Randi Wallace, a student of folklore and mythology studying in London, sat in a pool of sunlight as she studied the ancient text lying on the wood table. It was one of Ian's books, borrowed for the express purpose of passing her anthropology course, and she was certain she could wow Professor Barker with her final paper. The bright sunlight made her curly shoulder-length auburn hair even redder.
Agnes Barker taught her course once a year in the spring. She was a brilliant teacher who made dry dig statistics come alive for her students. Her lecture on 6th century battles had inspired Randi to use an actual battle site in the Scottish Lowlands as the subject of her final paper. From the written and archeological record, she had to recreate the court of Gwenddolau, a chief of North Wales.
The young woman's gaze wandered to her watch as her stomach grumbled, then resolutely she returned to the open book. It was part of a crumbling set of bound leather volumes on Welsh and Scottish folklore and legends. She hadn't found anything that would help her with the paper, but some of the trivia fascinated her. For example, she never would have guessed that Ian had a 'family' banshee. She wondered if he knew this?
"Randi?" a man's voice broke into the silence. "Over here, Ian!"
Professor Ian Matheson had taken the young American graduate student under his wing when she first arrived, setting her up with a room in his family home. He was her mythology professor, and rapidly becoming a good --too good --friend. Randi was well aware that the student ¬teacher wall was dangerously thin and their relationship would change radically if it shattered. Already it had its unusual aspects, as the dungeon with the chains in the basement of his house showed.
He walked up to her, his tall lanky body clad in dun-colored trousers, white shirt and a Fair Isle vest, long brown hair brushed back from his high temples. His blue eyes glinted in the sunlight. "Here you are! I've been looking everywhere."
"I was working on Professor Barker's paper," she replied, closing the book and putting it in her knapsack.
"That's what I want to talk to you about," Ian said enthusiastically. "I have an idea. Why don't we take the weekend, go up to Scotland, and see the place you're writing about? The trip will help it flow much better, I'm sure. How about it, Randi? Shall we go?"
She glanced at him, her lips curving in an excited smile. "Why not? But, Ian, remember we have to be back by Sunday night "
He nodded, understanding. "Yes, I know. Beltane.· May Day."
"It's the full moon."
“A night when jumping over a fire will bring you good luck and fertility throughout the year!" he rhapsodized lightly.
"And when I turn into a werewolf."
A cold Scottish rain was pelting down when they pulled into Arthampton. The small town sat at the base of Hart Fell, a massive mountain of rock currently hidden in dark grey sodden clouds. They had been driving all morning and all Randi really wanted was a hot steaming shower, followed by a cup of tea and a pile of scones. And then a raw steak... The blissful contemplation of the future was abruptly interrupted when Ian parked the car beside a small hotel.
The facade had been added to an older building, and the architectural styles, centuries apart, were still at war. Randi could barely see the faded picture on the old sign welded to the dusty plaster wall. A woman, in a green tartan kilt, washed something in a stream, while next to her, in lurid green neon script, was 'The Washer Woman'."
"It's better than it looks," Ian warned, reading her expression as he opened his car door and put up his umbrella. "The food is supposed to be excellent."
"So l can get hamburger?" she groused, cracking open her door and poking the umbrella out, releasing the catch. It popped open.
He winced. "Please, don't ask for that."
They scurried inside, helped by the rain which slapped at their jeans clad legs.
Inside, the white-plastered walls contrasted with the dark wood floors. It reminded Randi of an insane asylum she'd been in once. Dim ancient etchings in gold frames lined the walls. Out of the corner of her eye, Randi saw a man carrying a suitcase disappear up the wooden staircase.
"I'm Professor Matheson," Ian said to the stolid woman behind the long polished walnut counter. "I made reservations for two rooms."
The manager had a long nose, dull brown eyes and her hair was pulled back uncompromisingly in a bun. Randi put her age as somewhere beyond menopause, and still feeling the pain from it. "I am Mrs. Nicnevin. We have your reservation, Professor. Your credit card, please?" Her gaze shifted to Randi, who knew her curly hair and clothing gave her the look of a woman barely above the age of consent. "The rate will be 30 pounds a night. And, as you requested, two rooms … with a connecting door." Her disapproving tone spoke volumes about her sense of propriety.
Ian smiled, undaunted. "Thank you, Mrs. Nicnevin."
She handed him two old-fashioned brass keys. "Numbers seven and nine. Top of the stairs, down the hall to the right. The last two rooms."
Randi flashed her a cheerful smile which made the woman stiffen. She had a feeling she had outraged the older woman. Ah, well ...
The room was like below, white walls and dim etchings with gold frames. The windows were bordered with heavy floral curtains, tied back with heavy tassels. An oak bed stand sat beside the canopied four-poster bed. Against the opposite wall was a massive chest-of-drawers, flanked by a full-length mirror on the right side.
The young woman flicked on the old-fashioned glass lamp, and tested the mattress. Perfect. Firm yet a little yield1ng. Randy bounced on it, then danced over to the connecting door and tapped. '
She tapped again. Randi frowned. "Come on, Ian! open Up!" She rattled the handle. She heard the catch on the opposite side slide back, and the door opened.
"Oh, my!" she gasped.
The tall man facing her was maybe seventy, broad-shouldered and hazel-eyed. His tanned face was carved with lines that, she decided on later reflection, were caused by laughter. His short brown hair, speckled with grey, was brushed back. He wore a decrepit brown fedora the color of his ancient distressed leather jacket. No, it wasn't just distressed, it was panicked. Randi instantly coveted it.
"I'm so sorry, I thought Ian... " "Here, Randi," Ian said from behind the man. "There seems to be a mix-up."
"No, I was assigned this room, but I understand why you want it so badly now," the man said dryly, his broad American accent stretching his words.
"You're an American!" Randi said with pleasure. "Hi, I'm Randi Wallace." She held out her hand.
He shook it, dark eyes glinting with amusement. "My name is Indiana Jones." For a fraction of a second, he studied her, his attention sharpening, then he let go of her hand. His gaze was still riveted and his nostrils flared. Randi wondered if it was her perfume.
"Ian Matheson," Ian said from behind him. "Hello, there?"
Jones glanced at him, the alert stance gone and his lips curving in an amused smile. "Well, I'll move after all. You seem to have a better reason for wanting this room than I do."
