There were times that Emery wondered if he was really seeing the events of the past or if he was actually letting his imagination run wild. He had been having visions since the fateful day that he and his brother had found the little birds not long ago. He looked around the peaceful seeming garden and then scampered out as fast as his legs would take him.

“Brother!” Miles shouted as he bounded out of the library building. “I thought we were meeting in the garden.”

Emery shook his head and flopped down on a convenient patch of grass. When Miles had settled beside him, he leaned in close and said, “I was… seeing things in there.”

Miles’ eyes grew wide for a moment, but he nodded and tilted his head inquisitively. “What sort of things?” he asked.

“It was… weird. There was some kind of… some kind of ritual. Maybe a series of rituals,” Emery replied. He looked away and continued, “It started out… the people were dressed… old fashioned, like something out of a storybook. Then they were dressed… like from the time of the resettlement… then more recent… until they were dressed like us.”

Miles settled back and took out a notebook. “What sort of ritual was it, Brother,” he asked.

Emery chuckled at the critical look. Miles struck him as a detective from one of those novels he’d read from Michelle’s collection. “Well,” he said. “There was a sort of platform – which changed with their clothes – and someone in a long white robe would be laid back on it. Everyone around them would sort of… chant and dance around them. There was this… glow and then the person on the platform would be standing up, with the glow sort of… covering them, like a mantle.” He caught Miles staring at him and broke off. “What?” he said.

“The way you were talking, Brother… it was almost like you weren’t even here. Are you alright? Are you dizzy or anything?”

The concern in Miles’ voice made Emery blush. He hated worrying the younger boy. “I’m fine,” he said, perhaps a bit more sharply than he’d intended. “While I was telling you about it… I saw it again. Seeing it… describing it… I guess I got a little spacey.”

“Alright,” Miles said. He was watching Emery through critical eyes now and Emery knew he was looking for any signs of the illness that periodically would strike his older brother. He nodded when Emery returned his gaze with no sign of hesitation. “What happened then?” he asked.

Emery nodded and closed his eyes, once more viewing what had happened in the garden seemingly countless times. “The people who’d been dancing and chanting – the ones not wearing the white robe; they were in the clothes that varied – were sitting on the ground, almost dazed. The one on the platform stepped down and walked around touching each of their shoulders in turn and… he would say something and the people… Miles, I think… I think he killed them. He drew something out of them and… they collapsed to the ground. I felt… they stopped breathing.”

“Brother!” Miles said sharply. When Emery broke off again, staring at him in shock, he said softly, “You were… you seemed to be having trouble breathing. Let’s go tell one of the professors, please?”

“Alright, Miles,” Emery replied. He stood slowly, as he always did, not wanting to set off a dizzy spell. Then they were running across the fields toward the administrative building. Miles was almost dragging Emery as they got to the bottom of the steps. They ran up the steps, holding hands.

Emery ended up leading the way to the teacher’s lounge. Miles had never been to the room before but he’d been called there when they’d found the birds. He peeked into the room and was pleased to see Professor Cain. “Hi,” he greeted. “Professor Cain? Can we have a moment?”

“Of course,” the older man said. He walked over to the boys and led them down the corridor to his own office. “Please, have a seat,” he invited. “Tell me what brings you inside on such a fine free-day.”

“Emery… um… um,” Miles started.

“I saw… a vision of something in the alder garden – the one with all the trees and the stone benches. Miles and I were supposed to meet there to talk about the project for theoretical geometrics,” Emery stated. He looked up at the professor to gauge what the man thought. Most mages didn’t have visions. He knew it was beyond the norm. “At least… I think it was a vision. I saw one when we found the birds too – just a short one.”

“Alright,” Professor Cain said softly. “What did you see?”

“There was a sort of ritual – or several of the same rituals repeated over time – people chanting and dancing around a central figure on a platform. There was a glow that surrounded him and then he… touched the people and they… died,” Emery said. This time he was relieved to find that he didn’t see the vision again and he didn’t seem to have any breathing difficulties.

“When he was telling me about it… he seemed to be… his mind seemed to be elsewhere and when he told me about the deaths, he seemed to be having trouble breathing,” Miles said. “That’s why… Professor, did that happen there?”

“It might have,” the older mage replied. “The description reminds me of a ceremony of energy exchange that I read about once – though usually no one dies. I’m not denying the accuracy of what you saw in your vision, Emery,” he added quickly. “I’d like you boys to let me look into this. Meanwhile, stay out of that garden, Emery. We don’t need you to have any more breathing difficulties on top of your condition.”

“Yes, sir,” the boys chorused. They bowed and left the room. Miles frowned as he noticed that the route that they were taking was leading back toward the library.

“Emery?” he murmured.

“Professor Cain said that he’d read about that… energy exchange ritual. Maybe we can research it a little, find out more about it,” Emery replied.

“Brother, he said he’d take care of it,” Miles pointed out, even as he followed Emery into the next building and up the steps to the library stacks.

“He said not to go back to the garden,” Emery said slyly. “He didn’t say anything about not finding out for ourselves what happened.”

“He said that he’d take care of it,” Miles repeated. “That implies that we aren’t to interfere.”

“We aren’t interfering,” Emery hissed back. He slipped into a set of stacks that was reserved for seniors and professors. He looked through the titles, hoping something would jump out at him. When nothing did, he turned and headed down to the front desk.

“Brother,” Miles started before Emery shushed him into silence.

