Author’s Note: This story is being offered to the public as a sneak peak for my Muse Happens membership group. The story of Dela and her new department will be picking up in a forthcoming serial where subscribers will get early access. Enjoy.

The drab halls screamed office park, which was why the strange swirly image on one wall appeared so out of place. Not just as if someone had lifted it from a stereotypically-70s design magazine or what they thought people probably put on their walls back then, but also because the picture didn’t have a frame. I would have called it a tapestry, but it wasn’t just hanging on the wall; it was the wall.

What was even stranger was that as I approached it, I swore the patterns began to move. The chronometer on my wrist, delivered by next day service earlier in the week, glowed blue, and before I could contemplate why the directions had sent me down this dead-end and dead-ass boring office hallway, the colors in the image shifted to reveal an opening which glowed with a pale, blue light.

Freckles, my service animal, a stout Pony of the Americas, stood as if he saw such things all the time, and not just the inside of office buildings and big box stores. I leaned against his back for a moment. Ready for this? I asked. They call it Tempus Armis, and it’s a long way from cataloging artifacts.

I got you, he replied, and I knew he did. He’d caught me on more than one occasion.

I took a deep breath because walking anywhere with a not-small horse drew attention, and questions. So many questions. Why did I have a horse? What was it trained to do? What was my diagnosis? When did it poop? Would it poop in their store? Nearly all those questions were illegal, of course, due to the Americans with Disability Act, but that didn’t stop them from asking.

I saw cubicles along the pathway with blue glass dividers along the path. I wasn’t sure if they could see me, and the people in suits bent over computers or shuffled papers never looked up at my passing. A typical office on the surface.

They requested us, Freckles told me, shaking me from my inaction. They requested you.

That they did, I told him back, and after ruffling my fingers through his mane, took a step forward. Freckles stayed with me, his steadying presence lowering the anxiety rising inside me. I took a deep breath, focusing on my breathing just the way I’d practiced. I felt a warm muzzle touch my hand, reassuring, reminding me that I didn’t have to face things alone.

My watch chimed and instructions flashed across the screen. TURN LEFT AT THE NEXT  CUBICLE.

I did, noticing that the further I got from the painting the less blue things got which I appreciated. I didn’t want to work feeling like I was in some kind of strange Twilight Zone. The fact that I hadn’t known Armis had a time travel decision had made me feel wibbly-wobbly enough. I’d been working in their evidence division, alternating my time between there and the main library in Melody cataloging ancient magical artifacts. Some turned up as stolen merchandise. Others were found at auction houses. The legality of the item determined where I’d find it, the library or as evidence.

Two cubicles later the carpeting changed and got more library-ish. Bold geometric patterns and wooden dividers replaced gray industrial carpeting and soft noise-muffling walls. I didn’t see books, but a few glass cases highlighted select finds from history. I wanted to stop and browse, to drink in the details. A Roman helmet sat polished on a stand as if it’d been plucked from a Centurian’s head, and perhaps with time traveling magic it had been.

Exquisite Chinese vases and Japanese paintings on rice paper occupied a long, low display, and I paused to date them to the Song dynasty. A new instruction flashed on my watch: TURN RIGHT AND GO THROUGH DOUBLE DOORS. I followed the path to the wall, then turned right and went through double doors which opened at my approach.

I walked into a room full of mostly empty cubicles with long tables and bright lights able to be positioned. What appeared to be magic dampeners were on each cubicle, and I quickly noticed there were very few people working. My heart pounded as I realized this was to be my new assignment.

From the back of the room where I thought there were storage cases, someone walked toward us. With dark brown hair swept into a bun, and a gray suit jacket with matching trousers and a white blouse, the entire ensemble screamed official, or maybe head librarian.

“You made it! I’m Miriam, the Archives Director.” A discreet lapel pin had her pronouns and she held out a hand to shake mine. “And this must be Freckles. I’ve heard so much about him.” She released my hand to hold out her own so Freckles could sniff her.

“Thank you. I guess you know I’m Dela Arquan. She/her is fine. And yes, this is Freckles, my service animal. I trust there won’t be any issues with that.” The Musimagium probably wasn’t bound by US law, but everywhere I’d been had at least tried to make a show of accommodating me.

“Not at all. I hope you won’t find us lacking. We’re honored to have you here and anything we can do to make you or Freckles more comfortable is not a problem. We need you.” She sighed as if she wanted to say more, but a discreet glance at someone working in a cubicle kept her from doing so. “Let’s go to your new office. I want to make sure that you both will be comfortable there, and it’s private. If you don’t mind, I’ll lead the way.”

