CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Shallon and Kiethran looked around the room. Much of the furniture lay in ruins. The grandfather clock in the hallway leading to the kitchen lay in a shattered mass on the floor. Most of the walls showed scorched marks from the fireballs. Just then they heard an explosion up the stairs.

"They're in the attic," said Shallon, beginning to move up the stairs. Kiethran didn't follow, but instead moved to the clock in the hallway. "Kiethran, don't worry about that right now. We have to protect the others."

Without waiting for him, Shallon bounded up the stairs. As she reached the top of the stairs she saw Lintron standing at the foot of the stairs to the attic. She couldn't see into the attic but heard Pothic command the Nephilm to kill Steve, Tammy, and Panthax.

Shallon took the dagger she was carrying out of her waist and cast it at Lintron. The distance was farther than she had estimated and the dagger embedded itself in the doorframe just inches from Lintrons' head. He looked around and saw her.

He glanced up into the attic, then turned and began to descend the stairs to the kitchen. Shallon took after him but by the time she reached the foot of the stairs Lintron was nowhere to be seen. She looked out the open kitchen door and saw him running down the alley away from the manor. She turned and made her way back up the stairs.

The three Nephilm advanced on their victims as Pothic faced off against the two druids. Suddenly Panthax launched herself at one of the Nephilm, clamping her powerful jaws around its throat as they went tumbling across the attic. With the only defense of the two humans out of the way, the remaining Nephilm moved in for what they thought would be an easy kill.

Steve reached into his coat and pulled out his Beretta. He aimed at the closest Nephilm and squeezed off three rounds. The bullets struck the Nephilm squarely in the chest knocking it to the floor. But instead of getting back up, it lay on the floor dead.

The remaining Nephilm could not understand how a simple pistol could have taken out its' companion. As it turned to retreat from the policeman, Panthax again attacked out of the shadows. Again her powerful jaws clamped around the Nephilm' throat as they tumbled away from the two humans.

Pothic was defending against the attacks by Sharon and Tobin with ease. Unlike most Nephilm, Pothic's' mother was the source of his Nephilm heritage. This made him particularly more powerful than even Nephilm. He defended against Sharon's fireballs and Tobin's balls of air while casting his own.

Suddenly Tobin and Sharon both cast their attacks together. Unable to defend against both, Pothic defended against the more powerful of the two; the fireball. It deflected harmlessly away, exploding on the wall beyond. The ball of air struck him in the chest sending him stumbling back several feet.

He stopped just in front of the door to the attic as Shallon reached the top of the stairs. As she turned to defend against him, Kiethran rushed past her from down the hallway. Pothic caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and turned to meet Kiethran. Shallon retreated down the stairs a couple of steps to move out of Kiethran's way.

Too late Pothic saw the sword Kiethran was carrying. Without stopping even for a moment, Kiethran rushed into the attic, driving the sword through Pothic's midsection.

The Nephilm reached down to stop the blade of the weapon but it was already too late. Instantly the power of the sword came to life. Pothic howled in pain then suddenly exploded into a thousand pieces, each piece vaporizing almost instantly.

Tammy was huddled in the corner and Kiethran looked at Sharon and Tobin to his left. Steve had moved over and was nudging the body of the demon he had shot with the toe of his shoe, making sure it was dead. Panthax rose from the body of the demon she had just slain and turned to face Kiethran.

Kiethran moved over to Tammy and began to comfort her. He told her it was over and that everything was okay. No one was going to hurt her ever again.

"I'm afraid that's not completely accurate," said a voice from the attic doorway.

They all looked over and saw Metrick standing in the doorway. Sharon and Tobin were exhausted. Their fight against the demons and Pothic had taken more out of them then they realized. Steve started to raise his pistol but Metrick simply blinked behind him and knocked the policeman unconscious. He picked up the Beretta.

"Well," said Metrick, "it looks like the party is finally over. You may have allowed the change over to take place, but once I deliver the sword to the board, it won't make any difference." He raised the pistol toward Kiethran.

Suddenly Shallon stepped into the doorway of the attic. She reached out with her telekinetic ability and threw Metrick against the back wall of the attic. Before he could recover, she grabbed him again and cast him against another wall. The pistol flew from his hand and he slumped to the floor, temporarily dazed.

Kiethran moved from Tammy over to the sorcerer. He grabbed Metrick and turned him over so that he was facing up. Then Kiethran stood over him, both hands firmly on the sword with the point facing Metricks' chest.

"This might not work against you the way it did against Pothic," said Kiethran, "but I'm willing to bet it will kill you just as easily."

He stood over Metrick who was just looked up at Kiethran. As long as Kiethran held the sword, Metrick knew that none of his powers would work against him. The sword would protect him from any harm.

"Kiethran, no," shouted Shallon from the doorway.

Tobin moved over to her and stopped her from running into the room.

"No, Shallon," said Tobin. "This has to be Kiethran's decision."

Shallon just stared at Kiethran.

"You murdered Mykaa," said Kiethran. "For that, you deserve to die."

Everyone watched as Kiethran stood over Metrick. Kiethran raised the sword as high as he could intent on driving it through this sorcerer. He stared into Metricks' face for several long moments. Then, suddenly, Kiethran stepped away from Metrick.

