Cascading Auric Collapse

“How bad?”

The two words seemed to hang in the air. Tiana’s brows furrowed at Bertram. He was frowning and nodding. Finally, he assured the caller he was on his way and hung up. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Keenan,” Bertram said. His voice was thin, as if he were in shock. “He… nearly died. His aura just… started disintegrating. Phillip got him stabilized. Chris and Lyn are on their way to take our place here at the camp.”

Tiana nodded. Everyone knew how close Keenan was with Bertram. “Trenton staying?” she asked.

Bertram shrugged. “That’s his choice.”

Concern

Bertram frowned at Alan. Something about him didn’t set right. True, the Agency had sent Team Theta to investigate the murder almost immediately. However, it stuck him as odd that they should also send a cook, too. They’d only identified the body an hour ago.

He glanced over at Tiana. He hesitated to tread on what might still be a sore subject. “Are you keeping Haruko apprised of things here?” he asked.

“Only as it relates to my own work,” Tiana said. It wasn’t an answer, but her manner told Bertram it was the best he could hope for.

Recognized

Trenton leaned over towards Keenan. “Why does that girl at the table with the Misguided Ghosts look familiar?” he asked.

“Haruko’s dear little girl,” Keenan said, fighting the urge to roll his eyes. A part of him – the paranoid part – worried that Haruko had sent her to the camp to spy on him. Then, he reminded himself that Haruko didn’t know he was there. She was just a camper with an unfortunate relationship with someone he hated. After a moment, he added, “Her name’s Kaylee.”

“We’ll see just how much like her father she is,” Trenton said, nodding.

Bertram shook his head. “She looks a great deal like her mother,” he said. “I’ve never had any complaints about Clover. Maybe Kaylee takes after her mother in more than looks?”

“God, help the child if she doesn’t,” Tiana said. She chuckled softly and shook her head, mumbling something about uncharitable thoughts.

Lighting a Fire

“Well,” Keenan said, as he strode into the main lodge. He flopped down in an overstuffed chair and smiled. “I’ve done all I can. The rest is up to them.”

Tiana glanced over at him, a faint smile playing at her lips. “Orienteering?” she said. A soft chuckle escaped her. “Do you think they realize that the orienteering is meant to give them an opportunity to check out what we wanted them to investigate?”

“Most did,” Keenan said, nodding.

Bertram paused in poking the weak flames in the fireplace. Glancing at Tiana, he said, “Don’t think we want the ones that didn’t figure it out.” Turning back to his work, he asked, “Are there any that we’ll have to light a fire under?”

“I did all the fire lighting that needs doing,” Keenan said. He snapped his fingers and the flames that Bertram was trying to coax to life flared up. Keenan gave his friend an innocent smile. “I’m good with lighting fires.”

Glaring, Bertram adjusted his glasses and set the poker to one side. “You might have warned me,” he groused. In truth, though, he wouldn’t have liked Keenan’s way of warning him any more than he had the way Keenan lit the fire.

Two Graves

Bertram looked at the graves and then out at the water. The stone were visible from the lake. The campers shouldn’t have any trouble seeing them. The key was to make them enticing – make them stand out in their minds.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice soft. He knelt and laid a single red rose on one of the graves. Then, he touched the stone and stood. Without another word, he left the scene. There were other preparations to be made.

Preparations

“So, we’re going to let them tool around the lake,” Tiana said. “When are we going to give them their assignments?”

“After we’re sure they’ve each seen what we want them to see,” Keenan said. When Tiana arched an eyebrow at him, he smiled. “Ti, if they fail to see what we want them to see, what kind of agents are they going to make?”

“Not the sort we want,” Bertram said, his voice soft.

Keenan nodded in agreement.

A Matter of Good Manners

“Why is the spell only on the girls’ cabins?” Tiana asked. She shook her head. “Do we honestly think that it will stop any trouble? If we were serious, it would be on both cabins.”

“Yeah, but it would smack the girls in the face, then,” Keeanan said. He gave Tiana a playful wink. “Wouldn’t be polite to smack girls that way.”

Tiana just stared at him. “Are you serious?” she asked. She couldn’t tell, because he just chuckled and made his way towards the main lodge.

What’s in a name?

“You do realize you haven’t told them your name,” Bertram said, giving Keenan a sidelong glance.

Keenan blinked. “I haven’t?” he said.

When Bertram shook his head, Keenan chuckled nervously and rubbed at the back of his head. “Yeah, I’ll need to give them an alias, won’t I?”

“Makes it a little hard to hide if you give your real name,” Tiana interjected. She shrugged. “Call yourself Master Haku.”

Keenan gave her a sidelong look. “You think the sovereign of Shynia should use an alias that means count?” When she nodded, he smiled at her. “I like it,” he said.

Fear is a wolf who dreads himself.

Cyrus sighed softly. He tapped at the door and then tried the knob. It was still locked. “Come on, Remy,” he called through the wood. “Let me in?”

“Still locked in there?”

Glancing over his shoulder, Cyrus saw Tiana. He nodded. “He’s afraid what he might do,” he said, shrugging. He tapped at the door again. “Remy?”

As Tiana headed off down the corridor, the door opened a crack. It was just enough for Cyrus to see Logan’s face. He looked pale and sickly. His eyes were blood-shot and puffy. “Go’way,” he growled.

As he started to shut the door, Cyrus mumbled a spell. The door pushed inward, forcing Logan back. As it did, Cyrus stepped over the threshold. Then, he shut the door. The room looked a wreck, like a wild animal had all-but destroyed it. In a way, it had.

“Feeling any better?” Cyrus asked, as he began tidying.

Logan shook his head and sat down on the bed. “I’m tired,” he said. He drew his knees up to his chest and watched as Cyrus continued to clean the mess around him. “You don’t have to…” he trailed off when Cyrus looked at him.

“I’m a janitor,” Cyrus said.

“Caretaker,” Logan corrected.

Cyrus shrugged. Titles mattered little to him. “It’s my job to clean and I care about you. You’re too tired to clean, so let me. I don’t mind.”

Logan sighed and flopped back against the mattress. “Might change again tonight,” he said, his voice soft and filled with dread. “If you’re here, I might hurt you.”

“You won’t,” Cyrus said, his own voice filled with confidence. He smiled at Logan. “You know my scent, Remy. You might not remember how it is once you’ve changed, but I’ve seen you. You attack anyone who corners you, but you’ve yet to even raise your hackles at me.”

“R-really?” Logan said, tilting his head.

Nodding, Cyrus said, “You don’t even growl at me. You nuzzle up against me, like a great brown dog.” He smiled faintly and add, “Keenan says he’s never seen the like.”

Logan sighed. “I hate this affliction – I dread the full moon and there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t remember what I do once I’ve changed.”

Cyrus nodded slightly. He settled down on the bed beside Logan and rubbed his shoulder gently. “I won’t let you do anything you’ll regret, Remy. I promise.”

A series of unlikely but significant events

Tiana moved around the gallery, pretending to look at the artwork. Sweetin had to be there somewhere. It still amazed her how things had turned out. She’d never expected to meet up with his mother. She’d never imagined that the woman would try to set her up with the little Fox.

She had to wonder, though… just what had happened at breakfast? She was certain she had the days straight. She’d been on her way to the cafe, to meet Maeve – to be introduced to her son. So, why, then, was he here?

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