The Power (Chapter Eleven)

From the start, this dream was clearer than the others. Or maybe it was Cassie that was clearer; more calm, more aware of what was happening. Saltwater slapped her face; she swallowed some. It was so cold she couldn't feel her hands or feet.

Going down. She was going to drown . . . but not die. With the last of her will she sent her spirit to the place prepared for it… to the skull on the island. Some of her power had been left in the skull already; now she herself would go to join it. And someday, when the time was right, when enough of her body diffused through the sea and washed up on the island, she would live again.

Good dreams, I wanted good dreams, Cassie thought frantically as the water closed over her head.

A shifting …

Sunlight blinded her.

"You and Kate may go play in the garden," the kind voice said.

Yes. She'd made it. She was here.

The garden was in back. Cassie turned to the back door.

"Jacinth! What have you forgotten?"

Cassie paused, confused. She had no idea. The tall woman in Puritan dress was looking down at the floor. There, on the clean pine boards, lay the red leather Book of Shadows. Cassie remembered now; it had dropped off her lap when she stood up.

"I'm sorry, Mother." The word came so naturally to her lips. And her eyes had adjusted –  but she couldn't figure out where the book was supposed to go. Somewhere special . . . where? Then she saw the loose brick in the fireplace.

"Much better," the tall woman said, as Cassie slid the book into the hole and plugged it up with the brick. "Always remember, Jacinth: we must never grow careless. Not even here in New Salem, where all our neighbors are our own kind. Now run along to the garden."

Kate was already going out the door. In the sunshine outside, Cassie noticed that Kate's hair was just the color of Diana's: not really gold, but a paler color like pure light. Kate's eyes were golden too, like sunshine. She was altogether a golden girl.

"Sky and sea, keep harm from me," she laughed, twirling, looking over the herb bushes to the blue expanse of the ocean beyond the cliff. There was no wall in this time – it hadn't been built yet. Then she darted forward to pick something.

"Just smell this lavender," she said, holding out a bunch to Cassie. "Isn't it sweet?"

But Cassie was hovering by the open door. Two other people had come into the kitchen; Kate's mother and father, she guessed. They were talking in low, urgent voices.

"… news just came. The ship went down," the man was saying.

There was an exclamation of joy and surprise from Jacinth's mother. "Then he is dead!"

The man shook his head, but Cassie didn't hear the next few words. She was afraid to be caught listening and sent away. ". . . the skull . . ." she heard, and "… can never tell. . . come back …"

"And this jasmine," Kate was singing. "Isn't it wonderful?" Cassie wanted to tell her to shut up.

Then she heard words that raised the hair on her arms, even in the hot sunshine. ". . . hide them," Kate's mother was saying. "But where?"

That was it. Where, where? If this dream had any meaning, it was to tell Cassie this. Kate was trying to put an arm around her waist, to get her to smell the jasmine, but Cassie grabbed her hand to hold her still and strained to listen.

The adults were arguing softly: exclamations of worry and disagreement came to Cassie's ears. "Could we not … ?" "No, not there . . ." "But where, then?" "Oh, mercy, my bread is burning!"

And then, soft laughter. "Of course! We should have thought of it earlier."

Where? Fending Kate off, Cassie twisted to try and look into the kitchen.

"Jacinth, what's wrong with you?" Kate cried. "You're not listening to a word I'm saying. Jacinth, look at me!"

Desperately, Cassie stared into the dark kitchen. It was too dark. The dream was fading.

No. She had to hang on to it. She had to see the end. Grandmother, help me, she thought. Help me see …


Darker and darker –

Long skirts rustling, moving out of the way. And just a glimpse …

"The old hiding place," Jacinth's mother said in a satisfied voice. "Until they are needed again."

Darkness took Cassie.

She woke confused.

At first, she couldn't remember what she'd been looking for in the dream. She remembered the dream, though. Who was Jacinth? An ancestress? One of her great-great-great-great-great-grandmothers, she supposed. And Kate?

Then she remembered her purpose.

The Master Tools. The members of the first coven had hidden them from Black John, because they'd known he might come back. Cassie had gone into the dream to find out where, and she had succeeded.

She'd wondered why Black John had come after her grandmother the night he was released. Not just for the Book of Shadows, she realized now; not just because he'd known her mother and grandmother before. He'd wanted something else from her grandmother. He'd wanted the Master Tools.

