Crossover with Angel, sort of. Actually it's a crossover with Wolfram and Hart, the evil law firm, before Angel took it over. This is about the fifth re-write of this story (posted to my LJ a couple of months back), and it happened to match up with this challenge. Eventually there will be more, but my claim is that this is a stand-alone, and I am sticking to that claim.
watched carefully, dividing his attention between Holland and the bank of video
monitors on the wall. He knew that something important was about to happen
although he couldn't see what could possibly be of such interest in the man
waiting in the lobby. But Holland's eyes were hungry as he watched the monitor
that showed the restless young man.
"You said this was a simple will. Why didn't you kick this meeting downstairs to Estates? Does the bequest involve an item of great value or power?"
bequests are of simple monetary value to anyone but the intended
beneficiary." Holland pushed a file folder across the table, keeping his
hold on a small velvet sack. To one side of the table was a companion piece, a
large, soft-sided package, wrapped in the same velvet and bound with coarse
Lindsey picked the folder up and read through. "I donít understand. This estate probated almost thirty years ago - why are we disbursing assets now?"
"The will required that the beneficiary not be notified until he is within six months of majority."
"But the legal age of majority is 21."
"Yes," Holland said with a faint smile, "that is the age of majority -- for humans."
looked back at the main monitor. The man waiting for them seemed human.
Mid-to-late twenties, long curly brown hair pulled back into a ponytail,
well-worn but clean jeans, no-brand dark blue polo shirt and a light-weight
denim jacket. Slung over one shoulder was a battered leather backpack, and he
betrayed his nerves by repetitively clenching and releasing the shoulder strap
of the backpack.
"He doesn't look particularly different."
The corners of Holland's mouth tugged upward. "Appearances, Lindsey, aren't what matter here. He may not look like much to us," he gestured at the monitors, "but look: all of the Wardens know he's here." The video monitors showed the cells of the mages that Wolfram and Hart used to cast spells and protections. All of the Wardens were standing, their hooded heads tilted up as though they could see to the lobby from their sub-basement cells. It was impressive and creepy and Lindsey tried not to shiver.
Holland flipped the intercom toggle. "Tessa, please show Dr. Sandburg in." He turned off the bank of monitors, except for the main lobby monitor, and stood at the foot of the conference table. Lindsey moved to stand at his left hand.
doors opened and Tessa ushered the client in. "Thank you, Tessa," he
said reaching out to shake the client's hand and gently pulling him out of her
grasp. "That will be all for now." Holland smiled and gestured him
into a seat, which he sank gratefully down into. "It's a pleasure to meet
you, Dr. Sandburg. I'm Holland Manners and this is my associate, Lindsey
"Uhhh, yes," he said, half-rising to shake each offered hand in turn. "Look, I'm sorry, but -- your representative in Cascade said something about a benefactor and a bequest, but, really, I'm sure some mistake has been made, and you want some other Sandburg."
Holland sat down across from him and Lindsey remained standing. "Your name is Blair Jacob Sandburg and your mother is Naomi Ruth Sandburg. You are a consultant with the Cascade police department and an associate professor of anthropology at Rainier University. You have done field work in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, studying tribal warriors and watchmen, although your dissertation was on a completely different topic." Lindsey watched as Sandburg shifted uncomfortably and filed that fact about him away for future reference.
"You've got a pretty impressive file on me; everything but my birthday," he said with a nervous smile.
"Oh, we know your birthdate but we have something better. We know when you were conceived."
Sandburg chuckled. "Oh, that is a nice trick, considering that my mother isn't even sure."
"Ah, but your father was. You were conceived on the Day of Soul Crossing in the year 5,000 by the Tirza calendar. Or, by our calendar, October 31, 1968 - and nine months later would have been June or July of 1969, matching up with your actual birth on the eve of the summer solstice, June 21, 1969."
father? The Tirza calendar?" Sandburg shook his head, clearly
trying to decide which line of inquiry he wanted to follow first. "The
Tirza were a mythical race of demon mages from the Euphrates Valley. There are
stories about them in Babylonian legends - an evil race of demons with glowing
eyes who terrorized the population until Sargon of Agade raised the armies of
Sumer, Akkad and Ur under the banners of the goddess Tiamat and wiped them off
the face of the earth." Sandburg raised an eyebrow as if daring Holland to
say that he was wrong. "I do teach Intro to Ancient Myth and Legend, you
"That myth is half of your heritage, Mr. Sandburg. Your father was the late Baladan Mardach of the First Tirza House and your line stretches back to the beginnings of the Tirza race."
