School was finally over, for which Dare could only be thankful.

 

Hellish classes, combined with scads of vermin and that horrible moment where he'd actually thought he'd have to talk to Tierney like she was a person instead of beneath his notice, had brought him nearly to his breaking point. If one more vermin had tried to flirt with him, he probably would have broken her neck.

 

Wouldn't that have thrilled the authorities.

 

At least for today, he didn't have to endure anymore of that, and he'd quickly taken Byron up on his offer for a ride home. His car was supposed to be delivered next week, and until then, he'd rather not have to ride that vermin contraption called a bus.

 

"Least you made it through the first day," Byron offered helpfully as they walked through the parking lot to his car. "Could've been worse."

 

"Right," Dare agreed, sarcasm hanging heavy in his words, "I could have been forced to wait on more vermin, been assigned more useless homework, and found an even worse soulmate."

 

Byron didn't miss a beat. "Soulmate? Thought that was a horror story my parents made up to scare me when I was little. D'you really have a soulmate?"

 

He looked like a little kid in a candy shop, who'd just been told he could have anything he wanted, as long as he didn't spend more than fifty dollars. In fact, Dare could easily say Byron seemed more excited about it than he did, and with good reason. Byron didn't know who his soulmate *was*.

 

Nice job, Dare, he commended himself, realizing it would have been a better idea to keep his mouth shut. Byron didn't need to know anything about it, other than what Dare felt like telling him.

 

"Yes, I really have a soulmate," he admitted grudgingly. He shifted his newly-purchased backpack more comfortably on his shoulder and kicked a large piece of gravel out of his way. "Unfortunately."

 

Looking perplexed -- though Dare had quickly learned this was nothing new -- Byron stopped at a sporty red car, the sunroof left open and the doors left unlocked. "So who is she? It's a girl, isn't it?"

 

"Yes, she's female," Dare snapped.

 

Byron opened the door, indicating that Dare should get in the passenger side, and slipped his keys into the ignition. Dare had a very bad feeling about this, especially after the way Byron maneuvered through crowded hallways. The car looked to be in surprisingly good shape, so maybe he was leery for nothing.

 

He clung to that thought as Byron started the car and squealed out of the parking space. "Well? What's her name?"

 

Dare decided now might be a wise time to put on his seatbelt. "You don't want to know. Trust me," he answered, pushing the seatbelt firmly until it clasped.

 

"Don't know you well enough to trust you just yet," Byron countered. He flipped on the left turn signal, scowling as a long line of cars drove by the parking lot entrance. "Nothing personal."

 

"If you don't trust me, why should I tell you who my soulmate is?"

 

"Cause I'm curious?" Byron offered. During a break in the line of cars, he whipped the steering wheel around and slammed his foot on the gas, just barely missing an SUV. The driver, apparently an angry mother of three, who were all crowded around the front seat, leaned on the horn.

 

He shook his head. "If you must know, it's Tierney Anderson. You know, that --"

 

"I know who she is!" Byron interrupted, surprising Dare with what actually could be considered a full sentence containing correct grammar. "Nasty little Daybreak half-breed is what she is! Couldn't be a worse match for anyone!"

 

"Half-breed?" Dare managed to choke out. "Please tell me she's not half human."

 

Byron raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything. Instead, he reached over to flip the radio on. Dare stared at him, waiting for confirmation. Silence slipped by like a prison sentence, and just as hollow. Byron tapped his fingers against the steering wheel, then adjusted the rearview mirror. Dare continued to stare.

 

"Well?" he finally demanded.

 

"Well, what?"

 

Dare gritted his teeth, reminding himself that he should wait until Byron wasn't driving to hurt him for his absent-mindedness. "Is she half human or not?"

 

"Oh, sorry." Byron looked mildly surprised. "Thought you didn't want me to know."

 

On second thought, Dare could probably survive any accident that would be fatal to a human. He briefly reconsidered his decision to be nice, then discarded any imminently evil ideas. "If I didn't want to know, I wouldn't have asked," he pointed out, wrenching his razor sharp temper under control. "Is she human?"

 

For a moment, Byron looked utterly at a loss, then he nodded his head. Turning the car down a long boulevard lined with palm trees -- Dare could only thank his parents for sending him somewhere semi-tropical, even if the rest of it was terrible -- he finally said, "Father's human, I think. Mother's a Weald, maybe? Doesn't think I know she's a half-breed, Tierney doesn't, but Jihn let it slip."

 

"Who is Jihn?" Dare asked, momentarily distracted from the original conversation.