Miriam’s treatment of me like some kind of minor celebrity seemed a bit out of place. I was an archivist; my magic allowed me to access an object’s temporal memories. At the library I worked with manuscripts of uncertain dating or authorship to put them in the right places. When handling evidence, I objectively reported what I saw to an agent who filed it with the case notes, presumably to be used whenever the perpetrator went to trial. Either way, it was nice quiet work that played well with my anxiety and PTSD. Here—I glanced at the slim dagger the agent working nearby held—I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing and that freaked me out a bit. I’d been sent the chronometer with an explanation that it was necessary to my job, instructions to go this building and told to follow directions to reach my new assignment. Little else had come with it, except a nagging suspicion that I wouldn’t be working on nice, boring manuscripts or antique finds anymore. Even the evidence had been boring for the most part. And frankly, I wasn’t sure what to think about the change in my situation.

Thankfully I was good at thinking and walking at the same time, especially with Freckles to lead the way. Miriam tapped a button that opened the double doors that must lead to my office, though I’d never even worked for anyone with an office this large. Two of my old offices could have fit in the room with space left over. Behind a large wooden desk was an equally large floor-to-ceiling bookshelf empty and ready to be filled with whatever I wanted. The desk was sturdy with plenty of room for Freckles or I or both of us to move around it. A table sat at the other end of the room, taking up only half the space and the other half appeared to have been made into an open-front stall with thick mats and a bed of shavings.

“Will this be adequate?” Miriam asked, then looked at me expecting my answer.

Adequate, where my last office just had a kid’s plastic wading pool filled with shavings in case Freckles needed to relieve himself indoors. Though he was a magical horse and knew where, and when, he needed to go. Wooden double doors, like a fancy stall, were in the wall behind them with a silver button to activate them about the right height for his muzzle.

Miriam must have caught me looking at them because twin spots of color touched her cheeks. “You can leave those open and Freckles can go outside to a suitable area if he needs to—to um, do his business.”

“Thank you. I’ll make sure and explain that to him.”

Miriam relaxed. “So you approve?”

“I do. The office will be very nice, I’m sure. Thank you for setting all of this up for us.” I unclipped Freckle’s lead rope, his sign to go explore, and he headed for the stall. I turned to the desk, noticing the large computer. “Can you explain more of what I’ll be doing?” A very expensive-looking chair waited behind the desk, and I sat. I set Freckles’ lead rope on the desk thinking the dark blue braided cotton didn’t look too out of place on the darker wood-toned surface. “I know people are moved around the organization all the time, but this is the first time I’ve taken a job without knowing what my duties will be.”

I opened the desk drawer directly in front of me relieved to find a nice assortment of pens and a new yellow legal pad. I pulled out one of the pens and the pad, setting them on the desk blotter. I held the pen expectantly, as if I were about to take dictation. Freckles stopped in his exploration of the stall and turned and looked at me. Though he didn’t say anything, I sensed his concern through our bond.

I’m all right, I reassured him. I didn’t have to take this position if I didn’t want to. At least I’d like to think that was the case. Besides, as much as I enjoyed my dusty corner of the archives, I’d long thought I could put my knowledge and my magical abilities to better use. It wasn’t like I worked in the tribunal properly checking with evidence to see if it’s history matched the stories that went along with it. They were the people who double-checked my work, their magical gifts being stronger in that area. I just skimmed the surface of an object’s history, and even then, I’d gotten just a glimpse of one side—never the whole story.

Miriam looked around, then grabbed a chair from the long table along one wall and brought it to the desk. She sat. “We’re creating a new unit, one that will go out in the field and try to bring back magical artifacts.”

I frowned. “Isn’t there already someone who already does that?” I hoped my face wasn’t speaking out loud, but from Miram’s expression I suspected it was.

“Not these kinds of artifacts,” she said as if she were explaining the basics of magic to a child. “There are things that not even many in the Musimagium know exist or believe they exist. We want you, and Freckles,” she added with a glance toward my service horse, “to be a part of that team. With your abilities you’ll be able to tell us if anyone has used the artifacts, when and now.”

“I see.” I glanced around the office. “So why the big space?” I gestured to the door. “Will all of that out there be a part of our team too? Looks like you’re wanting to bring in a lot of people.”

“There will be four, possibly five, people on the team. We’re still working on bringing them on board. You will have people to help you, and that is why we’ve allocated this space to you. Your fellow team members will have similar offices, but we expect you to take the lead.”