Ian smiled hesitantly. "Can I help you move? My key fits the door to the room across the hall."
"No, that won't be necessary." The man picked up the battered suitcase from the floor, and left.
"Nice chap," Ian said after the door closed. "Though until you tapped, I was having a hard time convincing him this was my room."
"What's he doing here?"
"You know, I don't know. We really didn't have time to talk. But if he's staying in town, then we'll meet again."
"We'll have to," Randi said curling up on Ian's bed. The room was identical to hers. "Arthampton's the size of a stamp."
"Ah, but full of picturesque sights," Ian admonished. "A good hike up to Hart Fell, and you'll get a real feel for the landscape."
"Through the clouds," she said pessimistically, then giggled at his frown. "Oh, come on, Ian, lighten up. Tell me about this god-forsaken spot."
"Actually you know more about it than I do. Remember Agnes' class on Gwenddolau, the North Welsh prince who died in battle?"
"Yes. That was the class that fascinated me about the Lowlands."
"Well, this is near the site of the battle."
Her eyes glinted as she smiled sweetly at him. "Wasn't he the king that had Merlin as his protector? After his death, Merlin went insane and hid in an apple orchard, spouting prophecies ... "
"A shaman or wizard that some scholars see as part of the Merlin legend is from up here," Ian said repressively. "If I recall correctly, the Welsh Triad that cites his insanity said it happened right after the end of the battle of Arderydd. And that is…"
"On the mountain?" she asked.
"Close by. There is a dig on the mountain right now, led by none other than Agnes Barker!"
Randi frowned. "Ian, she's going to think I'm trying to brown-nose her!"
"Since you already told her that the lecture was the impetus for your paper, I can.' t see that it does any harm," he argued. “At the worst, Randi, she might be flattered that you came all this way. Nothing like getting the lay of the land."
Randi shivered and crossed her arms. Ever since the curse of the werewolf had descended on her, she had been abnormally sensitive to people. When she thought of Professor Barker outside of the classroom, all the hair on the back of her neck stood up. It wasn't Professor Barker's looks - the woman was very professional, wearing tweed suits and high-collared blouses, her coal-black hair primly brushed back. Her manner was cool and precise, and she didn't specialize in humiliating her students like so many professors Randi had had over the years. But for some reason, when she looked at Agnes Barker, she smelled the faint rancid smell of a corpse. The woman was only hitting the high edge of her forties so Randi chalked it up to her imagination. Ian picked up his tweed jacket. "Randi, the rain is clearing up. We'll have time to inspect the town after eating."
"And then?" "And then you'll write, and I'll watch the telly. The BBC is doing the Hermitage collection tonight." She made a face at him.
Randi finally admitted that, despite the cutting wind and the slick roads, Arthampton had a lot going for it.
Bypassed by commuters, its quaint charms were mostly untouched by modern life. The antique stores were unusually affordable and the book stores tucked into odd places were treasure troves of material. Ian pulled her out of McGellis Tomes when she picked a volume of Robert Burns poems with a speculative air.
"I'm not going to let you distract yourself from your work by poetry," he argued, towing her outside. She waved to the aged man behind the counter who carefully put the book underneath. "You see, he'll save it for me."
Ian shook his head. "Randi… Let's go into the museum, Randi." The museum was next door, the sign small and well-hidden. Even the sound of their coins in the entry box didn't bring out a guide. They wandered to the right into a series of rooms.
The Collection was small but select. Many items came from the neighborhood. Swords and lances hung on the walls next to the thin tall cathedral style windows. Tapestries hung on several of the walls.
A foot-long silver dagger sat in a glass case, its blade pitted with age. Bending over it closely, Randi could see Celtic etching. Her skin prickled. There was something unearthly about the blade. A feeling reached down into her soul and set it on alert. she shook herself and read the small plaque. It had been found in 1924 by a Professor Henry Jones Jr.
"It's an athame," Ian said from the other side of the case. "A ritual knife, Randi, used in druidic ceremonies."
"Looks like a steak knife," she said flippantly, trying to dismiss her unease.
Ian wandered into the next room. It was full of old books in dusty\,----glass cases. Bibles and Calvinistic prayer books reminded him that religion could be sometimes chilling. He glanced down at a small open book in a glass case by the exit. In size it was unlike any of the others. He stared at the crabbed handwriting. The ink had faded badly but it looked like a recipe.
"What's that?" Randi asked behind him. "It looks like some kind of poetry. Or a cookbook.”
"Funny. I was thinking the same thing. Let's see, parsley, sage, .•. " "Wormwood and henbane... and you kill a cook. Ian, it's a spell book! "
"Quite right, Ms. Wallace," a familiar and chilling voice said behind her. "It is a book of magic. That is a spell of summoning."
Randi froze, her skin prickling with sudden static. "Professor Barker?"
Agnes Barker smiled at her. "Welcome to Arthampton, Professor Matheson, Ms. Wallace. You're just in time for Beltane."
An hour later Randi and Ian returned to the hotel. Night had fallen on the small town, and cold winds swooped down the street, rustling the spring leaves. Huge clouds hid and uncovered the nearly full moon.
Randi shivered as she sat down on the edge of the bed. The wind had gone right through her thick sweater. The chill was inside her, though. Professor Barker made her feel uneasy. What was it that made the woman
seem eerie? "Ian?"
"Randi?" Ian appeared in the doorway, patting his wet face with a towel. His hair was standing up from static electricity.
Randi pulled off her sweater, replacing it with a different, thicker one. "I'm not sure that we should have taken her up on visiting the dig, Ian. She makes me feel like I'm her prey."
"Nonsense! It's just the wind blowing, rattling the window cases and the museum that makes this place seem eerie, Randi. I've known Agnes Barker for several years. She has excellent qualifications for her work."
"But as a person --"
Ian shrugged. "A cold fish. she got into quite a fight a couple of years back over control of the Anthropology Quarterly. Her opponent ended up with a nervous breakdown. I wouldn't want her as an enemy, Randi."
"Ian," Randi said hesitantly. "Do you think she could help me? Do you think that book has a spell that could help ... "
Ian knew she was thinking of finding a way to break the werewolf's curse. He shook his head decisively. "No, that book looked more like a satanic Bible than ritual magic. The binding was definitely seventeenth century."
"Do you think she's ever used it?" the young woman mused. "I hope not! Can you imagine what she might call? Let's go get some supper."