"Oh, come on. You can't believe this." He jumped out of the chair and paced the room, hands gesticulating. "I don't believe this. My father was probably one of my mother's fellow students at UC Berkeley. Naomi came from a very conservative Jewish family on the east coast and she was enjoying her freedom her first time away from home, partied a little too much, and then had to drop out of school when she found out she was pregnant."
"Mr. Sandburg," Holland said gently, "we here at Wolfram Hart are very sure of our facts. And the fact is that Baladan Mardach was your father."
"Look, this has been very interesting, but I think I've heard enough and we've wasted enough of our time here. I knew coming here was a bad idea, even before Jim said so. And I wouldn't even be here if my department chair at Rainier hadn't asked me to come to LA to pick up an artifact for him from the Museum of Natural History."
"Yes. Quite a fortunate coincidence, was it not?"
Sandburg turned at Holland's bland tone and studied him. "Are you saying it wasn't a coincidence?"
"Donít you believe in kismet? You're a man of the world, you've seen the role that fate and chance play in every culture; accept who and what you are and become one of the shapers of fate rather than suffer the whim of fate."
"Not that you don't have a fascinating imagination, man," He picked up the backpack he had dropped while pacing, "but I've heard enough here. And you," he said, stopping in front of Lindsey, "should really be thinking about talking to the senior partners about your boss's mental health."
managed to stop the shudder the inadvertently chosen phrase caused.
"Holland is never wrong -- and, Dr. Sandburg, the estate is extensive:
real estate, financial instruments and," he leaned in for emphasis,
"some very rare and priceless ancient artifacts."
Sandburg's face had shown only distaste until Lindsey mentioned the artifacts. "Artifacts? And I suppose these artifacts are supposed to show that the Tirza actually existed? That demons existed?"
"We aren't anthropologists or researchers, Dr. Sandburg; we're just lawyers, executing the estate according to the deceased's wishes." Lindsey watched with amusement as Holland reeled his fish in, one tiny tug on the line at a time. "It's not our place to determine the authenticity or the value of the artifacts, we leave that to people like you, who are far more qualified."
Holland opened the small velvet pouch and removed a silver bracelet. It was a wide cuff bracelet with inlaid gold designs of repeating symbols. There were five small faceted gems inlaid in the bracelet, all of them sparkling in the light. The inner surface of the bracelet was deeply engraved with small symbols, partly worn, rubbed off against the original wearer's skin.
Sandburg's eyes widened as he looked at the bracelet, and he reached out to touch it, hesitating just before his hand closed around it. "This looks like a very good copy of an ancient design - impressive workmanship, very authentic details. Unfortunately, I am not an expert on languages, so I can't translate the symbols. Did your client travel? It's possible he purchased this in Iraq or Iran -- maybe even Syria. It's probably a copy of a museum piece." He turned it in his hands, over and over. "But it's beautiful."
"And it belong to you, Dr. Sandburg," Holland whispered silkily.
Sandburg stared at the designs on the bracelet. "It's beautiful, and it feels.. it feels..." He shook his head. "I can't -- I shouldn't take it..."
his words, he slipped the bracelet on his wrist. Lindsey kept his face
impassive as he watched the cuff reshape itself, flattening and smoothing, to a
seamless, closed band. There was a momentary flash of light and the inlaid
designs flared with color and movement, the light reflecting back as Dr.
Sandburg's eyes glowed the same molten gold as the symbols. Then the light
vanished and the cuff became simple etched metal again. It took Sandburg's eyes
longer to return back to their earlier blue.
Holland smiled with deep satisfaction, and used a pair of scissors to cut the cords that bound the larger package. He unwrapped the velvet cover and picked up the top object, a heavy, leather-bound book.
Sandburg sat as if dazed, staring at the bracelet. He blinked and shook his head, looking up as Holland spoke loudly. "You must look at this book," Holland pushed it toward him. "Our librarian glanced at it and said she couldn't even begin to guess how old it is."