I blinked. “Me?” I asked. “I’m just an archivist.”

Miram’s words were sinking in, and I couldn’t think of a time when I’d led a team. I worked better on my own. Panic started to rise and immediately Freckles walked over and rested his muzzle against my leg. I reached for his mane, threading my fingers through it for strength. Thank you, I told him.

“You’re the best person for the job,” Miriam replied matter-of-factly.

I lifted my wrist with the chronometer. “I don’t even know how this works.”

Miriam smiled. “There’s a manual on your computer. I’ve taken the liberty of putting information in a folder on the desktop called start here. Stay as long as you like. We’ll arrange for a laptop if you wish to take it home with you, but that will take a few days. If you want to meet the staff we have, just let me know. You’ll be reporting to small council containing myself and a few other people. All that information is in the folder, too. I know this seems strange, but everything will become clear in time.”

“Thanks,” I said and turned toward the computer. Like my other job, mostly I was pointed in the direction of my work and expected to do it. Whatever micromanaging happened usually wasn’t done anywhere near me. I wouldn’t tolerate it.

Miram left and Freckles stepped away from my leg to return to his stall. Stay close, but if you need to go out, I’ll be fine. I glanced at the time on the computer. Maybe we’ll stay an hour or so. I feel like I came all this way, so I better not run home immediately.

Freckles nosed around for a bit, then pushed open the door and went outside. I watched him go, thinking a place that had gone to all this work to set up a place for us had to be better than the archives. There we’d put a blanket on the floor behind my desk, and unless I needed him that was where he stayed. Here he’d have the ability to go outside and get fresh air, knowing I could mentally call him back at any time.

I’d finished going through some of the files by the time he returned. I didn’t have to ask because the contentment radiating from him told me the accommodations for him were good. For me, I was still deliberating that, but I’d been in my office at least twenty minutes without being bothered, so that was a good thing. In the archives, there were days I would barely be able to think, I’d dealt with so many interruptions that they kept disturbing my flow.

He walked over to me and nuzzled my arm. I reached down and petted Freckles neck.

Did you know they hired someone just to scoop my poop? Laughter filled his mental voice. Apparently, he has his own stall because as soon as I stepped outside, he came out of his stall with muck fork and bucket. I should go outside just to see if he shows.

I smiled at the gelding’s sense of humor. I could imagine Freckles popping outside just long enough to make some poor worker get up and step outside only to watch Freckles return to my side. Not too much. We’re new here. No jokes. My hand stilled, and I heard his mental sigh.

I’ll be good. There are other pens, so I’m not the only socius here.

Then he’s not just waiting for you. I put my hand back on the desk and opened another file. Most of them consisted of broad policies and procedures, a bit on the workers who were already employed in this department and what they did. One file had caught my attention. It listed potential job duties, making it sound as if my team—I still struggled with the thought—would be traveling out to different times and gathering magical artifacts. The example given sounded positively made up, and I would have believed it, except I’d read accounts of Solomon’s Censer, supposedly the one used to burn incense during worship purposes, as being a powerful artifact. No one knew where it was or even if it still existed, but rumors had been swirling for years.

Another supposedly fake artifact was mentioned in a possible scenario, an ancient Chinese puzzle box that only opened from the inside that was supposed to give the person shut inside invisibility. Of course if they suffocated before opening it—the act that granted invisibility—their ghost was probably invisible enough. I smiled because with my extensive knowledge of archives and magical, historical artifacts I’d considered most of this a good story at best, something to scare the children with at worst.

If any of it was real… Sometime during my thoughts Freckles had huffed at my inattention to him and returned to the stall. He settled in the shavings with a soft thud, and at that, I did look over the desk at him.

What do you think? Do we accept the job chasing after magical artifacts that no one thinks are real?

Freckles snorted and shook his head. I thought you already had. He yawned and put his head down over his two front hooves. To outsiders it might have looked as if he were sleeping, but I sensed his attention focused on me, ready to stand and assist at a moment’s notice. The department had clearly planned for his comfort, and my Freckles was never one to miss a chance at being comfortable.

I stared at the computer screen, not really reading the next file I opened. Did I really want to join a team hunting magical artifacts? If I did, I certainly couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t have many close friends, and no family to speak of. It was just me, and Freckles, and whoever ended up on our team.

A commotion sounded on the other side of the door. I stood and Freckles immediately followed suit, coming to my side. I realized I’d grabbed his lead rope, and I clipped it on as we opened the door, and I stepped into a whirlwind of activity.

