Pt.30

"Run!" Derek commanded, shielding himself from the falling stones. All around him, the cave walls shuddered and buckled under the force of the explosion. Philip and Alex followed his command without question, running blindly down the disintegrating corridor towards what they hoped was the cave entrance.

"What about Arkady" Nick called out to his Precept, crouching over the unconscious form on the ground.

"We can't leave him." Derek shouted, though everything in him screamed it was a fitting punishment for this servant of the Darkness. He reached out to help Nick pull the man onto his feet and drape him over Nick's shoulders in a fireman's carry.

The young soldier grimaced as rocks and grit assaulted him as he tried to move quickly with the other's dead weight weighing him down. "Why did I know he was going to say that?" he groused, trying to hurry down the corridor after his friends.

Derek started after his group, then stopped in confusion. The sack he had been holding, the sack which had held the most priceless of Christian artifacts was now no longer with him. Somehow, when the explosion had hit, he lost his hold on it and now it was hidden in caverns darkness. "I can't leave without it." he thought frantically, dropping to his knees to search for it.

"Derek, come on! This cave's going to bury us all if you don't hurry!" Nick's voice called out of the gloom.

Derek ignored his friend's voice, desperate to find the item he had traveled so far to find. As he leaned forward, the chain on which he kept Marianne's token swung forward, its weight reminding him of its presence. He reached down to clasp the arrow in his hand, his mind numb with fatigue and guilt. 'I have failed you, Lady."

"No, you did what we wished you to do." A voice in his head responded. A silvery light seemed to envelope him, covering him with its cool glow. The dust and rocks reflected the glow, dancing in its light until they came together to form an image. An image of a woman in white holding a staff. Marianne's eyes were calm and clear and on her face was a gentle smile. "We never expected you to take the Chalice to the world. Only to stop the representative of the Darkness from taking it from its place of sanctuary. Now we will take it to a place where it will be guarded until the time it may be revealed to the world in safety."

"What must happen now?" Derek asked, afraid to hear the words he knew must come.

"Now you must go home and leave the rest to us." She replied, brushing an errant lock of hair from his eyes.

"Will we meet again?"

"Not even the Immortals know all that Fate has planned for us. But perhaps, one day, you will look across a crowded room and see a pair of familiar eyes. Who can say?" Marianne gently lifted Derek from his knees and set him back on the path. "Time to go."

Derek blinked, startled. "What?" he sputtered, awakened suddenly as though from a dream. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a familiar voice sounded a farewell. Then there was nothing but the rumbling sound of the cavern as it collapsed in on itself. He turned and fled up the still opened path.

--

Alex and Philip reached the cave's entrance first, scrambling up towards the surface as quickly as their tired legs could take them. "Where's Nick and Derek?" Alex exclaimed, peering back into the dark cavern they had just run from.

"They were just behind us." Philip replied, coughing from the dust. "Wait, there's Nick!"

Nick stumbled from the cave, dropping Arkady's body none too gently on the ground in front of him. "Derek was right behind me, then he stopped and went back."

"He'll be buried alive!" Alex exclaimed, trying to dart around her partner to reenter the cave.

"No Alex!" Philip grabbed her as she went by, holding her arm. "Look, there he is!"

Derek stumbled out of the cave just as its roof collapsed. He looked back at the now ruined cavern then at his team. "Is everyone all right?"

"We're fine but why did you take such a risk going back?" Philip asked.

"The chalice. I dropped it when the explosion first hit us. I thought I could find it but…" he looked thoughtfully at the blocked entrance to the Grail's hiding place. "Perhaps it was never meant to be found."

"Then why the hell did our two "friends" go to all this trouble to make sure we found it?" Nick asked, exasperated.

"Maybe to see if mankind were ready to find such a powerful item." Alex offered, looking down at the still form of Arkady. "I guess the answer was no."

"What do we do about him?" Nick nudged the still form with his toe, watching for any signs of life.

"Leave him. The local police will have a few questions for him when he awakens. Right now, I think we need to see if Padre Saenz and Jesus are all right." He started off across the field, his team trailing along behind him. Derek wondered briefly if he should tell them about Marianne's words to him in the cavern, then thought better of it. Her words had been for him alone, something he would carry with him until the next time his soul and hers would meet.