"Raw roast beef," Randi said cheering up. "Lots of it."
"As I recall you were a vegetarian when you arrived, Randi."
"I didn't claw my way up the food chain to eat vegetables I" she declared sweetly. "And I'm wolfishly hungry right now."
Ian grimaced. "Be careful of what you say about wolves. Remember
Mrs. Nicnevin had just handed menus to a boy and girl in motorcycle leather as Ian and Randi entered. The dining room was fairly large and obviously served as the town's social center.
The room was crowded and there was a pleasant buzz of conversation and the clink of eating
utensils. "Two please," Ian requested as Mrs. Nicnevin came up.
"I only have room at a table with another gentleman. If you don’t mind…”
“If he doesn’t mind, I don’t” Randi said hungrily. She could smell meat.
“Ian nodded. “Lead on, Mrs. Nicnevin.”
She walked over to where a man was seated at a table. He was being served his order.
“Sir, I have two guests whom I hoped could share your table,” the proprietress said forthrightly.
The man looked up. Randi recognized him. "Mr. Jones?"
His tanned face creased into a slightly reserved but welcoming smile as he stood in old-fashioned courtesy. "Ms. Wallace and Mr. Matheson. Please join me."
Mrs. Nicnevin nodded coldly as she handed the newcomers their menus.
One dark eyebrow rose fractionally as Jones surveyed the young woman.
"Things have changed since I taught." Randi realized he was thinking of the student-teacher relationship and the unlocked connecting door upstairs.
"Oh, really?" Randi said with a charming smile. Why was he staring at her? "What did you teach?"
"What are you doing here, Professor Jones?" Randi picked up her menu trying to ignore the smell of his stew. She glanced up under her long eyelashes. Her skin prickled. Her senses had sharpened to the occult when she became part of it. Something about Professor Jones made her wonder if there was considerably more to the elderly man than met the eye.
"I worked up on Hart Fell many years ago now. I thought I might revisit it while I was here. There is a dig there now led by an Agnes Barker," Jones was saying to Ian as Randi ruminated.
"Professor Barker is one of my teachers. Oh, please, a double helping of that stew!" Randi told the waitress. "I can't wait"
"A healthy growing girl," Ian commented. "I'll have the stew as well, with rice pudding for a sweet. One helping."
Randi wrinkled her nose at him. "Spoilsport."
Professor Jones smiled at them. "You must be learning a lot from Professor Barker. Are you working on the dig?"
They talked about Randi's paper for the next half-hour when the dinner was served. She wished Professor Jones was teaching the course. He had this habit of breaking the most incomprehensible concepts into easily understandable chunks.
Ian wondered what the connection was that brought this man to a small out-of-the-way town in Scotland. Revisiting scenes of old triumphs didn't seem in Jones' style. And he didn't seem the type of man who would like Agnes Barker. Her colder attitude towards archeology was at odds with Jones' warm interest. And as far as Ian knew, Barker's dig was proceeding very slowly, with very little of interest coming out of it.
"You were telling me about the Nazis," Randi's voice broke in. The older man laughed.
"Ah, yes. Luckily most wars ignore archaeologists, Miss Wallace."
"Oh, please, Professor Jones, call me Randi."
"Randi. Actually my wife Marion had the worst time." For a second Jones looked sad. "But that's a long time ago now."
"Your wife?" Randi said hesitantly.
He tapped the double golden wedding rings on his left hand. "She died ten years ago."
"I'm sorry." Looking at the rings, Randi suddenly had the image of a slender female hand wearing one of the rings. She shook her head, and smiled weakly. "Professor, Ian and I have been arguing over magic."
"I say that objects can absorb energy from strong emotions and Ian says --"
"It's rot," Ian finished. Something flashed on the man's face before it became a polite mask.
"I'd agree with Randi. Some objects, crosses, swords, stones, rings, have power. I've felt it."
Randi cocked her head. "RealIy?"
Professor Jones smiled wryly. "It's not so much power in the object but the reverence in which it is held that is absorbed. I once held the sword of Charlemagne in my hands. You could almost sense the man who used it and the people who worshiped him over the centuries. The Holy Grail was a small cup the size of my palm. Centuries of legends and prayer and its history accented its natural power."
"You sound like you've seen it," Randi said, the hair on her neck standing up. There was power in the air. The man had magic beyond pure sex appeal.
Indiana's gaze met hers and held it searchingly. "It's been years since I thought about the Grail. My father was one of the top scholars in medieval literature. But the Grail's a myth now. Like Arthur."
"Yes," Ian teased, tapping her with a spoon. "Like that woman on the sign outside, Rand!."
Randi wrenched her gaze away from Jones, all her Senses screaming warning. To misquote Glinda the Good, Was he a good witch or a bad witch? Or a witch at all? "What? What'd you say, Ian?"
"The sign. It's of a kind of banshee, the Little Washer by the Ford. She washes the clothes of those who are about to die," Ian said mischievously.
"Oh, like a fairy, like the Matheson family banshee?" Randi said acidly.
"You found that legend, did you? Ours is a special banshee. She doesn't announce death; she protects the family. Of course she hasn't been seen for centuries, but still there is a certain cachet to having a legend attached to our name."
"I don't believe it, and neither do you," Randi retorted, eyeing him with suspicion. She scraped the last of the stew from her bowl. "Professor Barker is giving us a tour tomorrow morning. Perhaps you would like to join us?"
The elderly man pushed back his chair. "Thank you for the offer, but I'm having dinner with her on Sunday."
"We'll be gone by then," Ian interrupted. "On our way back to London."
"Pity." The older man looked at the check, frowned, then scribbled his signature. "But if you will excuse me, I have a call coming in about five minutes and it's being routed to my room, so while it's been a pleasure to meet you both again," Jones said, standing, "I have to go. Have a good evening."
"You too," Randi called watching him leave.
"I don't think he likes Agnes," Ian said reflectively,
"I don't either," Randi declared with a toss of her auburn hair. "There's something going on here, Ian. I am not imagining things!"
"What do you mean?"
"Power just crackles around him, Ian! It makes my senses go on alert every time I see him!"
Ian made a small face at her. "Randi, it doesn't take a wolf to make a woman be attracted to him. He's a very attractive, if older, man!"
She stuck out her tongue at him. "There's more to it than that, Ian. I KNOW it!"