But her grandmother hadn't known where they were. Cassie felt sure that if she had, the old woman would have told Cassie. All her grandmother had known was that her own grandmother, Cassie's great-great-grandmother, had told her the fireplace was a good place to hide things. And now, because of the dream, Cassie knew that the loose brick had already been a hiding place in Jacinth's time.

But there had only been one loose brick, and nothing but the Book of Shadows had been stored behind it. Cassie knew that, and she knew that the original coven had been looking for a long-term solution, a place to put the Master Tools "until they were needed" by some future generation. Not just a loose brick, then. Cassie thought about the glimpse of the hearth she'd gotten between the women's skirts in the last second of her dream. The fireplace had been a different shape than it was in modern days.

Cassie lay for a few moments in the velvet darkness. Then she rolled over and gently shook Diana's shoulder.

"Diana, wake up. I know where the Master Tools are."

They woke Adam by throwing pebbles at his window. The three of them went to Number Twelve armed with a pickax, a sledgehammer, several regular hammers and screwdrivers, a crowbar, and Raj. The German shepherd trotted happily along beside Cassie, looking as if this kind of expedition in the wee hours was just what he liked.

The waning moon was high overhead when they got to Cassie's grandmother's house. Inside, it seemed even colder than outside, and there was a stillness about the place that dampened Cassie's enthusiasm.

"There," she whispered, pointing to the left side of the hearth, where bricks had been added since the time of her dream. "That's where it's different. That's where they must have bricked them up."

"Too bad we don't have a jackhammer," Adam said cheerfully, picking up the crowbar. He seemed undisturbed by the chill and the silence, and in the sickly artificial light of the kitchen his hair gleamed just the color of the garnets in Diana's pouch. Raj sat beside Cassie, his black and tan tail whisking across the kitchen floor. Looking at the two of them made Cassie feel better.

It took a long time. Cassie grazed her knuckles helping to chip the ancient mortar away, using a screwdriver like a chisel. But at last the bricks began to drop onto the cold ashes of the hearth, as one after another was pried out. Each was a different color; some red, some orange, some almost purple-black.

"There's definitely something in here," Adam said, reaching inside the hole they'd made. "But we'll have to get rid of a few more bricks to get it out…. There!" He started to reach again, then looked at Cassie. "Why don't you do the honors? It's okay, there's nothing alive inside."

Cassie, who didn't want to encounter a three-hundred-year-old cockroach, nodded at him gratefully. She reached inside and her hand closed on something smooth and cool. It was so heavy she had to use both hands to lift it out.

"A document box," Diana whispered, when Cassie set the thing on the floor in front of the fireplace. It looked like a treasure chest to Cassie, a little treasure chest made of leather and brass. "People used them to store important documents in the 1600s," Diana went on. "We got Black John's papers and things out of one like it. Go on, Cassie, open it."

Cassie looked at her, then at Adam leaning on his pickax, his face decorated with soot. Her fingers trembled as she opened the little box.

What if she'd been wrong? What if it wasn't the Master Tools in here at all, but only some old documents? What if –

Inside the box, looking fresh and untouched as if they'd been buried yesterday, were a diadem, a bracelet, and a garter.

"Oh," breathed Diana.

Cassie knew the diadem that the Circle always used was silver. The one in the box was silver too, but it looked softer, somehow; more heavy and rich, with a deeper luster. Both it and the bracelet looked crafted; there was nothing machine-made about them. Every stroke of the bracelet's inscriptions, every intricate twist of the diadem's circlet, showed an artist's hand. The leather of the garter was supple, and instead of one silver buckle, it had seven. It was heavy in Cassie's hand.

Wordlessly, Diana reached out one finger to trace the crescent moon of the diadem.

"The Master Tools," Adam said quietly. "After all that searching, they were right here under our noses."

"So much power," Diana whispered. "I'm surprised they sat here so quietly. I'd have thought they'd be kicking up a psychic disturbance – " She broke off and looked at Cassie. "Didn't you say something about it being hard to sleep here?"

"Creaks and rattles all night long," Cassie said, and then she met Diana's eyes. "Oh. You mean – you think …"

"I don't think it was the house settling," Diana said briefly. "Tools this powerful can make all sorts of strange things happen."