 

"A cousin," Byron shrugged. "Showed up one day with a suitcase. Been here ever since."

 

What a shock. The Redferns seemed to multiply faster than head lice and were just as annoying to get rid of. That would easily explain this cousin, unless...

 

"Is she a Redfern?"

 

"Might be," Byron said, surprised. "Never thought to ask."

 

Of course not.  That would indicate some logical thought pattern, which Byron was clearly lacking. Dare might make it one of his lifelong goals to get a coherent sentence out of him more than three times in a row, or get him to perform an action that wasn't absent-minded and unintended. It might take a lifetime, too. "Maybe you should," Dare suggested wryly. Then he looked out the window, his gold eyes hardening. "Half-breed or not, Tierney Anderson won't be bothering me."

 

Byron perked up at the menace in Dare's voice. "She won't? D'you make sure of that?" His words were eager and the inquisitive amber of his eyes was bright. And he was watching Dare instead of the road, which would explain why one of the palm trees was coming toward them at an alarming pace.

 

"Keep your eyes on the road," Dare snapped, reaching over to grip the wheel and steer the car back onto the street instead of the sidewalk. "Are you trying to end up like finger food?"

 

Frowning, Byron replied, "Feel bad for finger food, myself. All those toothpicks stuck through it." He shuddered. "Has to hurt, don't y'think?"

 

"I've never really thought about it." After all, who worried about sensation in finger food? It was *dead* and it was edible. Didn't Byron think being chewed into miniscule pieces or being digested would be painful as well?

 

"Suppose not," Byron agreed. "How d'you know Tierney won't bother you?"

 

"We have an arrangement," Dare murmured, sitting back against the leather seat. He rolled down the window slightly to let fresh air blow through the car. "I doubt she'll break her half."

 

Byron was silent a moment, fiddling with the stereo, then the volume, until a heavy, pulsing beat filled the car. "Don't trust her at all, myself. Must be some other way to deal with her, right?"

 

"What did you have in mind?"

 

"Well," he said earnestly, though he thankfully kept his eyes on the road, "it'd make sense to kill her, wouldn't it? Wouldn't have to worry about her at all then."

 

"Do you think your suggestion could possibly be *more* predictable?" Disgust filled Dare's voice, dripping from every syllable like acid and sizzling in the air. "Do you think I can't handle one pathetic witch on my own?"

 

Hastily, Byron responded, "Not at all! But it'd be easier, wouldn't it?"

 

"It would make me look weak," Dare said flatly. "I have no motivation for killing her, because she has done nothing to merit it. If I killed her, it would look like I can't deal with her on my own. Weak." He spat the word out bitterly, the thought of his half-breed soulmate bringing up only distaste.

 

Byron seemed to consider his words. "Never thought of it like that," he admitted finally.

 

Muscles uncoiling as tension from the exchange dissipated, Dare sulked, "Besides, if I did try to kill her, I'd inevitably  screw up, or worse, fall in love with her."

 

"Wouldn't that be cliché," Byron muttered disgustedly. "Though I don't know how you could fall in love with something that ugly, 'less you invested in blindfolds."

 

"Blindfolds or no, I'm not going to waste the effort, and we're not going ride off into the sunset because I -- screwed up. I certainly will *not* join Daybreak to be with her, nor will we walk off into the night holding hands." He shrugged. "I think I'm better off ignoring her, personally."

 

"Have to agree with you there," Byron admitted grudgingly. "Sorry I brought it up."

 

Dare brushed that off. "Contrary to popular belief, not all vampires and shapeshifters are stupid or predictable, nor do we think that being soulmates is a valid reason to *do* something stupid and predictable. If Tierney actually does something to piss me off, I might think about it."

 

And hopefully, he thought, she'd stick to their agreement and problems would never be an issue.

 

 

***

 

 

"I'm a witch."

 

Wind blew lightly across the sand, pushing the waves into glorious caps of white. The setting sun wreaked havoc across those peaks, mauves blending into pale peaches and glistening golds. Crashing gently over the beach, the ocean's liquid fingers rolled over Tierney's bare feet.

 

Studying had been uneventful, characterized only by twelve cups of coffee and what should translate to an entire loaf of biscotti. Raquel had suddenly developed a liking for it once she realized it came in hazelnut. Either that or it had just been a way to procrastinate, which Raquel had refined into a delicate art. Finally, after several hours of said procrastination mixed with a little bit of work, she seemed to grasp the concept of sin and cosine, though tan and asymptotes were still beyond her. They'd left that for another day, when Tierney had a little more patience.

