The smoke began to clear around the protective sphere that Ilias had maintained around them. This new found and seemingly endless supply of Energy was starting to become more useful than he could have imagined. The energy he would have normally needed to protect himself with from a direct assault like that would have taken more strength than he normally would have had.
Now nothing seemed impossible to him. If anything, absorbing the energy from the blast had been little more than a subconscious exercise.
Ilias returned his attention to the boy he still had pressed against the wall. Concentrating for a moment on the wall itself he started to alter the mortar and stone. Tendrils of the twisted substances quickly sealed themselves over his captive’s limps, keeping him locked tightly onto the wall. Careful not to meld the boy’s flesh with the stone me made sure to make it as tight and intricate as possible of a weave of stone. Ilias was not going to have this boy escape from him.
Even with the measures he had put in place, it would not be entirely impossible for the boy to work out how to undo himself, but at the very least it would take him some time to work his escape. The boy had been trained, that fact had been clear, but he doubted his focus in the manipulation of Matter was as intense as the training inside the Fold had been.
Ilias finally released the pressure he had been putting on the boy and could see him gasp for air, his breaths coming ragged and deep. He hadn’t realized how strong of a force he had been using to keep the boy from moving, especially not to so strong that he couldn’t breathe. Ilias’ thoughts went back to the events earlier this week and how he had been on the receiving end of such punishment.
Has it really only been a few days?
It was strange to think that so much had happened since that day, and how everything that was happening now was a direct result of the actions then.
Dorom’s voice buzzed through his Resonator, “You need to pay more attention to what you are doing.” He said, the concern in his voice bordering on a reprimand, “Not only could have killed that boy, but you were nearly killed yourself.”
Ilias couldn’t help the amusement he felt at Dorom’s concern. He had no idea how far from the truth those words were, at least as far as Ilias was concerned. The boy on the other hand was a different matter. Even though Ilias was fairly certain things wouldn’t have gone out of hand he had also only just realized that he had been preventing the boy from breathing normally. It was not as if he was on some murderous rampage. Not intentionally anyway.
Don’t lie to yourself. You would have killed him if it would have been to your benefit.
That thought seemed to have materialized on its own, and Ilias didn’t like it. For some reason he felt the need to argue that train of thought that didn’t seem his own but the notion made him feel crazy inside or at least more than usual. For now he just ignored it and tried to shove it to some dark corner of his mind.
“He will be fine. I’m going to leave him here for later.” Ilias replied nonchalantly and stepped away from the boy, who had begun trying to struggle from where he had been stuck into the wall. “Surely we can ask for someone to come and retrieve him for questioning or some such thing later. Hopefully someone who speaks his language since it was clearly not English.”
Ilias surveyed the broken, burning and rubble strewn street around them. This situation was definitely going to call for a change of plans. They had already gained enough information about this Coven to know that things were not as simple as a mere underground group of Gifted that had been hiding away from the Fold. This would require much more attention than what they had planned on giving to this situation. And these visions he had been given were now starting to feel rather incomplete. Perhaps Urvi had not been at the center of all this as they had been led to believe.
“Ambrose?” he called out, scanning the rooftops in the direction he had seen him fall. But he heard nothing in reply and saw only the flickering light of fire up the billowing smoke clouds.
The air at his side crackled with energy as Dorom made an abrupt landing at his side. The sounds that came from any quick movements while being suspended always reminded Ilias of the crackling sound of distant sharp thunder, though nowhere near as deafening. Dorom adjusted his robed clothing and tried to make himself look as presentable as possible despite his being covered in dirt, ash and smeared mud.
“He was wounded by his assailant.” Dorom informed him, “Ameerah took him back to the Priory for medical attention just moments ago, nothing life threatening, but serious enough to require him to be returned immediately. Both Ameerah and Chrestian were attacked as well, apparently all around the same time as the rest of us.”
Another sizzle and crackled sounded and suddenly Chrestian stood at his side as well.