--

Epilogue

Efraim de la Vega, Precept of the Madrid House, paced his underground chamber worriedly. His conversation with Jesus had been brief but to the point. The old man and his cousin, the village priest, had suffered no lasting harm from their brush with darkness, yet Efraim had insisted that his House member take some time to rest and recuperate from his ordeal. The members of the San Francisco House were already on their way back home, having at once found and lost the prize they had come so far to find. Yet Efraim had the feeling that his former student was not so distressed at the loss of the Grail as the loss of his one point of contact with the mysterious Lady who had led him to it.

"I wouldn't worry too much on that score." An amused voice sounded from the doorway. Damien stood bathed in sunlight, no mean feat as they were in an underground cavern. Behind him, Efraim could hear the sound of wolves howling in the distance. "My lady sister has a nasty habit of turning up at the most unexpected times and in the most inconvenient places." Damien tossed a well worn sack to the man with a lazy flick of his wrist.

"What is this?" Efraim asked, though in his soul he knew what the answer must be.

"The Grail, of course. We couldn't leave it under all that rubble. It wouldn't be respectful of the power of the new religion. Take it to the place in Portugal which has been prepared for it. The brethren there know what must be done." The light dimmed slowly as the young man walked back through the doorway.

Efraim looked down at the sack in his hand then quickly found a chest to tuck it into. For a moment he considered simply locking the chalice away until he could arrange for its transport. But the call of his faith was too loud to ignore. Reverently, he placed the sack on top of the chest and slowly unpacked its contents, gazing in awe at the simple item which stood before him. There were no words to express his feelings, gazing down at this small stone cup, a tangible link to his God. He gazed at the chalice for a moment in awe and wonder then reluctantly lifted the trunks lid and gently placed the Grail, sack and all, in its depths. He locked the trunk then started up the stairs to have Miguel book him on the first plane out of the country.

--

Derek sat lost in thought, the private Legacy jet winging its way back to San Francisco. The other members of the team were dozing in their seats, exhausted as much from the emotional farewell the Madrid House had shown them as the adventure itself. For his part, Derek was unsure of how he felt about leaving. On the one hand, he was saddened to know that the Grail would not be proven more than a myth. Yet at the same time, he was glad that Arkady had not been able to defile it with his evil. Still, there was something incomplete about the feel of this adventure, something that was missing. He closed his eyes and surrendered to the wave of vertigo that assaulted him as his Sight took him to another place and another scene…

In the garden of the Luna Foundation mansion, Kat practiced diligently with the bow and arrow set she had managed to get her mother to buy for her. She carefully lined up her shot and released the arrow, taking care not to let the string hit her as it had the first few times she had tried. The slender shaft flew a few feet and buried itself in the grass with the others, none of whom had made it to the target. "I'll never get the hang of this." She thought to herself.

"Sure you will." A pleasant voice replied from behind her. Kat spun around to see a familiar form walk around the corner of the house. Marianne was again dressed in her short white tunic and held her bow firmly in her hands. Behind her were two large gray wolves, each trotting a respectful distance behind her. "You just need practice. And a better bow." She took the plastic bow from the child with a frown then tossed it behind her. "I'm sure if you look behind you there will be something much better that you can use."

Kat turned and gasped in delight. A small wooden bow stood propped against the target, a quiver of colorful arrows draped beside it. She ran and took up her new toy, running gentle fingers over its well carved form. "It's beautiful!"

"Take great care of your weapon child and it will take great care of you. Now come and I will show you how to use it for I have not much time here."

"You're leaving?" Kat asked, sadly.

"Not for long and not for forever. Just for now. But let us worry about such parting later. For now, let's see if you can learn to make this bow hum." She enveloped the child in an affectionate hug then led her back to where the wolves were waiting. Her melodious laugh was soon joined by the child's voice as a friendship was cemented and a alliance was formed.

Derek opened his eyes slowly, a smile crossing his handsome face. His heart was lighter now, content in the realization that he and his Legacy family would continue to bask in the attention and love of his Lady Huntress. He fingered the arrow pendant around his neck as he drifted off to peaceful sleep, dreaming of a sylvan glade and a woman's laughter heard over the sound of hunting horns.