An Asian woman, her long hair tipped in purple, dressed in all black stood in the middle of the room, holding a wooden box. Magic screamed across my skin, stopping me in my tracks with the power of it. The power radiated not just from her, but more powerfully from the box she held. I sensed wards being raised, shields drawn and closed about the room.

Distantly I registered a voice saying “all non-essential personnel please leave the area” over the loudspeaker and realized it was Miriam. Doors slammed and the whir of something sounded in the ceiling like a heating or cooling unit turning on. Maybe it was an air recirculatory, because we’d had one of those in the archives where I worked to keep any outside contaminants from filtering in.

Miram strode across the room, her heels clicking against the floor. She looked up and saw me. “Dela, great you’re still here. This is Starina Jasmine, she’ll be on your team.” She turned to Starina. “Did you get it?”

“I’m holding a box aren’t I?” In spite of her sarcastic reply, the satisfied grin on her face told the story. Whatever she was after, she’d gotten it, and probably with style.

“Well bring it over. I’ll set up the magic dampeners.”

Freckles and I hurried to the desk where Starina had set the box. There was enough magic warding on the box, plus the magic dampeners on the cubicle that I probably couldn’t have even hummed a bit of power had I needed to. To my magical senses it felt as if I stood with a heavy blanket on my head, light poking through the weave of the fabric, but mostly, completely blind. I knew why the protections were there; the things we’d be going after—if they truly existed—weren’t child’s toys. Still, it was disconcerting.

“What is it?” I asked as Freckles and I took our place around the table. Miriam stood next to me.

Starina looked up from the box at my question. “See you found another member of the team.” She looked down at the horse and I swore she gave a half-snort. She bent over the box, and I saw the backpack she wore, a clear globe with a large goldfish inside. I struggled to hide my smile. So I wasn’t the only one with a socius. Either that or she was really into fish.

His name is Chingu. It means friend in Korean, Freckles said in a reverent voice. Something about the goldfish seemed old and almost reverent to me, as if the aquatic creature, far larger than most of its kind, I suspected had seen more than it should have.

Thank you, I replied to Freckles. “I’m Dela, and Miram tells me I’m to lead the team. I came from the magical archives. This is Freckles.”

Starina gave a half nod, the purple ends of her hair bobbing with the motion. She mumbled something I couldn’t understand, her entire focus on the box. On the outside to the non-magical eye it appeared like a wooden crate, the kind in which antiquities might have been packed in earlier centuries. I’d seen my fair share of boxes like that. Inside would be a variety of materials, some original to the artifact, others wrapped in modern bubble wrap with additional void fill to keep the item from moving in transit.

My magical senses on the other hand, saw a blazing shield wrapped around the box, as if whatever was inside could come out of its own accord. That didn’t bode well for the type of artifacts we’d be retrieving, but it did make me curious.

Freckles moved closer and I leaned into his strength. I twined the lead rope through my fingers, something I’d never do with a non-magical horse. The feeling of the heavy braided cotton gave me something to hang onto, a texture to ground myself with, as did the strands of Freckles’ mane as I stroked it.

Miriam glanced in my direction. “Starina brought us the rosary of Saint Marguiere.” She spoke almost reverently.

It took me a few moments to remember who Saint Marguiere was, but I vaguely remembered someone who in the 1400s tried to set up monasteries for members of the Musimagium. “And the rosary was her source of power,” I said aloud as the pieces came together. Marguiere herself didn’t have magical power, but she’d had a wealthy benefactor who had given her the rosary. Apparently, it’d been enchanted, and it was this enchantment that made Marguiere seem as if she had magical abilities. It was through her supposed magic that she tried to convince other magicians to join her convent. The Musimagium had repudiated her, and she’d been taken in by a secretive order that claimed to trace itself back to the original Gnostic Christians.

Seemed pretty obscure to me and interesting. Most of the artifacts I’d been dealing with dated back to the 1600s when the first Musimagium came to America. This was well before that and a part of history I had yet to fully explore.

“We’re the reason why the rosary is said to have disappeared,” Starina said as she moved her fingers across the top of the box. A slight pop and hiss filled the air, and then she moved the wooden lid to one side where I saw a very modern and very real magic dampening box. If that thing put out the kind of power it had inside the box—I shuddered.

“Don’t worry. None of the locals saw me. Slipped into the trader’s wagon, took it, and left before anyone knew I was there.” Starina pulled out the box and set it on the desk, then looked at Miram and I. “Want to take a look?”