 

Raquel hadn't asked any questions during the short ride to the beach, content to complain about trigonometry or Mrs. Harington, her favorite subject when she had nothing else to say.

 

And now they were here, standing on the shoreline as the day came to a breathtaking close.

 

Raquel's expression was priceless. Torn between disbelief and suspicion, she looked as if Tierney had just told her she *had* eaten a newborn for lunch, and it wasn't just a malicious rumor.

 

"Did you just say you were a 'bitch?'" she questioned, doubt flooding into those words. "I think I heard you wrong."

 

So far, so good. She wasn't running away screaming or threatening to report Tierney to the guidance counselor. Of course, denial wasn't the best response, either, but at least it could be worked with. "No," Tierney answered calmly. "I said, 'witch.'"

 

"In the sense of the Good Witch of the North or the Wicked Witch of the West? Or are we talking cauldrons and eye of newt? Or did you just wake up one day and say, 'Today I think I'll learn to turn tadpoles into princes?'"

 

Okay, maybe she wasn't taking it *that* well.

 

"As in I was born that way and no, no eye of newt. Well, unless you're doing something really disgusting." She looked down, kicking at the damp sand and watching as the rushing water smoothed it flat again, the tiny crystals shimmering in the fading light.

 

Wait a minute.

 

Suddenly inspired, she knelt, her fingers sifting through the tiny chips of quartz. Curling her fingers around a large chunk, she bounded back to her feet. "See this?" she demanded, thrusting it toward Raquel.

 

"I see that you're crazy," Raquel nodded. "Any other questions?"

 

This was positively frustrating. Tierney dropped her hand, the sand plopping wetly near her feet. "I thought you would be more open-minded about this."

 

Sighing, Raquel rolled her eyes and glared at the gritty surface. "I see sand, Tier. Same thing I see every time I come to the beach. Unless it suddenly became edible -- and chocolate flavored -- I really don't see the big deal." Then her nose wrinkled and she met Tierney's eyes. "Oh, wait, let me guess. You use it in curing warts?"

 

"There are over-the-counter remedies for that," Tierney said flatly, disappointment etched across her face, her shoulders slumped.  She rubbed her hands together slowly, concentrating carefully, and brushed the remaining sand from her fingers. "Forget I said anything."

 

Raquel looked at the sand again. "Tierney, I've known you for seven years. What's with the sudden belief in witchcraft? Is it a cry for help, like those kids that start joining vampire cults and performing satanic rituals?"

 

"It's not a sudden belief!" Tierney exclaimed, exasperation drowning the dejection from her words. "I told you, I've been a witch since I was born!" She whirled away, striding angrily for only two paces, then stopping and marching back. "If you would stop being so antagonistic for two seconds, I could show you!"

 

"Okay."

 

Mouth hanging open, prepared to do more yelling and convincing, Tierney flailed, her jaw working like an overtaxed spring mechanism. "Excuse me?"

 

"I said, 'okay.'" Raquel walked a few feet away from her, then dropped into an attentive position in dry sand. "They say that seeing is believing, right?"

 

This was not how Tierney had envisioned this at *all*. Now what did she do? Pull a rabbit out of a hat? She hadn't thought about anything beyond telling Raquel what she was a witch. Hadn't thought about Raquel's sometimes far too rational mind or about preparing herself to actually *show* her friend. Apparently, she'd been far too optimistic.

 

Dusk crept over the horizon. Only a few last dying strands of light found their way through the gloom. Ducking her head so that her long, curling mass of hair fell like a curtain over her face, she cupped her hands. She drew inside herself, feeling power curl through her like a surge of snapping electricity. It came out in a rush of heat.

 

Raquel gasped.

 

Orange witch-fire crackled between Tierney's cupped palms, jumping and dancing, a million fireflies trapped in a heartbeat of quivering space. It cast light where there was shadow, grains of sand glistening beneath its touch, and kissed the air around it with a soft glow. The air's salty taste grew sharper around this pseudo-fire, a hint of sulfur and rainbows scenting the cool night.

 

"How--"

 

"I told you," Tierney interrupted her smoothly, cupping the cavorting witch-fire carefully, as if fearful it might escape.  "I'm a witch." She looked up then, the soft orange glow flickering over her features. A moment of unspoken understanding passed between them. Then Tierney shrugged and Raquel looked away.

 

"Are you sure you're not crazy?" she asked, although her voice was softer now, flat denial replaced with grudging belief.

