What- – that you shared dreams with my brother- – why should that even- –" Pride had his gaze returning to her to discover whatever secrets she thought she knew. The look of pain on her face surprised him. Humbled him.

"The past is the past," he said. He moved and the blanket shifted enough to remind him that they were both in his room and the hour was late.

Mikal cleared his throat to speak, but Navah beat him to it.

"I loved him."

"So you've told me."

She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. Her face lingered beside his. He could feel her breath touch his ear. "But he was not you."

Something flared in his chest. "That's true."

"He looked like you; smelled like you." Eyes closed she whispered, "And I so, so, wanted him to be you."

Her nose brushed his and then her face moved, kissed his other cheek. His hand lifted and fisted in her hair.

Her mouth was ready for his. It warmed beneath the pressure of his lips on hers. And so he took one kiss to savor and fill his mind with fantasies beyond the supernatural. Everything about her seemed to soften. He felt the change in her, in himself. His heart twisted enough so that he pulled away.

His fingers loosened. He brushed the bangs of her forehead to the side so that he could see her eyes. Her hair was soft beneath the pads of his fingers as he tucked a one of the long chestnut colored waves behind her ear.

Mikal's voice was gravely as he spoke. "Go back to bed."

"Is that what you want?"

One side of his mouth twisted. "You are not staying here, to lie where that…thing once was."

"What thing?" She stiffened, and looked to the side, seeing the crumpled sheet and the indentation that remained.

He watched the color drain from her face. "You should not stay here either."

"I will not be chased from my own room."

"Come to mine."

The pressure on her arm was likely painful, might even bruise, but Mikal could not stop the involuntary reaction to her words. She didn't flinch, finishing her thought with an, "I want to be with you."

"You want to protect me."

"The thought never crossed my mind."

It wasn't relief that pulsed though him as his touch loosened. Leaning forward, he kissed her again, pouring some of the pent emotion inside him into the contact. He wanted her to know how much he desired her. And yet he pulled back. "It's too soon."

She glanced down, and scooted a few inches away just out of reach.

"You have a gift, Navah," Mikal said. His body remained still, seated, partially covered. It was more than Seth that stood between them. "I know what my father asked of you."

"You do?" her voice was weak. She stood, moving farther away.

"Now that I've read the letters, I understand that my father believed a hundred year old legend about a witch and a necklace with magical powers. A marid can be persuaded by 'magician' to work with them in exchange for something. If he was left unpaid…"

"He would want his due."

"Firstborn. And perhaps all firstborns thereafter." Mikal forced a smile on his face. "I am not the first born."

"And Seth was. So now that he's gone you are free to do what you like?"

"Hardly." His eyes were hard as he lay back on the pillow, staring up at the ceiling. "But I will live. And I'll do it without you making some tragic sacrifice on my behalf."

She rolled her eyes, and crossed her arms over her chest. Her breasts swelled and pooled over the purple silk of her nightdress. "Like I'd even consider it."

"Good. Then we understand each other." Reaching out he turned out the light.

The dark filled the room. Light spilled in from the hall and the open door, but Navah did not move towards it. She remained where she was just inside the shadow.

The fact that she didn't leave gave him hope. It allowed him to swallow the lump in his throat. "I love you, Navah." Mikal said. "I'm not good at showing it. Take this as a weak gesture on my part. You're better than me."

"You want me to go?"

"No. But in the end, it may not be safe for you to stay. It was selfish of me to ask you to return. I see that now."

He could hear her soft footsteps as she moved to stand, and then kneel on the floor beside him. Her hand reached for his. It didn't fumble in the dark, it found him without hesitation. "I have known you my whole life. Even when we were apart this last year I thought of you. I cannot imagine my world without you."

She was unbelievably warm, her hand clasped with his. He sighed as he felt something brush his knuckles, thinking it was the feather light touch of her lips. Then he realized, as the cool liquid rolled from one knuckle to the other, that it was a tear.

He sat up, used his free hand to push away the covers and crawled from the bed. Kneeling on the floor beside her he touched her cheek, finding a second tear. "Don't cry."

She whispered, "Say it again."

He knew exactly what she meant. Pride still crippled him. He wasn't sure he could say it in the light, but here in the dark it was simple. "I love you."

Navah wrapped her arms around him, and held him close. "I love you, too."

A/N – special thanks to Nefertiry for the Arabic folklore/dream sequence, and to Graytext for a beta read of this chapter prior to posting. Most appreciated. - Luca's going to be "displeased". But, next some time in Navah's head. Off to Athens.