Reverently, Sandburg reached for the book. Lindsey couldn't tell if it was respect for all old books or this specific book. He opened the pages cautiously, being as gentle with the bindings and paper as he could. "Ah, damn," he finally whispered. "I don't even recognize the language this is written in. But this book is old -- very old -- an original and priceless document. Your librarian probably already told you this, but this book should be kept in a carefully climate-controlled vault and probably," he said ruefully, closing the book as gently as he could, "no one should be allowed to touch it without using special equipment."
"Very true, Miss Winters did mention that. I am sure Rainier University has the facilities to properly protect valuable documents."
"Yes, we have an excellent document preservation and restoration lab. But I won't be taking the book back with me. As I have said several times, there is some kind of mistake--"
Holland gesture toward the other item in the package. "There is a third object, perhaps you'd care to examine it?"
Lindsey watched the brief stand-off between Sandburg's conscience and his curiosity as it played across his expressive face. Finally, with a small sigh, he reached for the package, lifting the item inside and spreading it out on the table. "It's a ceremonial cape." He smoothed it out, displaying the back and sides of the cape. "It's amazing," he said, looking at the ornately drawn designs running across the surface of the cape: animals, plants, constellations, a panopoly of the seasons and the hunts. "It has such an interesting texture, so well-tanned. I've seen something like this before..." He ran his fingers over the supple tanned cloth, enjoying the feel. Suddenly he sucked in a breath and jumped backward, flinging the cape away. "Shit! That's human skin. That entire cape is human skin! Do you have any idea how illegal it is to possess that cape, not to even mention how revolting it is?"
smiled. "It's a sacred and venerated religious artifact, Dr. Sandburg,
given full protection by Constitutional statutes, and we can produce
documentation which would verify the religious exclusion from the United
States' Prohibited and Proscribed lists."
"I don't care if you can produce documentation saying it's been blessed by the Pope, the entire Heavenly Host and the Rabbinical Council in Jerusalem! That isn't the point! People died to make that cape - in fact, people were probably ritually tortured and then skinned alive."
"Your 30th birthday is approaching, Dr. Sandburg. That age holds a special place in Tirza lore. According to your father's notes, at age 30 you will Become and you will need the tools of your legacy."
"I will Become? Become what?" He held up a hand and shook his head. "No, no, don't answer that. What I am going to become is out of here. This has nothing to do with me."
"I see, then," Holland sighed deeply. "As per the terms of the will, we shall keep the artifacts in storage, here at our offices, for a period of a year. They can be turned over to you any time you request them. Now, let me have Tessa show you out--"
"No!" Sandburg moved to the door hastily. "I'll let myself out, thanks." He opened the door and paused, half-way out the door. "Look, it's not that I don't appreciate your work here, it's just that I really think that you want some other guy. And just because someone raved about the Tirza doesn't mean it's true. I mean, look at the cape: he was obviously a little off his rocker. I don't know where he got the artifacts," he looked longingly back at the table, "or that old book, but I can't give that story much credence. I'm sorry."
Holland nodded, the picture of a sorrowful and earnest servant. "Just remember, Dr. Sandburg, those artifacts belong to you."
"Thanks," Sandburg smiled," but, uh, no thanks." He nodded at Lindsey and stepped into the hall, closing the door behind him.
Lindsey waited a moment after the door closed. "Was that how that was supposed to go? He refuses the legacy and walks out?"
"Oh," Holland said, smiling that half smile that let Lindsey know he was missing part of the picture, "he took what he was supposed to take, and he'll be back. He has no choice. He's half demon, and he will discover that soon enough. And then he'll need the rest of the legacy, which we will faithfully hold for him, and when he returns it will be time to make a deal."
deal with a demon mage? Is that really wise?"
"Dr. Sandburg still thinks he is holding a few secrets up his sleeve. We'll be making a deal with an inexperienced, barely-in-control half-demon mage and his Sentinel -- a deal which could be very beneficial for the firm."
Lindsey watched the monitor as a clearly rattled Dr. Sandburg strode through the lobby, a hint of a silver bracelet inlaid with gold and precious stones glinting from beneath the cuff of his denim jacket. "Yes, I see."
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