Did Freckles like horse cookies? Of course I wanted to take a look.

I moved closer to the desk. The few workers remaining in the room hurried out of the way, and a few moments later the door closed indicating they’d left. It was just the three of us.

“Shields up,” Starina said, as if I needed reminding.

I checked mine and they blazed nice and strong around Freckles and I. With my magical sight both Miriam and Starina appeared well-shielded. Since I was the leader of the team, I nodded. “Looks good from here. Can everyone confirm shields?”

Miram gave me a smile of approval. “Shields confirmed,” she said.

Starina arched an eyebrow, and I swore I saw the hint of a smile flit across her lips. “Confirmed.” She moved her hands over the box again and the seals opened. She pushed the box across the desk. “Would you like do the honors, boss?” This time I heard the gentle sarcasm in her voice.

“Thank you.” I steadied myself. It’d do no one any good to have my magic and my emotions jumbled when I reached for the artifact. And with my gift, I had no clue what sorts of images would fill my mind. I removed the lid.

Inside nestled on white silk was a rosary made with carved, wooden beads. Simple really, the chain rather delicate, as was the cross hanging from it. The castings were simple, but quality. I wondered for a moment if such a relic shouldn’t be with those who would appreciate it as the holy object it was. Sure, Saint Marguiere had been a charlatan, those behind her a shadowy group I’m not sure we’d ever get a good handle on. But this was a religious items and we were very much a secular institution. Which was probably why it should have come here rather than be stashed away in the Vatican’s basement or wherever they kept their artifacts, never to be seen again. Stodgy old bastards. They were notoriously tight fisted and tight lipped about them, which made the kind of magical research I loved doing so difficult.

“You got it from someone who had it after Marguiere’s death, it sounds like?” I glanced over the box at Starina who was peering inside with disappointment on her face.

“Yeah. I think he took all her goods to try and sell to recover the cost of burial. I knew I should have riffled through his ledgers to get more details.” She gave Miriam a look. “I was told to get in and get out. That’s what I did.”

“No one saw you, and we detected no changes to the timeline, so I’d say a successful mission.” She looked in the box. “We can put this in the archives now.”

“Wait?” I turned to Miriam. “Put it in the archives. I know I just got here and haven’t made my way through all the files on my computer, but if we are simply taking artifacts and stashing them away, then why take them at all so long as they’re in safe hands.” Admittedly, I didn’t know where the rosary had been before Starina had taken it. Presumably it had been taken by someone since legend had it that the rosary had been lost. I just didn’t know by whom or why.

“Of course. What did you think we’d do with them?” She gestured to the hall beyond the room. “We have some safer artifacts on display. The higher ups like to see them when they walk through, which they rarely do. But I understand your concern.”

I sensed a bit of dismissal in those words, and it made me think twice about taking the job here. And yet, I was new. I hadn’t completed going through the documents. If I left now, I didn’t even know if I’d have my archivist’s job back. I could ask, but for all I knew they had candidates waiting in the wings. It wasn’t like there were a lot of jobs in my field, and I suspected there were more people with education than openings.

“How do we know it’s safer with us?” I asked, unable to stop myself.

“What do you know about Saint Marguiere?” Miriam asked.

“Very little, honestly. I’d have to consult my books,” I admitted. “But I’d also think that if the rosary fell into the wrong hands we would have heard about it, or people would have been searching for it, and that I can assure you, hasn’t happened.”

“I trust you have contacts outside of the agency. Maybe even outside of the Musimagium,” Miram said, her tone unreadable. “You’re right. The rosary was sold and lost. I suspect it ended up in a box in someone’s attic and forgotten. We hadn’t heard about it being used. We also cannot take any chances right now. Not with the magic storms and not with activity against the Musimagium increasing.”

“I see,” I replied because a picture was starting to take shape. I’d heard rumors—just that, rumors—that at least one group had infiltrated the Musimagium. Certainly there’d been that business with the Pegasus Academy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they feared the organization was even in this agency, as secretive as it was. Preemptive strikes meant the Musimagium was getting even more concerned, making my job all the more interesting. I couldn’t believe I’d thought that, not with my experiences and my anxiety. Freckles stood next to me. I knew no matter what happened, he’d remain by my side.

I longed to touch the rosary, to lift it from the box and let the beads run through my fingers. “May I?” I asked Miriam.

Starina watched this exchange silently. Whether she approved of my mild insubordination or not, I couldn’t tell, though I suspected she might be a fan of a little push back against the bosses.

“You’ll be able to tell what happened to the rosary before Starina found it?”