“This Coven of yours doesn’t seem to be your run of the mill band of Gifted,” Chrestian said, his attention focused on mending a long gash that had been cut through the midsection of his armor. Ilias could see rather clearly the skin beneath the layers Chrestian wore, as well as the fact that fabric beneath the metal had been stained red with blood. The cuts had gone straight through the flesh even though the skin was now healed and the bleeding stopped. As Chrestian shifted his weight he winced at some pain, Ilias imagined he had done his best to heal the wound but only a trained Healer could complete fix him to where he felt no pain.
“They may not have been as powerful as us, but they were quick and efficient fighters with what knowledge they did possess. They knew more than they should have when it came to fighting us.” Chrestian said, rubbing his fingers over the mended tear in his armor.
Ilias turned to look back at his captive who was staring at them in constrained anger and concentration. He could see the boy was trying to work the alterations that bound him to the wall, but they would not be so easy dissolved. One material was braided into another in the boy’s restraints and work with multiple types of substances required a high degree of concentration. One that he was assuming this young man did not have. Not that he would have much of a chance to get anywhere with the three of them standing there.
“This one was quite capable for his age, but he doesn’t seem to know the more complex forms of alterations.” Ilias said and smirked when the boy shot him a particularly venomous glare. “He knew plenty about the basics however.”
“Oh you managed to capture yours alive?” Chrestian remarked with almost amusement and Ilias felt his heart sink for a moment.
“You didn’t?” he asked.
Chrestian shook his head, “When he sent a couple of daggers straight through Ameerah’s body and into mine, it seemed pretty clear he had no intention to surrender or be taken alive. He would have finished us both off had I not beat him to it.”
Ilias was grateful it hadn’t been a girl, which meant his sister should be safe still. That didn’t mean it couldn’t have been his brother, Evagelos. He doubted that was the case however. As a family they had always been rather tightly connected. Ilias was sure had it been his brother he would have known it.
Some of the visions and feelings of his lost siblings surfaced from Urvi’s memories and he shut his eyes as he tried to study and feel everything he could from them. There was something about the way she had perceived Evagelos. Something that told him he had not been nearly as battle ready as Saeynt had been. Saeynt’s face had been hardened somehow. She almost didn’t look like the girl he had always imagined her to grow to be. The laughter in her eyes was gone. His brother on the other hand still had a spark to him, even though it was clear he was troubled with something.
Ilias rubbed his eyes in frustration. These feelings held little merit to them. Seeing things through Urvi’s memories was difficult and were tainted with perceptions that were not his own. For all he knew, the memories she carried were simply twisted by her not fully knowing them. She may have lived full lifetimes more than he had, but that didn’t mean she knew his siblings like he did. How could she judge those people any more accurately than anyone else who was seeing them for the first time?
Ilias shook his head. He had almost distinctly heard her voice in his head that time, and it hadn’t come from his Resonator. It had been very much in his mind and it had been unmistakable. Perhaps he had made more of a connection in his mind with her then they had realized. Something told him today was going to be a day of discovery in how far reaching that day was going to affect his life.
“Where were you when you were attacked?” Ilias asked. Even though he had been deep in thought the question had come out and he hardly realized he had said it. It just seemed like the question that needed to be asked.
“Somewhere about halfway between the first Inn we had checked out and the one you were headed towards.” Chrestian replied. He squared his shoulders as he shot a glare back at the boy on the wall who shouted something back at him. Chrestian raised an eyebrow and turned his back to the boy, clearly ignoring whatever insult the boy had flung at him. “It was surrounded by storage buildings and warehouses if I were to take a guess.”
“Could you take us there, to where the fight happened?”
Something kept buzzing in the back of his mind that they were on the right track. Part of him also wanted to see if the body was there still. The odds were that it wasn’t, not if this Coven was keeping track of their members, but he could hope for some sign. Anything that could give him relief that it wasn’t Evagelos would be welcome. The buzzing he felt was probably nothing more than excited anticipation that had started to form in his mind. So far though they hadn’t led him astray so he was going to continue to try and rely on these gut feelings.