Cassie shut her eyes, disgusted with herself. "How could I have been so stupid? It was so simple. I should have guessed – "

"Everything's always simple in hindsight," Adam said dryly. "Nobody guessed where the tools were, not even Black John. Which reminds me: I don't think we'd better tell Faye anything about this."

The two girls looked at him, then Diana nodded slowly. "She told Black John about the amethyst. I'm afraid you're right; she can't be trusted."

"I don't think we should tell anyone" Cassie said. "Not yet, anyway. Not until we decide what we're going to do with them. The fewer people who know about this, the safer we are."

"Right," said Adam. He began replacing the bricks in the fireplace. "If we leave everything looking fairly normal, and find a good place to hide that box before morning, no one should ever know we've found them."

"Here." Cassie dropped the garter back in the chest and put the chest into Diana's hands. "Faye's got the other ones; these are yours."

"They belong to the coven leader – "

"The coven leader is a jerk," Cassie said. "These are yours, Diana. I found them and I say so."

Adam turned from his brick-replacing, and the three of them looked at each other in the light of the cold, quiet kitchen. They were all dirty; even Diana's beautiful cheekbones bore gray smudges. Cassie was still sore and exhausted from what had been one of the longest and most horrible days in her life. But at that moment she felt a warmth and closeness that swept the pain and fatigue away. They were – connected, all three of them. They were part of each other. And tonight they had won. They had triumphed.

If Diana hadn't forgiven us, where would we be? Cassie wondered, as she looked down at the hearth again.

I'm glad you're the one who has him; I really am, she thought then. Glancing up, she saw that Diana had tears in her eyes, almost as if she knew what Cassie was thinking.

"AH right. I'll accept them for now – until it's time to use them," Diana said.

"This is finished," Adam said. They gathered up their tools and left the house.

It was when they were driving back to Adam's that they saw the silhouette beside the road.

"Black John," Cassie hissed, stiffening.

"I don't think so," Adam said, pulling over. "Too little. In fact, I think it's Sean."

It was Sean. He was dressed in jeans and a pajama top and he looked very sleepy.

"What's going on?" he said, his small black eyes darting under heavy lids. "I saw a light over at Cassie's house, and then I saw a car coming out of the driveway … I thought you guys were Black John."

"It was brave of you to come out alone," Cassie said, remembering her vow to be kinder to Sean, and pushing away a flicker of uneasiness. Diana and Adam were consulting each other with their eyes, and Sean was looking from their dirty faces to the tools on the jeep's floor, to the hump under Adam's jacket.

"I think we'd better tell him," Diana said. Cassie hesitated – they'd agreed not to tell anyone – but there didn't seem to be any choice.

She nodded slowly, reluctantly.

So Sean climbed in the back and was sworn to secrecy. He was excited about the Master Tools, but Adam wouldn't let him touch them.

"We're going to find somewhere to hide them now," Adam said. "You'd better go back to bed; we'll see you tomorrow."

"Okay." Sean climbed out again. He started to shut the door, then stopped, looking at Cassie. "Oh, hey – you know that stuff about Black John being your father? Well, uh, I just wanted to say – it's okay by me. I mean, you should see my father. That's all." He slammed the door and scuttled off.

Cassie felt her throat swell, tears stinging behind her eyes. She'd forgotten about Adam having told them all; she'd have to face the rest of the Circle in the morning. But for now, Sean had made her feel glad and humble.

I've really got to be nicer to him in the future, she thought.

They hid the tools in Adam's cellar. "As long as we don't use them nobody should be able to trace them," Diana said. "That's what Melanie and I decided, anyway. But they're dangerous, Adam. It's risky to have them." She looked at him soberly.

"Then let somebody besides you two take a little risk," he said gently. "For once."

Cassie went to bed for the second time that night, tired but triumphant. She put the moonstone back on the dresser; she'd had enough dreams for now. She wondered if she'd ever see Kate again.

"I don't care if her father's Adolph Hitler." Deborah's voice, never soft, rang out clearly from downstairs. Cassie stood just inside the door of Diana's room, hanging on to the doorjamb. "What's it got to do with Cassie?"

"We know, Deborah, but hush, can't you?" That was Melanie, a good deal more modulated, but still audible.

"Why don't we just go upstairs an' get her?" Doug said reasonably, and Chris added, "I don't think she's ever comin' down."

"She's probably scared to death of all of you," Laurel scolded, sounding like a cub-scout den mother with a recalcitrant pack on her hands. "Suzan, those muffins are for her."

