Sydney heard Nigelís blood-curdling screams, a loud thud, and another scream. She was expecting hoardes of rival relic hunters, or perhaps a tribe of aborigines come to wreak havoc in the new world.
What she found instead was one half-dressed and disheveled teaching assistant, his hazel eyes glazed and staring into space. "What is it, Nigel?" she demanded. As soon as the words left her mouth, she regretted them. Nigel looked like heíd seen a ghost.
He turned at the sound of her voice, though she wasnít sure he saw her. His mouth worked but no words came out. His attention returned to the point in space above the sofa, and she finally heard him say in a strangled tone, "She canít see me, boy."
A chill scrambled her nervous system. His lips didnít move when she heard the words. Neither did the muscles in his throat, so it wasnít ventriloquism. All of a sudden she became uneasy, wondering what he was staring at.
"Who said that?" she asked. She moved in a wary zig-zag, making her way to the still-frozen Nigel. "Whoís there? Show yourself!"
This time her colleague blinked, and a degree of clarity returned to his eyes. "She may not be able to see you, but she can hear you." He turned to Sydney. "I know what he knows, Syd. I can do magic."
He raised his hand and stroked a pattern in the air. Where his fingers roamed, they left behind a luminescent mark. Slowly, patiently, he drew a sequence of hovering symbols that hummed and crackled with power. Each symbol aligned with its predecessor, until the entire group formed a perfect circle.
Once the circle was complete, he leaned forward and blew into its center. His breath rippled the air like the surface of a pond. When it stilled, the resultant window opened to another world.
Swallowing, Sydney took a step backward. She wasnít easily frightened, but something about this change frightened her. "Donít do this, Nigel," she pleaded. Something or someone prompted words she didnít completely understand. "Donít let him win. Youíre Nigel Bailey, not Merlin. This is your life. He lived once. He doesnít deserve to take your time."
"This is me, Syd. Iím Nigel."
She shook her head. "Heís controlling you."
Nigel reached inside the window and withdrew a pale alabaster box, its sides etched with writing. Its lid was embedded with gems that moved beneath the surface. "We needed this," he explained. "Itís crucial to keeping the magic alive."
Sydney caught his hand, bracing for a shock that never came. When nothing happened, she knocked the box aside and threw her arms around him, her momentum carrying them forward. She hoped to break whatever spell held him in its thrall.
Only her efforts carried them directly into the magical window. Its circumference expanded instantly to admit them Ė and to swallow them up. There was an animalistic roar and a loud scream, and the glowing circle of symbols collapsed in on itself, finally winking out of sight, leaving behind a perfectly empty apartment.
Go to Part Thirty-One.