Chrestian nodded, “I can’t Transfer us there directly and even if I could I don’t have the energy for it. Think you can manage to follow?”
“Oh I am sure I can manage.” Ilias said trying to hide the amusement he felt. They really had no idea how much power he felt was at his very fingertips. Surely by now they could sense it, couldn’t they?
This time Ilias felt the approaching volley of cannon fire before they started a destructive path of bombardment along the street. Both Chrestian and Dorom acted first and surrounded themselves with protective barriers that absorbed the kinetic energy of the shells as they passed through, allowing them to thud to street harmlessly.
“You two continue with the search,” Dorom said, “I am going to see what I can do about slowing or stopping this attack from destroying more of the city. It would make our job considerably easier if we did not have to worry about them or us being killing in this fire fight.”
Ilias was grateful for his decision to try and end this interfering war. It wasn’t exactly what the Fold did, intervene in the wars of the countries of the world, but this was going to have to be an exception. He hated the fact that he was having to keeping his brother and sister’s part in the Coven a secret, but there was no promise that they would take the same precautions in bringing them in like he would. Was there?
“Dorom…” he started to say, but his Mentor had already begun to launch himself from the ground and shot up into the sky leaving only the sizzle of the charged air behind. He could very well tell him still through the Resonator, but he was going to take this as a sign.
In all reality the odds that his lost siblings were even still in the city were slim. The city had become a warzone and had probably put their quarry on edge by now, like animals corner by a hunter. They had to know they were here since they had very obviously sent some of their numbers to intercept them. Perhaps they had already started to flee and his siblings were no longer even in the city. Even Urvi’s memories, though fresh to him, still didn’t have a completely recent feel to them. It could have been weeks or longer by now since she had last seen them here in the city. Ilias hoped so.
“Shall we head out ourselves? Chrestian asked, “I would have suggested a lower flight path to avoid chance detection, but I don’t want to have to fall from any great height if we get stopped again. So what shall it be? Falling from great heights or stray bullets and cannonballs?”
Ilias chuckled at Chrestian’s dry humor, “While you may have a point, I think the smoke will provide enough cover from being seen by our little friends. And at this point I don’t think it matters whether anyone in the city sees us, it would be considered nothing more than panicked visions. As far as the rest, I can put a barrier around us both that will keep us safe. We fly fast and just below the rooftops, skipping over them if needed and we will be less likely to be seen that way.”
Chrestian shrugged with indifference, “If you think you can manage to do all that at once then be my guest. I’m pretty sure I could hold a barrier on my own though, thank you for the vote of confidence Brother.”
Ilias smiled, “Then lead the way.”
Chrestian closed his eyes as he seemed to gather his thoughts and gather energy before expelling it into a field around himself. Ilias squared his shoulders and conjured his own barrier, this one much more complex of a ward then Chrestian had established for himself. Even though he was sure Chrestian probably would not notice the layers he had added to the simple ward, he knew he could sense the fact that he had put it over Chrestian’s barrier as well. Chrestian didn’t react though, instead he gathered himself together and lifted himself up in with the pressurized air around them and Ilias followed behind him.
Ilias preferred this means of travel rather than getting reassembled, the feeling of flight was always better than that option.
Following closely behind Chrestian, Ilias easily altered and adjusted the air around him into currents that kept him aloft, and also from slamming head first into the walls of the buildings as they wove their way in and out of them. This wasn’t exactly the means by which the Fold preferred anyone to get around especially in a city this populated. But considering the circumstances he doubted anyone would notice the ripples in the air above as they flew by.
Seeing the damage already caused to the city from this point of view made him realize how different their lives were compared to everyone else that was running around frantically below. To them their world was collapsing around them in one of the arguably worst kinds of way. And yet to Ilias and the Fold, these events were more of a nuisance to the real problems the world faced. There were times Ilias envied their ignorance.