"Are you sure they're oat bran? They taste like dirt," Suzan said calmly.

"You've got to go down sometime," Diana said from behind Cassie.

Cassie nodded, leaning her forehead briefly against the cool wall by the door. The one voice she hadn't heard belonged to the one she was most worried about – Nick. She squared her shoulders, picked up her backpack, and made her legs move. Now I know how it feels to walk out to face the firing squad, she thought.

The entire Circle – except Faye – was gathered at the foot of the stairs, gazing up expectantly. Suddenly Cassie felt more like a bride descending the staircase than a prisoner. She was glad she was wearing clean jeans and a cashmere sweater Diana had loaned her, dyed in soft swaths of blue and violet.

"Hi, Cassie," Chris said. "So I hear –  yeeouch!" He staggered sideways from Laurel's kick.

"Here, Cassie," Laurel said sweetly. "Have a muffin."

"Don't," Suzan whispered in Cassie's ear.

"I picked these for you," Doug said, thrusting a handful of damp greenery at her. He peered at it doubtfully. "I think they're daisies. They looked better before they died."

"Want to ride to school on my bike?" Deborah said.

"No, she doesn't want to ride to school on your bike. She's going with me." Nick, who had been sitting on the wooden deacon's bench in the hallway, stood up.

Cassie had been afraid to look him in the face, but now she couldn't help it. He looked cool, unruffled as always, but in the depths of his mahogany eyes there was a warmth that was for her alone. In taking her backpack, his strong, deft fingers squeezed her hand, once.

That was when she knew it was going to be all right.

Cassie looked around at the Club. "You all – I don't know what to say. Thank you." She looked at Adam, who had made them understand. "Thank you."

He shrugged, and only someone who knew him well would have noticed the pain at the edge of his smile. His eyes were dark as storm clouds with some repressed emotion. "Anytime," he said, as Nick started to steer her to the door.

On the way, Cassie glanced back at Doug. "What happened to your/ace?"

"He's always been that ugly," Chris assured her.

"It was the fight," Doug said, touching his black eye with something like pride. "But you should see the other fifty guys," he yelled after her.

"Are we all in trouble for fighting?" Cassie asked Nick, outside.

"Nah – they don't know who started it. They'd have to punish the whole school."

Which, as it turned out, the principal did. The Thanksgiving football game was canceled, and there was a good deal of ill feeling among the students. Cassie just prayed nobody found out where the ill feeling ought to be directed.

"Can we keep things quiet until Thanksgiving vacation next week?" Diana asked at lunch. Cassie and Adam were the only ones who knew exactly why she wanted things kept quiet – so they'd have time to decide how best to use the Master Tools – but the others agreed to try. No one except Doug and Deborah was really interested in more fighting at the moment.

"I'm afraid, though. I'm afraid he'll come after us anyway. He could have the hall monitors pick us up for no reason," Cassie said to Diana afterward.

It didn't happen. A strange peace, a sort of bizarre tranquility, engulfed New Salem High. As if everyone were waiting, but no one knew what for.

"Don't go alone," Diana said. "Wait a minute and I'll go with you."

"I know exactly where the book is," Cassie said. "I won't be in the house more than a minute." She'd been meaning to lend Le Morte D'Arthur to Diana for a long time. It was one of her favorite books, and her grandmother had a beautiful copy from 1906. "I can pick up some dried sage for the stuffing while I'm at it," she said.

"No I don't. Don't do anything extra; just come back as quick as you can," Diana said, pushing a strand of damp hair off her forehead with the back of a greasy hand. They'd been having a strenuous but rather interesting time, trying to stuff a Thanksgiving turkey.

"Okay." Cassie drove to Number Twelve. They were late with the turkey; the sun was low in the sky.

Just in and out, Cassie told herself as she hurried through the door. She found the book on a shelf in the library and tucked it under her arm. She wasn't really uneasy – the last week had been so quiet. The Circle had celebrated Suzan's birthday undisturbed two days ago, on the twenty-fourth.

You see, I told you, she thought to Diana as she came out of the house. Nothing to worry abou –

She saw the car, a gray BMW, sitting beside her grandmother's white Rabbit. In that split second, she was already starring to act, to jump back through the doorway, but she never got the chance. A rough hand clapped over her mouth and she was dragged away.