“Some, yes. If it passed through many different hands, then I may not be able to go back too far.”

“You may proceed.”

I took a deep breath and gently looped Freckles’ lead rope over his back to have my hands free. Grounding myself and double checking my shields, I reached for the box. The rosary’s inherent magical power pulled at me. Part of me wanted to clutch the beads in my hand and siphon off that power for my own. I wouldn’t. My ethics wouldn’t let me. That, and I had no idea where this magical power had come from. Certainly it wasn’t like any I’d encountered within the Musimagium; I also expected that for most older artifacts. The magic we used now was tame compared to that of the past.

I gently scooped the rosary into my hand and closed my eyes. The instant my fingers closed around the object, I was transported back to a small cell. My hand was smaller, the fingers slender with dirt beneath the fingernails where I’d been clawing at the arrow slit windows that allowed air into the room. At least I had that. A moment’s thought made me realize that Saint Marguiere held the rosary, saying a prayer in her mind. She’d been imprisoned here for heresy, her nun’s garb tattered, her feet bare. The people she’d cured, the miracles she’d done with this power—none of that mattered anymore. It’d all been in vain and her son would remain an indentured servant with no hope of freedom.

The thought took my breath for a moment, and it was Freckles’ nudging my knee that got me to remember that wasn’t Marguiere, and I didn’t have a son.

The cell door opened. A man dressed in finer clothing than I’d ever posses stepped in, flanked on either side by two burly men who I suspected were guards. “Take her.” He pointed to my hands. “And whatever she’s holding make sure it goes with the rest of her belongings.”

So they’d gotten to my house, though my meager furnishings wouldn’t bring much money. I had cooking utensils and threadbare linens. Along with the clothing I wore, I had just two other sets. Miracle worker I might be through the grace of God, I had no riches or wealth, not like the men of the church, men like this stranger pointing at me and scowling as if I were mud on his fancy black boots.

I kept my head bowed while the men grabbed my elbows. One looked at my rosary. “Just some wooden beads, sir. Ain’t worth much.” I heard sympathy in his voice, possibly even the knowledge that he knew who I was.

“Any silver?” Their leader asked.

“A bit. A cross.”

“Take it!” He ordered.

“Sorry,” the man muttered as his fingers closed around mine and he gently pried the rosary from my fingers.

I bit my lip to keep from crying, the tears threatening to roll down my cheeks would only shame me and give them something to talk about.

In a flash, my awareness moved to the guard. Again, Freckles nudged my leg, keeping me grounded. This had to be happening quickly, but it felt much longer as he marched the woman out of the cell, putting her into a locked wagon, then put the rosary in a box. My awareness left him. “Take the box to Jaques,” he said.

I dropped the rosary back into the magic dampener box and took several deep breaths to ground myself in the present. “Did you get the rosary from Jaques?” I asked Starina.

“That was the name I heard.” She glanced from me to the rosary. “You didn’t know anything about this mission before this did you? Handy little magical gift you got there.”

“I didn’t. And thanks. Marguerite had the rosary in the cell with her. When the men took her, presumably to her death, they said to give it to Jaques. I could try to go deeper, see if I could tell who powered it with their magic, but I need to rest first. And I may not be able to get back that far since Marguerite had such a strong connection to the rosary. I can tell you this, the magic certainly felt different than the type we use and have used.”

“Very good,” Miriam said. “So it appears that our mission was successful. Dela, if you could more work with the rosary when you feel up to it, we would appreciate it very much. I will also ensure you’re filled in on the mission if it’s not one of the documents we provided you. For now, this will go into storage.” She popped the lid on the box, and the magic which had been blazing at us quieted fast enough to leave me a bit disoriented.

I turned to Starina. “Very nice meeting you and Chingu. It looks like we’ll work well together.”

“I hope so. I don’t do team stuff or team building.” Sadness hid behind her words, like perhaps wherever she’d come from there’d been a lost partner. “But yeah, I think you’ll do. I need to go fill out paperwork. Isnt’ that what we live for?” She rolled her eyes, and we shared a conspiratorial smile.

“Where’s your office?”

“A few doors down from yours, but not as big.” She glanced at Freckles. “Having a horse as a socius would be pretty cool, I bet. At least you could hug it.” Again, the sadness, as if perhaps she was alone or thought she was.

“When he lets me.” I ruffled his forelock, and no sooner had Starina headed to her office, then I went to mine. I had a lot to catch up on and wondered when I’d meet the other members of the team. Because right now it looked like we were staying.