“Here” Chrestian voice suddenly echoed in his head as he dove down to street level across from a large water canal that ran through the city.
They were clear of any onlookers here since most of the people in the city had ran away from the parts closest to the ships causing the bombardment. And it was obvious that this section of the city had borne the brunt of the attack that, for the moment anyway, seemed to have ceased.
Landing near the burning remains of a large warehouse looking structure, Chrestian paused for a moment.
“I have to gather some energy.” He said, almost out of breath.
Ilias nodded to him in understanding and turned to survey everything around them. He found it almost strange that a simple task like flying the short distance they had covered, while remaining hidden and warded had led to Chrestian feeling so drained. It was likely he simply hadn’t had the opportunity to recover what he had lost from his battle earlier.
“You’re not in need of…” Chrestian trailed off as Ilias shrugged away the question with a dismissive shake of his head.
The truth was he had as of yet not even taken in any Energy since the events that hard started this whole mess. And what he had so far done today he felt had hardly had any noticeable effect on the reserves he felt flowing in him. He still felt full. As if the tasks he had done today had not been any more complicated than his heart beating or his lungs filling with air.
“We are close now.” Ilias said, sounding more like a statement then the question he had meant for it to be.
The flashes of memory were strong suddenly; the canal behind them, the building in front of where they stood, even the lamp post that was now bent and like a broken reed. All these things felt in his mind’s memory so familiar, even though another part of him knew this was all the first time he had seen any of them.
It has to be the weirdest déjà vu there could ever be.
“The closer we get though, the more in danger we are going to be.” Ilias said, “We’ve already seen how potent their fighters can be.”
Chrestian scoffed at him, “It wasn’t as though I was expecting it to get any easier the closer we are. Are you worried I am not up to this task either?”
Ilias forced himself a small and he hoped believable smile. Despite what they could possibly be walking in on, the man was managing to keep his attitude intact. Ilias could feel his thoughts start to wander again and he took in a deep breath and exhaled.
Walking across a small bridge deeper into the warehouse district they made their way carefully along the parts that had not been blasted or crumbled away.
“The Fold was right to have this Coven looked into and brought under control.” Chrestian commented, “They need to be subjugated before it gets out of hand, or any larger for that matter.”
“Do you think they really have anything to do with Bel’Durra?” Ilias asked.
Chrestian shook his head and stooped down to check the bodies of a young looking couple who seemed to have been trying to escape with a few possessions. Ilias noticed the blast crater from where a shell had struck a couple of yards away.
Looking back down at them he could sense the boy was still alive, Ilias could feel the life still flowing in him weak as it was. The girl with him however, had not been so fortunate.
For a brief moment Ilias felt torn. Part of him wanted to kneel down with Chrestian, try and heal the boy as best they could, fix the bones that were broken. That much he was certain he was capable of somehow. But then there was another side of him. One that felt that would be a waste of valuable time and energy, and that they could do better things.
He did not have to make the decision however. Chrestian placed a hand over large chunk of debris that had crushed one of the boy’s legs then altered until it shifted away, the large piece becoming hundreds of smaller pebbles that rolled away. Without another word he placed his hands on the boy’s leg and began setting the bones back into place, causing the young man to stir in pain.
“I hope Dorom can truly put a halt to this attack on the city.” Chrestian said, closing his eyes and saying a quick prayer over the young man before getting to his feet. “These sorts of struggles and fights take so much from people, we need to be united if Bel’Durra is truly among us. Whether he is the one responsible for this Coven or not I cannot begin to guess or imagine. And I truly doubt if anyone in the Fold could tell for certain whether it is him or not, no one alive knows what he looks like or what to expect.”
Ilias knew he had a point based on what they had known and had been taught, there would be no way to identify him if Bel’Durra was truly behind this Coven. From the memories he had gained though, he had no doubt that there was someone extremely powerful behind the training. That much he had gathered from Urvi’s mind.