 

"Absolutely positive," Tierney said apologetically. She flung the witch-fire into the water. They both watched as the water sizzled dangerously, a cloud of steaming smoke billowing from its surface, and hissed its displeasure. A moment later the fire dimmed, fading to empty black.

 

Then more silence, while Tierney watched Raquel struggle with this realization in the shadow tinged night. She didn't say anything, afraid to shatter the newly formed faith struggling to breathe in Raquel's mind.

 

Raquel looked at her, her expression contemplative. Tierney suddenly wanted to take her demonstration back, even if it meant more hiding from what she was, even if it meant keeping a vital part of herself far from her best friend. You knew what might happen, her mind mocked.

 

She heard sand sliding around her friend as she stood and the somehow distant roar of the ocean. "You can't tell Adrien," Raquel said finally and firmly, "because it might send him into cardiac arrest. But... I want to learn."

 

Relief washed over her like a refreshing spring shower. "You're okay with it?" she demanded.

 

"I don't know yet," Raquel admitted. She brushed the sand off her clothes distractedly. "I'm curious, though. How do you know I'm a witch? And can we go? It's kind of chilly."

 

Tierney nodded, then realized Raquel couldn't see her in the dark. "To answer your second question, yes, let's go. As for the first... I'll explain in the car."

 

Raquel groaned. "Tier, you're about as good at multi-tasking as I am at French. Can it wait until *after* you don't have to pay attention to the road?"

 

"We'll see," Tierney said, walking slowly in the direction of the car. The sand sifted sinuously beneath her feet, its rough texture a friction she loved to have beneath her feet.

 

Raquel followed. "It's too dark," she grumbled, then subsided. A few seconds later, curiosity flooding through her voice, she said, "I have just one question. If you're a witch, why haven't you turned the Collective into something disgusting yet?"

 

"Can you think of anything more disgusting than the Collective?" Tierney countered, amused. "Really, I don't have to do anything to them. They do it to themselves."

 

The dismayed sound coming from Raquel's mouth was an obvious sign of disagreement. "I still think Lindsay could do a wonderful impersonation of Jabba the Hutt, if she had a little help."

 

"Guest starring Teresa as Chewbaca and Meera as Yoda? I'd hate to insult the movie." She smiled softly in the darkness. "Besides, they're not worth the effort."

 

"I think it would be just."

 

This time Tierney laughed out loud at the venom in Raquel's voice. "You also think that Elvis really isn't dead and that Shakespeare was Asian. Forgive me if I don't agree with you."

 

The hulking bulk of the car appeared before them, its sleek contours gleaming in the moonlight, the curve of the hood illuminated like a glowing blue-white star.

 

"Elvis might not be dead. You never know.  So, please," Raquel insisted, "tell me why you think I'm a witch. I'm dying of curiosity."

 

Tierney unlocked the car door and pressed the worn automatic unlock key. "Your last name," she explained, realizing it wasn't much of an explanation.

 

Raquel opened her door, kicking the sand off her shoes as she climbed inside. "Do you think you could clarify that or should I just assume that Morgan Le Fay was an ancestor?"

 

Tierney looked surprised for a moment, glancing at her briefly, then climbed into her own side of the car. She shook her head and slipped a key into the ignition. "You know, for someone who refuses to read, you know an awful lot about Arthurian literature."

 

"Adrien," Raquel shrugged, as if that was answer enough. And for Tierney, it was. "He took a class."

 

"Right. Anyway, your last name is Harman and that's the name of the most powerful witch family. I kind of assumed you were descended from them."

 

"It could be a fluke."

 

Tierney rolled her eyes. "Everything is a fluke. Evolution, winning the lottery, whatever." She buckled her seat belt, looking down almost apologetically. "Besides, I researched your family history."

 

"And?" Doubt still played in Raquel's voice.

 

"Put your seat belt on," Tierney commanded, before answering her question. "You're definitely a witch."

 

"How do you know?"

 

Instead of buckling her seat belt, Raquel opened the glove box, the weak light streaming over her features and highlighting the multitude of papers tumbling from the compartment. Grabbing Tierney's CD case, she quickly slammed it shut. With only minor cursing and a tiny bit of fumbling, she managed to flip the map light on. It washed faintly over the deep blue interior of the car.

 

Tierney pulled the CDs out of her hands and ignored the sharp sound of protest. "I'll show you, but we're not going anywhere until you put on your seat belt."

