Chapter 27

Narrowly Averted

As Oliver and Jeanne drove past the battered gates surrounding the mine, a short woman slipped from the shadowy interior of one of the trailers and watched them disappear down the decrepit road leading back to White Castle.

She breathed a sigh of relief. That had not gone as planned.

Around her, light shimmered, then distorted, then twisted as the very fabric of reality appeared to unravel.

Then she was gone and the universe knit itself together again.

Somewhere else entirely the woman appeared in a dimly lit room. She bowed to the old man standing at the window frame, watching the rain fall on a chill evening.

“I am concerned that you would allow your charge to come so close to death,” her master said in a deep, smooth voice.

“I did not anticipate the danger, master.”

“They were planning to dive in a mine. Such is inherently dangerous.”

“Both had experience, master. I did not realize that anyone had tampered with…”

“…Silence.”

For a long while the woman knelt, listening to the rain fall on the slate roof of the old manor house as her master gazed out the window at the fields.

Finally he spoke again, “Go back to Lucas. Watch him more diligently.”

“Am I to protect him from all harm?”

“Protect him from death, but do not reveal yourself to him or in any way discourage his urges to seek out relics.”

“I shall obey.” The woman close her eyes, preparing to return to New Orleans.

“Wait.”

She looked up at her master, waiting obediently to hear his command.

“Do you know what he seeks yet?”

“Only that it is a precious gem, master, but there are so many in this world that I do not yet know which.”

The master nodded his gray head and waved a hand to his subject without looking back to her. “You may go now. Do not fail me.”