Hart Fell was a massive pile of rock left behind by receding glaciers. Wild deer appeared unexpectedly, then disappeared back into the tangle of thorny bushes and groves of blossoming trees. It was primeval English forest from the days of the Picts. Randi led Ian down a half ¬overgrown path leading to a small cave surrounded by apple trees in blossom and a stream of rust-colored water flowing from an underground spring. A battered tin cup was chained to the wall.
She took a deep breath of the fresh-smelling air and threw out her arms. It was almost like being back in the Rockies. Turning, she saw Ian standing with crossed arms, frowning at her. "We're going to be late, Rand!!"
"Doesn't it feel like spring, Ian?"
"Yes, but that doesn't start until Sunday night."
"When I'll be howling at the moon," Her mood flickered to depression, then she shrugged it off. "Ian, this place would be a great place for a picnic."
"I think it's more like a temple of love," he said unexpectedly peering into the stone cave. "Look at the walls. People have carved their initials for centuries. It must have been true love."
"Any runes?" she asked lightly looking over his shoulder.
Ian raised his hand and ran it over the wall. "Well. .. more like Ogham. I'm not sure when they're from. They look like they been carved with a power tool."
"What do they say?"
He laughed. "It's Welsh, Randi. It means 'Apple-trees'."
She smiled. "So they named the cave after the trees."
"Apple trees are very powerful in mythology, Randi. They're the symbols of fruitfulness, of enchantment, of divination. Throwing an apple rind over your shoulder will give you the initial of your true love."
Randi laughed to break his unexpected intimacy. "In Welsh? I don't understand why they've carved 'Aff.. la' oh, you know what I mean."
"They're probably telling us it's an enchanted place, one of your ‘places of power'," his voice had a mocking edge. "Tomorrow night the villagers will build Beltane fires in the clearing and jump over them for good luck. Beltane is one of the most powerful nights of the Celtic calendar after all."
She glared at him. "Do you think Merlin carved it? Maybe he's left his powers here in the cave!"
Ian frowned in exasperation. "He's a myth, Randi."
"Are you so certain, Professor Matheson?" an unexpected voice said behind them. Professor Barker, dressed in coveralls, stood behind them, slapping her gloves against her side. Red clay stained her boots.
Randi was instantly aware that they were indeed late for their meeting at the dig. She also felt like she'd been caught out too late by her mother. Had this woman taken courses in walking like a feather?
"Ah, Agnes!" Ian covered his discomfort with a light tone. "Sorry, but we got distracted by the apple trees. Do you know why this name is in Welsh?"
She smiled, her lips barely curving upward. "Welsh Gaelic? The language of magic and power on Britain. If those walls could talk they'd go back into the heroic age and sing to us of bards and druids."
Ian stared at her. "I've. .. never heard you speak so poetically, Agnes."
"Magic?" Randi said, her gaze meeting the other woman's. "Like Merlin?"
"Ah, you've read about the shaman of the woods," Barker replied her gaze impaling the young woman. "He might be 'Merlin'. But if you study all the inscriptions, you'll find that pagan rituals must have been performed here many centuries ago."
"How can you tell? They left inscriptions in blood?" Ian said jocularly and instantly regretted it as Barker's medusa gaze shifted to him.
"There is an invocation to the Lord. of Hosts in the back."
"The Lord of Hosts?" Randi said uncertainly.
"In this case the Host was the Wild Hunt, correct?" Ian challenged Barker with his tone. He was the mythology professor, not she.
"The writers might have used the Lord of Hosts as another name for Odin. The inscription says, 'May I be received into bliss by the Lord of Hosts.' There are traces of blood in the carvings. I had it tested when I first discovered the writing."
"Indeed? And was it a message from your Merlin?" he asked with an edge.
She smiled broadly, a frightening sight. It was like a glass statue fracturing. "I believe so, but I have no proof."
"Is that where they found the dagger?" Randi asked unexpectedly. "The one in the museum."
"The dagger was found in the cave," Agnes acknowledged, nodding her coal-black head. “By a Professor Henry Jones, Jr."
Ian heard a shift in the tone, almost a vampiric longing when she said the name. He looked at her but she hadn't changed expression or position.
"Professor Jones was part of the Brody expedition in the early Twenties," Barker continued. "I once researched his career. It was fascinating."
“There’s a Professor Jones at our hotel --" Randi started.
Ian took a good grip on her elbow and squeezed. For some reason he didn't feel Jones should be brought up. "Agnes, we must go."
"Yes, I know him," Agnes said, eyeing Randi speculatively. "How did you meet him?"
"Oh, just in the dining room," Randi said airily. "Over stew. Is he related to the man who found the dagger? He said he had worked up here before..• "
Barker laughed like a raven, Ian thought. "Impossible. That Professor Jones would be over ninety by now."
Ian's attention was caught by a familiar form wheezing into sight over the crest of the hill. It was Mrs. Nicnevin carrying a covered basket. What was she doing here? The basket was very heavy from the way she was bowed.
Agnes saw his expression change and turned. "Ah, Mrs. Nicnevin! You've brought up lunch."
The landlady bobbed her head, then stared at Ian in disapproval. "Yes, Ma'am. All you asked for."
Something clinked from the direction of the basket. Ian smiled weakly as he squeezed Randi's elbow again. "Agnes, I think you have a good idea and it's lunch time. We'll come back for the tour another time."
Barker nodded her head. regally. "I shall look forward to it, Ian, Randi. Have a good afternoon."
He and Randi escaped back to Arthampton, finding a pub for lunch. They ordered ploughman's lunches and sank back into the dark booth.
"What was that all about?" Randi said indignantly. "Blood sacrifices?"
"She is up on her Celtic history and mythology, that's true," Ian said biting into an onion. "Randi, you were right. She is definitely acting suspiciously. She has never been so friendly in all the time I've known her."
"Ian, it has to do with Professor Jones," the young woman said with certainty. "Professor Barker said his name with such .•. hunger. She's looking forward to that dinner too much," Randi said dreamily.
"Well, after all he is a very attractive man --"
She waved her hand, almost knocking over her pint of shandy. "Ian, there's more to it than that! Can't ~e at least look him up? I mean is he who he says he is?"
"Why would he lie?" Ian asked rhetorically. "It's not as if he is getting anything out of this trip except a dinner and a trip down his father's memory lane, if he is Jones' son. Where do you want to start?"