"No," he said, brandishing the sword threateningly at Metrick. "I won't become what you are. If I killed you like this, it would be an execution. I'd be a murderer, just like you."

Cautiously, Metrick stood up from the floor. He eyed Kiethran cautiously wondering if this was some sort of trick.

"Get out of here," said Kiethran, "before I change my mind. But know this. If you ever come back here, I'll finish this."

Metrick smiled at Kiethran, and then moved to the attic door. Without saying a word, he turned and descended the stairs to the second floor.

"Panthax," said Kiethran, "make sure he leaves."

Panthax trotted down the stairs after Metrick and followed him as he exited the front door. She watched as he left the manor, then shimmered and was gone.

"What I don't understand," said Shallon, as the group sat at the kitchen table, "is how you were able to get the sword without going into the attic."

"It wasn't in the attic," said Kiethran. "You said that they would be coming for the sword again. So I moved it from the pedestal upstairs. I put it in the clock in the hallway. I figured that way at least it would delay them in finding it."

"That's why you went to the clock as soon as we got back," said Shallon.

"Yes," said Kiethran. "It's a good thing I did. Pothic seemed to have the upper hand."

"That he did," said Tobin. "Sharon and I were exhausted after fighting those demons. It was only a matter of minutes before he finished us. What I would like to know is how Steve was able to kill a demon with a pistol. It should have had little affect on them."

"Normally, yes," said Steve. "But you said I would need stronger fire power than this. A few months ago we busted a gun running ring. Some of the ammunition we confiscated was Teflon coated bullets."

"Cop killers," said Kiethran. "They say those things can rip through a kevlar vest like it's not even there."

"They're right," said Steve. "I have a couple of friends in the evidence room. I was able to convince them to let me, shall we say, borrow some of rounds."

"Well," said Sharon, "looks like we survived this one."

"Most of us, anyway," said Kiethran, looking down at the table.

Tobin looked at the others, and then took something out of his pocket. He laid it on the table in front of Kiethran. Kiethran stared down at Mykaa's ring.

"He gave it to me just before we went to rescue Tammy," said Tobin. "He knew he wasn't coming back. He said if you passed your test, I was to pass it on to you."

"His test?" questioned Shallon.

"Yes," said Tobin. "My visit wasn't a social call, as you all thought. I knew Kiethran was going to be tested. As Shallon and Sharon both know, I couldn't say anything about it until it was over."

"What was the test?" asked Kiethran.

"You let Metrick go," said Tobin. "As much as you ranted about wanting revenge, when it came right down to it, you respected life too much to take it. Even his. Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary to take life. But you decided not to take Metricks'."

"If I had," said Kiethran, "I would have been no better than he was. I didn't want that."

"Tobin," said Shallon, "I didn't think a druids' ring could be removed short of their death."

"That's only partially true," said Tobin. "It cannot be forcibly removed. The druid can remove it whenever he wishes."

"What do I do with it?" asked Kiethran.

"It's yours," said Tobin. "It will help identify you to other druids. I suggest you wear it. You've earned it."

Suddenly Kiethran looked up at the ceiling.

"I need to go to the attic," he said suddenly.

"Why?" Sharon asked.

"I don't know," said Kiethran. Without another word, he got up and took the back stairs to the attic. The others followed close behind.

Once in the attic, Koryna appeared to them. Steve and Tammy just stood in the background, not knowing what to think of this apparition. Koryna hovered in the air in front of Kiethran.

"I was forbidden from interfering," she explained. "Kiethran, you are now a full fledged druid. Panthax will be remaining with you. The sword must still be protected for the coming of the final battle."

"What about the Barddas?" Kiethran asked. "Will you be taking it now?"

"Look for yourself," said Koryna.

Kiethran walked over and looked at the cover of the book. It looked virtually identical to the first time he had seen it. Except across the top of the cover was the word BARDDAS in bold letters.

"I don't understand," said Kiethran. "This wasn't here before."

"What wasn't?" asked Tobin, looking at the cover.

"This word," said Kiethran. "Barddas."

"It has always been there," said Koryna. "Only the true owner of the book can understand its contents. That is why Mykaa always consulted the book. It has now passed to you, Kiethran. Safeguard it well. It will serve you in times of need."

"I will," said Kiethran. "I'll make Mykaa proud of me."

"He already is," said Koryna. "I'll check in with you from time to time. Take care, druid. There is much work yet for you to do."

As the group moved back to the kitchen, Kiethran took Tammy's hand in his. They sat at the table and Kiethran looked down at her.

"Tammy," he said, "how would you like to live here with me and Shallon?"

"Really?" asked Tammy.

"Yes," said Kiethran. "Now that your mother is gone, you'll need someone to look after you until you can look after yourself. That will be a long time from now. And one day, you may become a druid just like us. We can help you learn how to be a druid."

"Can Panthax stay with us, too?" asked Tammy.

"Yes," said Kiethran, laughing, "Panthax will be staying with us."

"Okay," said Tammy. "Do I have to go to school?"

"Everyone has to go to school, young lady," said Shallon. "But don't worry. We'll find a school where they won't make fun of you because of your gift."

"Okay," said Tammy. "But I won't eat Brussels sprouts. They're yucky."

"You know what?" asked Kiethran, leaning over and whispering in her ear. "I agree with you. They're yucky."

They all just laughed at the face Tammy made when she said "yucky".