"Tell me, Ruth."
Ruth looked at her Aunt Anna. "Tell you what, Tante?"
Anna shook her finger at her niece. "You know what I'm talking about. Go on, you may as well tell me."
Ruth glanced quickly around the room and then back to Anna. "I--"
Her aunt held up her hand. "Relax child. There's nothing to worry about. I may not be able to do much, but I can tell when someone's making you happy."
She smiled. "So, who is it?"
Ruth relaxed and an infectious grin crept over her face.
"Jenna," she said. "Her name is Jenna."
Anna raised her eyebrows. "Does my sister know of this...Jenna?"
"Soon," said Ruth. "I'll tell her soon."
"Be sure you do." Anna's smile turned a little grim. "Your mother doesn't like surprises."
"I will, Tante. I'll tell--" Ruth stopped speaking suddenly, lifting her eyes to stare at the wall behind her aunt.
Anna turned. A patch of darkness was growing on the wall.
"Tante--" Ruth began. Anna held up her hand.
The patch grew still more and suddenly coalesced into a man. He was tall, lean and sharp-featured. His casual open-necked shirt and faded jeans belied the sense of power that accompanied him.
"Who are you and what are you doing in my home," Anna asked as soon as she found her voice.
The man glanced at her briefly and turned his gray eyes to the younger woman.
"You must be Ruth," he said. His voice, pitched low, seemed to fill the whole room.
Ruth stood, holding his eyes with her gaze. "How do you know me?"
The man nodded, though the gesture seemed not directed at her. "Jenna told me you were strong," he said.
"Jenna?" said Ruth.
Anna spoke again. "You will leave my home at once."
The man turned to her. "Old lady," he said. "Sit there and be quiet. I have no wish to harm you." He turned his attention back to Ruth.
"Jenna and I are...distantly...related." He lowered his voice still more till it was almost a caress. "She has no idea how powerful you are."
The man turned to Anna. "So, you know something after all. I thought with all these--" A sweep of his arm encompassed the cluttered room. "--crystals and trinkets that you were just another old woman dreaming of being more than you are."
Anna's voice was a whisper. "Leave my home. Leave it now."
"Not until I have what I came for." He held up his hand, his voice taking on the ring of command. "Now sit, old woman, and do not move."
Anna rose smoothly to her feet. Ruth's face blanched.
"You are a fool," said Anna, her voice sharp and hard. "You know nothing."
"Tante--" Ruth's voice held a note of strain.
"It's too late, child. You can no longer hold me. So don't try."
The man looked at Anna, his eyes widening in fear.
"These crystals," Anna said, "they are here to concentrate her and her mother's power. To keep me in check." Anna moved toward the man who tried to back away. He found he couldn't move.
"They chained me with them because I am too dangerous." She laughed quietly. "You upset the balance."
The man looked around the room. An intense white light was streaming from every crystal. The light stopped short of Anna as if meeting a wall.
Anna raised her hand and the man slammed back against the wall. He slid up till he was suspended halfway between the ceiling and the floor.
"Now it is time for you to go," said Anna.
Darkness began to form around the man. Anna closed her fist and the darkness folded itself into a small ball, taking the man with it. Both Anna and Ruth heard a scream of terror before the ball of darkness winked out of existence.
Anna turned to Ruth.
"Find this Jenna, child. Find her. Before I do."