Ian groaned when she entered McGellis' bookstore.
The same aged man sat behind the counter, hunched over a book. It reminded him that they had to drive back to London as fast as they could the next morning.
"Mr. McGellis?" Randi asked hesitantly. The man looked up. His eyes, enlarged by his glasses, were rheumy and his hairless head reminded Ian of a turtle. "I'm looking for books on archeology?"
"In the back by the door, lassie," he replied in a surprisingly firm tone. Mr. McGellis might look like he belonged to the ages but he sounded like a man in his fifties, Ian thought in surprise.
The books were crumbling tomes, smelling of mildew and rot. Pages stuck together. Some of them dated from before the turn of the century.
Randi ran her fingers over the crumbling binders. "Mulligan, Maxwell, carter, Edmonds... Jones! Medieval Literature by Professor Henry Jones." She pulled the thick volume out.
"That can't be him," Ian said over her shoulder. "Look, it was published in 1910, Randi!"
"Professor Henry Jones was a noted scholar of medieval literature at Princeton. But what about his family? Did he have a son? Don't they put biographies in these books?" she asked flipping to the back. "When was he born?"
"No, they didn't think anyone would want to know about their private lives back then," Ian commented dryly. "Try this one." Randi took another book off the shelf.
"It's just a new copy of this one ... no, it's revised. Re-published in 1947... oh, here is something. A picture of Professor Henry Jones and his good friend Marcus Brody, curator of the Princeton collection."
She took another book off the shelf and scanned the index. "Look, Ian! A Jones, Henry, Jr." She flipped to the referenced page. "Noted archeologist Henry Jones Jr., who found the Temple of the Lost in Mexico. Look, another picture!"
They studied it carefully. The man's face was mostly hidden in shadow from his wide-brimmed hat. He looked uncomfortable in a dark suit. Ian frowned. "Well, I suppose it does look like our Jones," he said dubiously.
"Yes, but Ian, look at the date on the Temple of the Lost! It was found in 1925! He looks about twenty-five too. I can't believe it's the same man!"
They looked at each other. "Professor Jones looks about sixty-seven or eight," Randi said dubiously.
"Maybe we should just forget about this. Look, Randi, a book about Celtic hill forts." She made a face at him but accepted the book. "Didn't Professor Jones say he had dug on this spot?"
"Then he should be in a book on Arthampton, correct?"
"Well…" He trailed after her as she went to the register.
"Do you have any books on Arthampton?" she asked
McGellis, behind the desk, looked over his trifocals. "Nought much has happen' here, lass, for centuries," he said finally. "That's what I'm interested in, centuries ago," she said enthusiastically. "Any archeology books or the like?"
"Back where you were, lassie, a couple of shelves down," he advised sourly.
Ian gave the man an embarrassed smile as she dragged him off into the stacks again. "Rand!. .. "
Behind him he heard the jingle of the bell over the door as someone entered.
"Here!" she said holding a volume aloft. "Ancient Roman Ruins and Hadrian's Wall by Michael Scott."
"Hopefully published recently."
"Forty years ago," she said flipping through it. "Arthampton has a small entry. Mm... oh, look! The dagger." The reproduction was faded but still identifiable. "It was found by a Professor Henry Jones Junior in 19251" She closed the book decisively. "He can't be the same man! That would make him, over ninety!"
"I wonder," the professor said musing. "You said you felt some kind of magic about him. Maybe he took a youth spell or something --"
Randi gave the man a skeptical look. "When did you start believing in magic, Ian?"
"When you started to turn into a werewolf at the full moon," Ian replied, taking the book from her and put it back on the shelf.
"So what do we do now?"
"What we will do now," he put the book on the shelf, "is go for a brisk walk, then back to the hotel. You still have a paper to write, and we have an early start tomorrow if we're to be home before dark. "
Randi shivered. "I'd rather not be baying at the full moon on the highway. Let's go."
After they left, a slender woman went to the shelves where they had been. Agnes ran her fingertip over the books, pausing at the same ones Randi had pulled out. "Well, well, my spell called more than I had planned. When my Lord produces an extra power source •.. ," she said with slight mockery. "Duff, I'm going through the back door. Please remember to relock it."
"Yes, madam," the man called back deferentially.
Opening the wooden door she went into the museum. She took out the knife, bundling it in blood-red silk and tying it with silver cording. standing beside the glass case with the worn magic book, she opened the small lock and removed the worn volume, wrapping it reverently, and putting it into the leather bag over her shoulder. Then she went out the front door, putting a "closed for Renovation" sign on the handle.
The hotel restaurant was mostly empty in the quiet period between dinner and the onslaught of supper. "So what's for supper, Mrs. Nicnevin?" Ian joshed the quiet landlady. "Grouse'? Pheasant under glass?"
"Haggis au gratin," she said with a bland disapproving tone. "The cook is French. And Professor Barker sent you a present. A fine woman, Agnes Barker."
Ian looked nonplussed at the concept of getting a gift from Agnes Barker. "Yes, a fine woman. Why would she --ah, how long have you known her, Mrs. Nicnevin?"
"Grew up in these parts, she did," the landlady replied with the first trace of animation Ian had seen in her. "We didn't expect to see her after she went to Oxford, then off to the Americas, but then she came back, oh a baker's dozen years ago, and set up on the Fell." Mrs. Nicnevin spotted the paper¬ wrapped book under Randi's arm. "Duff McGellis knows her very well. Took over the bookstore when she bought into the museum and runs it with her help."
"So Professor Barker owns the museum and the bookstore?" Randi chimed inquiringly.
The woman's gaze bored into theirs, her chin raised proudly. "Aye."
Something crashed in the kitchen. All three people jumped.
"Right you are," Ian said smoothly. "Mrs. Nicnevin, is Professor Jones in at the moment?"
Mrs. Nicnevin shook her head. "No, I believe he’s gone to Dumfries."
Randi smelled fear underneath the proud arrogance --it aroused the wolf in her. Silently she and Ian climbed the stairs to their joint rooms.
"Well, what was that about?" Ian asked after he closed his door. Randi, poised on the threshold between their rooms, shook her head. "Agnes Barker, maybe? What did she leave for us, Ian?"
He picked up a small book that lay on the chest-of-drawers. On it lay an engraved card with 'Agnes Barker' written in flowery script. "It's a book on Celtic and Anglo Saxon religions."