 

"What are you, my mother?" Despite her disgruntled complaint, she put her seat belt on. Tierney gave back the black vinyl CD case, which Raquel flipped open. "I hate wearing my seat belt."

 

"You'll live," Tierney answered dryly, hoping Raquel noted the double meaning in that statement. She turned the key, flipping on her lights, and released the emergency brake. They pulled out of the parking lot, Tierney silently debating whether or not to take the next step and tell her about the Nightworld.

 

With Raquel, it was probably better to deal with one shock at a time.

 

 

***

 

Perhaps an hour later, Tierney found herself standing on her porch, digging for her house key in her disorganized purse. It had apparently decided that segregating itself from her car keys was a good idea, and now she only hoped it wasn't lost.

 

She and Raquel had separated when they'd returned to Raquel's house and found the entire baseball team cooking what they hoped were hamburgers on the outside grill. Privacy had been impossible, even when they'd retreated to Raquel's room and shut the door. They'd come to this startling realization when Bentley Kerslen had climbed through the window, followed by four other teammates who were threatening dire retribution for something neither Raquel nor Tierney wanted to know about.

 

Tierney had taken that as her cue to depart, though loathe to return to her empty home. As usual, her parents were off on some business trip, this time in Japan. She'd promised to bring Raquel the papers she'd found on her family sometime tomorrow, probably after school.

 

With a sigh of relief, her fingers closed around her house key. The emptiness in and around her house made her nervous.

 

"Rather late, aren't you?"

 

The girl materialized out of the darkness like the clichéd bad guy in a B-rated movie, the burning cherry of her cigarette the only thing visible. The faint English accent identified her before Tierney ever saw her, but didn't make her question any less startling.

 

"Do you have to do that?" she gasped, her pulse racing like a stampede of wild horses across an unsullied plain. "Goddess, Jihn, one of these days you're going to get staked."

 

Jihn took a long drag from her cigarette before answering. "That would require someone faster, stronger, and better than I. When you find him, let me know and I'll get rid of him myself."

 

Tierney's answering look held exasperation and no shock. "Why doesn't that surprise me?"

 

Jihn shrugged carelessly. "I need your help."

 

"Are you kidding me?" Disbelief swelled like a fragile balloon, ready to pop and shower them both in a hot rush of angered air. Jihn admitting that she needed help? Hell must have frozen over and turned pleasant, taken over by puppies and kittens in the interim.

 

Jihn looked wryly amused, but mirth made her face no less distant, her green eyes hooded even in the dim glare of the porch light. Tierney was a little over average height, but Jihn towered over even her. She would be a good match for someone like Adrien, if Tierney could ever convince her to get involved with a lost witch... But that would be like convincing a hurricane to transform itself into a light spring shower.

 

The dry smile faded slightly then and Jihn's expression closed even further. "No joke. It's a waste of time." She cast a furtive glance around the darkened street. "Can we go inside?"

 

Tierney nodded silently, quickly and unceremoniously unlocking the freshly-painted white door. Her mother was a stickler for keeping things perfect. "You have to put that thing out first. Mom doesn't tolerate smoking in her house."

 

"Fine." Her expression didn't flicker as she pitched it into the street.

 

Tempted to mutter about littering, because she knew Jihn would hear, she pushed open the door. The house, as usual, was silent. Her parents would be back on Sunday and this was only Wednesday. She flipped the switch in the foyer, relief streaming through her as light flooded into the room.

 

Jihn stepped inside, watching as Tierney kicked off her sandals. She shut the door firmly behind her. The white tile shone immaculately under the crystal chandelier, rising high above them. The soft sienna walls stood smudge-free; the wide, clean windows were covered by gauzy white curtains. Behind Tierney, a wide and stately staircase stretched to a second floor, and then curved to a third.

 

"It's..." Tierney's voice trailed off, suddenly self-conscious at the way Jihn was idly inspecting her house.

 

"Lovely," Jihn responded and tilted her chin thoughtfully. "It reminds me of my brother's."

 

Curiosity flared in Tierney's eyes, only to die when Jihn shook her head slightly, indicating that she wasn't going to give any further information. Well, Tierney thought, as least now I know she has a brother. "Thank you." She eyed Jihn's practical yet chic black boots with a sigh. "Take them off and we'll go into the living room. It's sound proof."

 

Jihn stared at her for a moment, perhaps wondering how Tierney knew that potential eavesdropping could be fatal. She bent, unzipping her boots quickly, and stepped out of them. "The living room, then."