And that brought him to another question in his mind. If for someone who was just discovering their powers, the Seven was able to sense them so keenly. How was it that they missed these people here? Who were clearly well practiced in their arts? Could the Fold truly have been so far in the dark about it?
Not to mention the fact that Ameerah and Chrestian were also here to watch over him in case he happened to lose his mind. He had yet to even sense them watching him, at least not in any way he had imagined them to. Perhaps there were some things he was better off not questioning.
Continuing their path through the broken buildings and blasted streets was a careful process. By this point the buildings were starting to burn out even though the heat was still clearly felt. He tried not pay attention to the remains of citizens that hadn’t been so lucky as to escape, but they were there. The smell of it all was a powerful reminder.
For a moment Ilias considered questioning Chrestian about what had happened to his attacker and if the remains would have been at the least recognizable, but he hesitated. Considering how battles often ended amongst those with Gifts, he probably didn’t want to know. If there had been something to tell, Chrestian would have done so. Besides, he felt confident enough that it had not been Evagelos.
Coming around to the corner of a one of the few still apparently untouched buildings, Ilias felt the flash of déjà vu in his stomach. These feelings were starting to become more familiar.
He signaled Chrestian as they both pressed themselves to the corner of the building as they approached its edge. Ilias could feel his heart start to pick up in rhythm, although he was not quite sure whether it was in anticipation or nerves.
Peering around the corner cautiously, Ilias spied the Inn there at the far end of the warehouse they were hiding behind. It seemed so strangely out of place hidden amongst the larger buildings around it, and yet and at the same time it did seem to just blend into enough to seem naturally placed there. Definitely it was the same one from the visions he’d had.
Turning back to Chrestian he nodded in the affirmative. This was it.
Looking back around the corner he couldn’t help but notice more details that struck him as strange. For all the damage that had been done to the buildings around it, nothing seemed out of place on the Inn. Not a single broken window or even cracked. No smudging of soot or scorch marks from any of the wrecks that had been parts of the adjacent buildings around it.
“Strange that I don’t sense anyone in this entire section of the city, I would have figured there would have been someone…” Chrestian whispered and trailed off as he peered around the corner from above where Ilias had crouched down.
Ilias’ furrowed his brow, he had sensed something. A sudden change of, something. He couldn’t place his finger on it, his gut simple said it was a bad something.
“Wait, you scanned…”
The entire front of the Inn along with a sizable portion of what stood of the buildings around it splintered outwards into a massive explosion. Thousands of flaming pieces rocketed out in all directions.
Ilias’ reaction had been almost just as instant. Shoving Chrestian back and away from the corner he shielded them from the blast with a Ward the sent the pieces bouncing off around them. The force of the explosion caused the wall they had been hiding behind to shudder and moan over them, appearing as though it was about to crush them before settling back into place.
“Where in the Hells did that come from?” Chrestian exclaimed, “There was no way a normal shell could have done that much damage to one building, even if the dam thing was filled with explosive powder.”
Ilias shook his head as he cautiously looked around the corner again, “That was a Trigger. I don’t know if it was something Urvi taught them, or that they shared with her, but it seems to work the same as the ones she used. A Trigger based off someone looking for a trap, or in this case, any sort of scan apparently. Those merely gave away our position and these it would seem explode. Rather violently I might add.”
For the moment the immediate danger had passed and Ilias lowered the barrier then took off running along the side of the building towards the flaming ruins of the Inn.
“Ilias! It can’t be safe to rush like that!” Chrestian yelled at him as he started to chase after him, “You don’t honestly think there would be anyone left inside after an explosion like that do you?”
The intensity of the heat halted Ilias as he got closer to the burning ruins making Ilias shield his face with his arms, but only for a moment before he extended his arms towards the flames and started to absorb their energy. By the time Chrestian reached his side the heat had already almost ceased, the flames having been brought down to nearly cooled embers.