Randi took it from him and flipped pages. "Does it have anything on blood sacrifice?"
Ian snorted, taking the book back. "The taking of heads was part of the Celtic heritage, Randi. You'll find traces of the Old Religion even hidden in gothic cathedrals. The head was the seat of knowledge and power. I wonder why Agnes sent the book to us?" Ian mused.
"Oh, let's get cleaned up and go to dinner, Ian. I'm starved."
"I've ordered. a half-calf for you, Randi," Ian said dropping the book on his bedside. He flicked on the apple-blossom lamp and the room became saturated with a rosy glow. "Raw."
Randi felt sluggish when she finally returned to her bedroom. The food had been superb, if a little salty.
The books she brought with her seemed stale and she read over her last couple of paragraphs in distaste. It was a weak argument. She heard Ian's bed creak as he lowered himself onto it. Her thoughts automatically turned towards what she only dreamed of doing with him.
He was a very sexy guy she thought, trying to ignore the pictures that arose. And he was interested in her, that she knew. And he was her life line --without him chaining her up in the basement every full moon, she might kill someone someday. That thought was always in the back of her mind. Tomorrow was the full moon.
Her gaze fell on the pitcher and glass next to the bed. She was thirsty after the salty dinner just as Ian must be from the sound of glass clinking next door. The water was cool and slightly tangy. She tried to identify the taste and finally came up with cider. Her gaze fell on the apple-blossom design on the glass funnel. How appropriate. Apple blossoms here, apple blossoms around the cave on the hill, apples, apples everywhere. Little enchantment symbols everywhere.
She put the glass back and flopped on the bed. Another two hours and she might be able to hold her head upright in class with this Dark Age paper. Randi set to work.
Two hours later she had fallen asleep, breathing heavily. Loud snores came from Ian's roam. Mrs. Nicnevin opened the door and came in followed by Professor Barker.
"Get your boy," she directed Mrs. Nicnevin. "Take her up to the cave. I have painted the runes of containment on the chains you brought up today."
"What about her friend?" Mrs. Nicnevin asked fearfully.
"Ian'll sleep till afternoon with what I put in the water," Barker said briskly. "And by then it'll be too late for anyone to stop me."
Ian's eyes opened sluggishly. The room's curtains were drawn. A sliver of sunlight arched across the room, hitting him in the face.
He groaned and rolled over. That had been a hell of a nightmare, he had. And it looked as if their early start to London was shot to hell. It had to be mid-morning.
"Randi? Randi!" he called, sitting upright. His clothes felt sticky. He'd fallen asleep in his trousers and sweater and they smelled like it.
Ian staggered to the partly-open connecting door and looked at Randi's bed. Empty. Her research was scattered around, the notebook lying face¬down on the floor.
Adrenalin fought with the drug. What had happened here? Where was she? Ian shook his head and reached for the glass and pitcher. Water might help.
His gaze fell on the clock. My God, it was three in the afternoon! He no longer needed water. He wanted a bottle of Scotch. Three o'clock, a full moon rising that night, and where was she? He flung open the hall door and rushed out. Long vistas of empty carpet stretched to the right. He rapped on the door opposite.
After a second it opened.
"Professor Matheson?" Jones said cautiously, his hazel eyes surveying the untidy man opposite him.
"Professor Jones, have you seen Randi?"
"Randi? No, not since our dinner. Why?"
Ian ran his hand over his hair. "She's not in her room, and we were planning a quick start back to London this morning. I would never do that, not today and..• " He began to realize he was babbling and cut himself off.
Jones eyed him. "Come in here, Ian, and sit down."
Ian sank down on the bed. "I just don't understand."
Indiana shut the door. "What exactly happened? When did you see her last?"
"Last night. We had dinner and went back to our rooms. She was working on her paper, her books are on the floor. I was reading and I just fell asleep."
Indiana pulled a plaid tweed jacket out of the closet. Ian saw the aged leather jacket hanging beside several shirts. Around the hanger was coiled a leather whip. "What then?"
"I woke up about five minutes ago and Randi was gone."
"She wouldn't have checked out without you so why don't you get your jacket and an umbrella and we'll go out looking," Indiana said persuasively.
"When is sundown?" Ian said urgently.
"Sundown? Around here, about seven or seven-thirty. Why?"
"Then we have four hours." Ian stood abruptly. "Let me put on my shoes."
Five hours later Ian was still searching among the thorny bushes of Hart Fell, calling Randi's name. He and Jones had split up two hours before, Jones returning to prepare for his dinner with Barker and Ian going up to the dig. He found only one young student there, filling out forms. She shook her head mutely at his urgency, and after a few exasperating minutes, he went outside and searched the hillside.
Ian looked down at the lengthening shadows and felt despair. It was too late. Even if he found Randi, she would have transformed by now, and the werewolf would shred any place he took her. He could only pray that that night Randi wouldn't kill anybody.
The light of the full moon began to outshine the final traces of sunset.
He heard some chanting, then saw through the trees several people carrying lit candles from the small flickers of light. They wore red and white robes. His skin tingled. Some atavistic urge made him dive behind what he found was a small thorn bush. There was something wicked coming up the mountain, singing in Gaelic.
Two columns of six hooded people surrounded an un-hooded woman who clutched a book to her white-clad floor-length robe. Ian recognized the volume as the book on Celtic ritual from the museum. Looking into her face, he prayed to be overlooked. It was the student he had been harassing not an hour before at Agnes' dig, but her face looked like a skull now, and the eyes inhuman. The procession passed him by.
Ian knew he had to follow. He didn't want to.
Crawling in the thorny underbrush, he peered into the clearing where the cave's mouth was now brightly lit by torches. The robed figures stood in a half-circle by the black hole leading to a cave, their hands folded and heads bowed.
Chained to the wall, her hair wild and her face as white as one of the robes, was Randi.
Randi howled. The curse coursed through her and she writhed as the silver rays of moonlight hit her body. She arched and hissed, her hair coarsening and her teeth enlarging over her lips. Her eyes turned gold. Her fingernails lengthened and sharpened.
Finally transformed, the werewolf slashed out at the shifting forms around her. The chains tightened and she stopped twisting. The chains burned as if they were cords of electricity, burning skin and pelt.
But the silver chains held. She howled in hunger, demanding food, raw meat and lots of it.