 

"Do you want anything to drink?" Tierney made the offer out of habit, knowing that Jihn wasn't likely to be drinking anything but blood, still wondering what she wanted and what she was doing here. Tierney had worked with her in the past, but never -- *never* -- had she ever asked for help.

 

Shaking her head, Jihn followed Tierney into the living room, her movements stalking and stealthy. Tierney had to remind herself that Jihn was on her side in order to feel safe again.

 

When they got to the living room, which was cluttered with every entertainment device known to man, Tierney took a seat on one of the sleek black leather couches. She indicated that Jihn should sit on the other. "What do you need my help with?"

 

"You've never heard of the Guardiens."

 

"The what?" Jihn's comment had been a statement, not a question, and Tierney was thrown by it. What did this have to do with needing her help?

 

Something intense flickered over Jihn's face, but it was gone too quickly for Tierney to define it. "The Guardiens. A group of people who guard over Nightworlders -- or humans if they're special, although it's rare that it ever comes to that -- and protect them from impending harm."

 

"No, I've never heard of them or even anything like them. Why?" Tierney's curiosity had gotten the better of her.

 

"I'm a Guardien," Jihn answered coolly. "Raquel is my charge."

 

"Raquel?" Tierney gasped, "but why?" Uncomprehending, she watched as Jihn crossed her legs, her hand slipping into her pocket for a cigarette. Then, remembering that she couldn't smoke here, she slipped it back into the pack. "Raquel hates you."

 

Jihn shrugged. "So does everyone else. I don't exactly try to curry their favor." She glanced around the room, immaculate white contrasted against stark black, then looked at Tierney. "I can't tell you why, but that's what I need your help with."

 

"What?"

 

"I need to get close to Raquel so I can protect her."

 

Tierney laughed. "You have a better chance at getting close to a barracuda." She sobered, watching as Jihn drew herself up coldly. "Why would anyone want to hurt Raquel?"

 

"I can't tell you," Jihn responded again, her voice as friendly as a pack of rabid wolves. "You have to trust me. The question is: do you want your friend alive or do you want her buried six feet beneath cold dirt?"

 

"Alive," Tierney answered, ignoring the sarcasm in Jihn's voice. "How am I supposed to get her close to you?" She hesitated a moment, then bluntly added, "She thinks you're a bitch."

 

And I'm not so sure she's wrong, she added silently.

 

Standing from her rigid position on the couch, Jihn said, "That's your issue to deal with, not mine. Figure out a way, and I'll make sure you get something in return."

 

Tierney stood, too, trailing behind Jihn to the doorway. Apparently she was going to find her own way out. "I would think Raquel's life would be enough for me."

 

Jihn turned to face her and smiled, her thick black lashes still hiding any thoughts. "If you could have one thing you wanted -- *anything* -- what would it be?"

 

Her thoughts unwittingly flew to Dare. What is *wrong* with me? she wondered. You *know* better than that. How many times do you have to tell yourself he's an asshole and not worth it before you get it through your head? Even if you were pretty, he wouldn't want you.

 

"Nothing."

 

Laughter escaped, husky and low in the stillness, the sound cutting without humor. Jihn's eyes were bright but cold, the leafy color of sun-drenched grass in winter. "Too late," she murmured. "Which spell and why?"

 

"Really," Tierney insisted, "I don't want anything."

 

Her voice emotionless -- Tierney sometimes wondered if Jihn *had* any emotion -- she said, "It's your choice. Either I bring you something completely worthless or you choose what you want. I saw enough to take a rough guess."

 

"Do I still have to explain why?" Tierney asked guardedly.

 

Jihn shook her head. "I think I already know."

 

Trying to decide what exactly she wanted to accomplish, her thoughts flew to a very ancient and very forbidden spell, from the time when dragons freely  roamed the earth. "You can get anything?" she asked suddenly.

 

"Anything."

 

A moment's brief thought, then she finally committed herself, "I need a reflection spell."

 

Jihn's eyes flared, the only time Tierney had ever seen her remotely close to shocked. "Write it down for me. I have the feeling you want something specific. It wouldn't be fair if I screwed it up." While Tierney walked over to a set of cabinets, opening a drawer and extracting a tablet and pen, she continued, "Those are highly illegal. If you get caught, I don't know anything about it."

 

"Fine." Tierney finished scrawling down the name of the specific spell she wanted, tossing the pen back into the drawer and slamming it closed. She handed it to Jihn silently.

 

Jihn looked down at it, those hooded eyes as empty as ever, her face set in its usual silent lines. "I hope you know what you're doing."

 

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