When they arrived at the front desk, Emery smiled at the reference librarian and said, “We’re doing a project about magical rituals and the teacher assigned us to research energy sharing, do you know a good reference on that?”

Miles frowned as the librarian led the way to the stacks. Soon she had taken down several books and pointed out the chapters and sections that would be most useful for his project. Emery bowed his thanks as the woman left them at a carrel with the books.

“Brother,” Miles hissed. “Professor Cain said not to interfere.”

“I already told you, I’m not interfering. I’m curious,” Emery snapped. “Curiosity is a good thing in a mage, Dad always said.”

“Because he was a research mage,” Miles snapped back. He sighed and looked over Emery’s shoulder when there was no reply, curious in spite of himself. “What is it?”

“That’s what I saw,” Emery whispered. He was pointing at an image in the book he had open. The image was similar to what he’d described, however, all of the figures in the image wore white robes. “The Brotherhood of the White Circle,” he read. “They gather energy from their subordinates each full moon. There’s a legend that they gather energy from outsiders when there’s a full lunar eclipse.”

“That’s what you saw,” Miles whispered back. “The legend’s… it’s true? They… kill people when they draw energy from outsiders.”

“So that it remains a legend,” Emery said. “That’s scary.” He collected the books and set them on the book cart before he headed to the front desk to check out the book he’d seen the image of the ceremony in.

Emery read the book late into the night. Miles changed for bed and turned off the light when the announcement when out that it was lights out. “Good night, Brother,” he called, knowing that his brother was asleep.

It seemed like much later that Emery woke to a dark and quiet room. He pushed the book aside and sat up, rubbing his eyes. He was about to change into his pajamas when the sound of chanting drew his attention. He stood and walked over to the window to look out. There below their room was a line of people chanting and walking toward the alder garden. He fought the urge to join them, but then slipped down the stairs to follow and see what they were doing.

He found the chanting group as they reached their destination. They surrounded a man who lay on a platform. They continued to chant as they began to circle the platform. “They’re performing the energy sharing ritual,” he whispered.

The chanting reached a climax and Emery closed his eyes as a flash of light nearly blinded him. When he looked up the man on the platform was standing and the others were collapsed onto the ground. He walked around the circle, touching people and draining them fully, just as he’d seen in his vision. When he reached the opposite side of the circle, their eyes met.

Suddenly the man was standing over Emery. The younger mage cried out as the man’s hand came down on top of his wrist. He could feel the energy draining out of him, then there was another bright flash of light and he opened his eyes to see his brother’s concerned face looming over him. With a startled cry, he pushed the younger boy away.

“Brother?” Miles said, tilting his head in concern. “You were having a nightmare. Are you alright?”

“Ye-yeah,” he managed after a moment. He sat up and pushed the book he’d been reading away. “I guess the… stories in the book and the… um, the vision I had yesterday combined in my mind and made a nightmare.”

“What’s this on your wrist?” Miles asked, pointing at him. Emery looked down and his eyes widened. There on his wrist was the unmistakable imprint of a hand. “Brother?” Miles prompted.

“I… don’t know,” Emery murmured. He stood and gathered up a clean uniform to change into before heading to the shower-room to prepare for the day. Just before he left he caught his brother’s concerned look. “I’ll ask Professor Cain about it,” he promised.

Emery didn’t manage to talk to Professor Cain until after holyday services. “Professor,” he called as the older man made his way down the steps of the church. When he paused, Emery looked up at him. He held up his wrist and said, “I was dreaming about this and it happened,” he said.

“Come with me,” the man said, his face unreadable. Emery waved a hand at Miles, indicating that his brother should go on ahead and followed the older man down the road. Professor Cain led the way into what seemed to be a bookstore.

“Welcome,” the proprietor greeted.

“Thank you,” Professor Cain replied. “The boy and I would like to use your private room.” With a wave from the shopkeeper, the professor headed through a narrow door. Emery had no choice but to follow.

“Sir?” he asked.

Professor Cain pushed the door shut and then rounded on Emery so fast the boy sprung back into the wall. “You’ve been researching the energy sharing ritual, haven’t you?” When Emery didn’t reply right away, he repeated, “Haven’t you!”

“Yes!” Emery shouted back. He quieted as he continued, “I’m… my father was a researcher. He fostered a curiosity in us. I’m sorry!” This last he said with tears starting in his eyes as his favorite teacher glared at him in disgust. “I’m sorry, professor. Please don’t be mad. Miles told me not to… I should have let you – ”

“Yes, you should have,” the man said firmly. “It’s very dangerous to interfere with things that you don’t understand, Emery. You have touched something – someone who is very dangerous and now they know of it.”

“It… wasn’t just a dream, was it?” Emery said softly. “He… He knows I saw him? Will he come after me?”

“Not if I can help it,” Professor Cain stated. “What I’m going to do now is a ritual to sever the connection that you formed through both your vision and what occurred last night.”
“Is… Miles in danger?” Emery asked, his voice hardly audible.

Professor Cain met his eyes and shook his head. “Stand right there,” he said, directing Emery to a place at the center of the room. When Emery was in place, he began to chant and trace symbols in the air.

Emery felt the protective symbols settle over and around him like a ring. Something seemed to break away and when he glanced at his wrist, the marks were gone like they’d never been. He looked up as Professor Cain lowered his wand. With a deep bow, Emery murmured his thanks.

“Next time I tell you to let me take care of something, Emery Ballard, I expect you’ll listen,” Professor Cain said firmly. Emery nodded, his eyes wide.