There was the scent of the dead in the air, long dead, and the living were barely recognizable as such. The wolf wouldn't have attacked one of them. It would be like eating carrion. She wanted fresh meat!
A new scent reached its nose and the werewolf turned its head towards the path.
The woman standing at the opening of the circle was un-cowled. Her black hair hung below her shoulder blades, held out of the way with a slender silver band. Silver beads in long strands slipped in and out of her black hair. Her robes were a tapestry of different shads of red. In her hands she held the dagger from the museum. The rising moon glinted on the edges. The knife left a trail of silver in the air as she waved it in an arc as if making an opening. Then she walked to where the werewolf was chained.
She smiled. “it’s time.”
Ian wondered what the hell was going on here?
Agnes Barker had walked to the running stream. Tripods flanked her, sending up the smell of burning herbs. Randi was face-up and howling, her chains held by four acolytes who knelt at the points of the compass. Seven acolytes stood in a half-circle around the clearing holding long thin red and black candles. The last acolyte, the one with the book, took her place next to the brazier.
Moonlight gilded the ruffled pelt of the werewolf, and the silver knife in Agnes' hand.
"I summon you," Agnes said, her gaze going out of the circle. "By the power of the Lord of Hosts, I summon the spirits of those who fought here. I have need of you. Tonight you will feed. I promise you."
The hairs on Ian's neck rose. Black shadows rose outside the circle made by the acolytes. They fluttered against the candles, finally finding the break in the circle, and came inside. Flying unerringly, several halted a few feet away from Barker, who was smiling as she held out her hands, palm down. They sank into the earth, while the others hovered like a black arch over the doorway.
Ian felt his heart skip a beat. Over the last year with Randi he had met a succubus, vampires, zombies and ancient ghosts, but he had seldom felt the sense of chilling evil power that emanated from Agnes Barker.
And this was magic, black magic. The air was full of it and the black icy cowled figures exuded the smell of death. "I have summoned you from across the sea for what you are. Enter into our circle, Henry Jones Junior, Grail knight."
"I've always preferred Indiana," the tall man said mildly, stopping just outside the ring.
Ian stared. Looking down, he saw a different man from the professor who had shared dinner with him and Randi. The lined face had a cool edge, the eyes, a reserve, and the lips folded to a thin, determined line. He held the coiled whip in one hand. He was self-contained and unafraid.
Ian wished he felt the same.
The shadows clustered around Jones, hovering, dipping to brush his hair. Ian couldn't see what was holding them away from him.
Finally Indiana stepped into the circle. "So you called me and I've come. What do you want, Agnes Barker?"
The woman laughed. "You have something that I want."
"What do you want?" "Your powers."
Indiana frowned. "Powers?"
"You were there when the Ark of the Covenant was opened and survived the Guardians' wrath. You held the Ankara stone. You drank from the Holy Grail. You have held sacred objects in your hands and not been consumed by their fires. These objects of power left their marks on you, Indiana Jones, and their residue is ambrosia to me. I want it."
Ian let out his breath in an almost-silent hiss. Indiana Jones hadn't denied Agnes' words. If he had done half of what she said, what kind of a man was he?
The werewolf howled and struggled. Jones looked at it and he jerked slightly. "Miss Wallace?"
Barker smiled triumphantly. "I know you, Jones. I first met you when I came to this spot and found your essence on the dagger. I looked down the past and saw where you had been and what you had done."
"Really?" the man's voice was dangerously quiet.
"I will have what I want," Barker replied calmly. "The Lord of the Hosts has answered my prayer and through his friends here, I will take what you have."
Jones shook his head. "I don't believe you can steal anything from me. "
"I summoned you from across the ocean," she spat out. "I hold a werewolf captive by my powers. It is Beltane and the moon is on the rise, and my powers with it." Agnes threw her hands up in the air, dagger glinting in the moonlight. "My friends, I promised you food! I give you a werewolf to feed upon! Then give me what I want." She stabbed downward.
Randi howled like a lost soul. Ian's hair rose. It was of a higher pitch than her usual howl.
Crack! The whip caught the knife's blade and Agnes spun around, not letting go as the leather thong dragged her out of position. She fell against one of the robed figures holding the wolf and the chain slackened.
Randi strained against the loosened chain. She became harder to control.
Looking across the clearing, Ian saw that Jones was also struggling. The black figures clustered around him, ghostly bat-shapes, smothering his tall form. He had dropped the whip.
"My Lord of the Host, help me!" Agnes called, raising her arm again.
There was a crash of thunder. Looking up, Ian couldn't see any rain clouds. The stars glittered like sleet. The wolf snarled and yanked fiercely on the chains.
"You are playing with a weak hand in a dangerous game," Indiana warned
weakly. "You'll kill yourself, if you don't stop!"
"You are weak, Professor Jones," the woman gloated. "Those who gave you the gifts have forgotten you."
Jones' face was sweaty as he looked up at the silver-crowned woman. "'You can't win. After all -there's more than one of them."
Agnes began gesturing, calling out in Gaelic. An acolyte held the book open. Little puffs of powdered dirt rose in fountains from where the black shadows had sunk into the ground.
Ian could feel static crackle in the air around him.
The fountains of dust became human-shaped, then warriors in leather armor, each holding a sword. One man was bigger than the others and crowned with apple-blossoms.
"Gwenddolau," Agnes called. "I need your help. There lies your enemy. Hold him so I might have his head." She pointed to Indiana Jones who had fallen to one knee.
Ian couldn't let fear paralyze him any longer. He sprang forward. Around him howled the black ghosts, covering him, sucking at his energy. Ian's senses swam, and he fell to his knees. The black shadows around him shifted and the chill intensified.
Randi stopped struggling and turned her wolfish face towards the running spring. Ian saw her eyes widen. The wolf let out a high-pitched ululation that would have raised the dead if they weren't already there.
An exquisitely beautiful woman, outlined in green-blue fire, flew down the path, trailing streamers of light. She wailed, a cry that ran the entire musical scale but slightly off-key, hurting Ian's ears. His mouth dropped open and his eyes widened.
The banshee swirled around the clearing, settling for a fraction of a second beside the stream and washing its hands. The water turned bloody-red. She howled louder and more chillingly than the werewolf.
Barker laughed. "It's a banshee! She's announcing your death, Indiana Jones!"
"No, she’s not! It’s my family banshee!" Ian croaked. "I thought it was a fake!" The banshee flew up into the clear sky, then plunged to the ground, her light shattering into plumes of blue flame.
The black shapes attacked the newcomers. They flickered out in cracks of blue light When they touched the blue flames. One plume stopped and licked at an acolyte.
The robed figure screamed, a totally human sound, and dropped her red and black candle. Her hands flew to her face. Ian looked on in horror.
Mrs. Nicnevin held up her hands beseechingly to the silver moonlight as her face aged and decayed, becoming as old as a woman in her nineties. She crashed to her knees, babbling. Then she fell and her body curled up into a ball.
Ian heard the werewolf howl.
Indiana Jones, struggling but held by the warriors, faced Agnes Barker over the chained wolf. The silver dagger was burned blue where she had warded off the banshee flames. “The time has come!" she said exulted.
Jones moved his arms, trying to break the grip of the warriors beside him. "It's too late for you, Agnes. I'm not afraid to die. But I bet you are."
The werewolf’s captors had been touched by the flames. One by one they let go. Then they gathered up her robes and fled towards the path. The blue flames pursued. No one escaped.
Randi rolled over, instinctively wanting to rip apart the woman who hurt her. Her claws ripped the hamstrings behind Agnes' knees, effectively crippling her.
The dagger buried itself in Barker's stomach from the arc of the swing. Ian felt the air hum and crackle. The clay figures holding Jones shattered back into dust.
The banshee let off a scream. All of its different plumes swooped together. It turned to the leather-jacketed man who had fallen to his knees.
Jones looked up at the glowing banshee hovering over him, his face showing fascination, not fear.
"No! Leave him alone! I COMMAND you!" Ian screamed.
The banshee drew back, frustrated. It turned to Ian who was scrambling to his feet. "Get out of here!" Ian commanded. "You've done what you came to do! I command you to LEAVE!"
He flinched as it darted toward him, running in a circle till all he could see was blue flame. He felt claws in his hair and a touch on the back of his neck, and the overwhelming smell of apple-blossoms as it breathed on him. Then with one last fearful scream, it fled up the path with a howl, leaving only the moonlight and flickering candles behind.
"Hardly the way to say, 'thank you'?" Jones called in an interested tone. "Nothing like having a family banshee."
"I thought it was a legend," Ian said feebly. "Fairy godmothers only happen in fairy tales."
"Like werewolves? Watch out!"
The wolf howled as it crouched ready to jump at Indiana. Agnes Barker’s slashed body lay at its feet.
"Randi, no!" Ian screamed.
Jones held out his left hand. It flashed gold light, which reflected on Randi's eyes. The werewolf fell back snarling.
She shook her head. Ian threw himself in front of the older man, his hands outstretched. Randi had never attacked him as a werewolf. Ian prayed that she wouldn't now.
The werewolf growled and loped off out of the clearing, her silver chains clanging in the still air.
In the sudden silence, Ian looked over to see Indiana dusting dirt off his knees, and picking up his whip. The older man straightened up with a grunt.
"Well, now we know what it was about," Ian said tiredly. "Why didn't she attack you, Indiana?"
The older man smiled ruefully and held out his hand with the double¬ bands of gold. "I think my wife had something to do with that. Marion became very fussy in later years about my being touched by anyone but her." He recoiled his whip, and tied it on. "NOW, I understand why your Randi fascinated me, Magic has its own smell."
Ian touched him on the arm. "Is what Barker said true? Have you held the Grail? Seen the Ark of the Covenant? Will you live forever?"
"I drank from the Grail. It didn't give me eternal life. Just prolonged." Indiana said with soft regret. "I've outlived Marian."
"Do you know a cure for a werewolf?" Ian's voice pleaded.
Understanding passed over the older man's face. "No. I wish I did. You'll have to keep searching for that, Ian."
The young man looked at the huddled forms lying motionless, and the fallen candles. "What shall we do about them?"
Jones walked over to one bundle of cloth and gently turned it face up. Mrs. Nicnevin's lips had drawn back in death and her eyes had receded in their sockets, He closed the lids gently. "Let's call the police. Anonymously."
"Not until I find Randi. She turns back into a human at dawn." "Then let's get away from this place. I need a drink."
At sunrise, Randi came out of the woods dressed in some old clothes Ian found at the abandoned dig and left for her. The two men were discussing the dig records and drinking from a bottle found in the small hut along the papers. From Indiana's tone, he didn't think much of the record keeping.
Ian smiled at her as she stepped hesitantly into the building. She couldn't remember what had happened last night. "Ian… "
"Agnes is dead, but not because of you," Ian said reassuringly. "It's all right, Randi."
"Let's go get some breakfast," Jones suggested. "You can tell her what happened on the way down."
Back in town, an anonymous phone call to the authorities brought several carloads of police to Hart Fell.
As he packed, Ian wondered if two nights or three would be charged to his credit card, hut decided to fight that battle later.
Indiana Jones, dressed in a suit, looked every inch the distinguished professor, as he carried his bag out to the small rented car parked next to Ian's.
Randi could still smell magic around him. It was so much a part of the man that he probably didn't even realize it existed. "And where are you headed now, Professor Jones?" Ian asked putting his bag in the car trunk.
The man's hazel eyes sparkled. "A friend in Lesser Britain wants me to come and see the prehistoric caves. They've made a new discovery."
Randi smiled over the car roof. "I wish we had gotten to know each other better, Professor. I wish you were teaching my course."
"I don't think you'll have to worry about passing," Ian said dryly. "Agnes won't be grading the papers."
Indiana tipped his hat to her. "You're both at London University? If I find anything," his tone spoke directly to Ian who knew he meant about the curse, "I'll write you there. Good luck, Ian and Randi."
"Good luck, Professor Jones. Watch out for low-flying banshees," Ian joked. Their gazes met, and Ian thought he had just been approved. Funny how it made him feel very good. It was like passing school with honors. "Take care of yourself," Randi called getting in. Jones smiled at her and she blushed. Ian grinned. Over ninety and still a lady killer.
She leaned over the back seat, still seeing the tweedy figure by the hotel stairs. "Ian? Was he really Henry Jones Jr? Is he really ninety-one?"
"Does he think he can find a cure?"
I wish I had known him better."
"Hadn't you better start thinking of a way to finish that course?"
"Impossible! We just ate!"