Ilias hardly noticed his actions however, his mind was focused on scanning what he could of the remaining wreckage as he stepped through the builiding’s blacked walls. He knew there would be no survivors, more than likely, with even less of chance of recognizable remains if there were. It wouldn’t stop him from looking though.
Chrestian started walking through the remains with him, his arms outstretched around him as well as he helped to bring the energy and heat out from what remained. He however was focused more on their surroundings; the possibility of someone attacking them was still there.
Ilias had considered it but had decided at this point he didn’t care. From the beginning this whole mission seemed to have been one blunder after another. Potentially one of the most crucial missions the Fold had encountered as of late, and the Seven had decided it was best to act so quickly and without properly looking into the details?
They sent you to look into the details. You are the one who had added your own agenda. So the outcome has not gone according to the plan or idea you had in your head, why start doubting others when you were the one in this position?
Ilias shook his head as if it would clear away the voice he was hearing.
Refocusing, he took a good look around him to what looked to have been a rather well stocked Inn. The flashes of memory were coming in strongly now. Despite being burnt and bare now, he could still see in his mind’s eye the pieces of life that had been part of the Inn. Simple décor. Lively patronage. That was of course, if these memories were in fact recent ones. For all he knew perhaps the building was indeed abandoned as Chrestian had sensed before it had all be reduced to fire and ash.
He was grateful for the fact that there didn’t seem to have been any inhabitants since there were no burned or charred corpses that they could find. At the same time however it had made him start to doubt how trustworthy these memories he had absorbed were. His memories told him this place had bustled with sailors and dock workers. Perhaps they had long since fled before the battle had begun. There was no way he would be able to tell for certain.
Ilias blinked away some water that had started to fall on his face. He hadn’t realized it had started raining. Even with both of them killing off the fire and absorbing its heated energy from their immediate surroundings, the rain drops sizzled into steam where they landed on parts that were still hot.
Making their way carefully around some of the fallen timbers, they both started looking around more carefully but for what Ilias couldn’t really say. However they had managed to rig the building to explode the way they did, they had made sure that it was going to make finding any trace of anything in what was left nearly impossible.
The best way to hide your tracks is to make sure there aren’t any.
Ilias closed his eyes, trying to recreate the layout of the building in his head. Yet the harder he tried to visualize anything, the harder it was to produce.
Opening his eyes he looked around at the buildings that had surrounded the Inn. The walls closest to the Inn had been caught up in the explosion, shearing away sections of the walls.
And there lining the rooftops of the buildings on either side of them, and even standing inside the buildings on what was left of the second floor stood nearly a couple dozen people staring down at them. Men and women of various sizes, shapes and ages, all stood looking down at them through the rain that had now started to grow heavier. Some wore normal clothing, while others wore cloaks with hoods pulled over their faces to shield them from the pouring element. Even those who did wear the cloaks didn’t appear to be any more special in their dress than those without. In fact Ilias realized all of them like some of the ordinary people they had seen making their way through the streets no less then an hour before.
“Ilias…” Chrestian had apparently noticed them as well.
“So you have finally come to take what you imagine is your duty and right to have,” One of the young men shouted down at them from their right in what Ilias recognized as an English accent. “The great and mighty, yet always secretive Fold, nothing more than an ender of lives and teacher of Lies.”
“We know more than you think you know,” a young boy on the left side of them spoke this time. “We have been shown what our true potential can be without the rules that bind your lives.”
Chrestian shifted his stance, his body visibly tensing. Ilias motioned him to keep calm with his hand, not wanting to make any sudden moves. Although he felt confident that this situation wouldn’t go too far out of hand, he did not need any drastic surprises coming from his companion. Not before he had his questions answered.
“You are the Shabash Strakha, are you not?” Ilias asked. The name had come from somewhere deep in his mind so easily that it flowed off his tongue as if he had always known the word. Yet this was the first time he had heard of it. He had no way of knowing what the response would be.
Silence it turned out was what he received. There was he noticed an almost imperceptible tension that came over their faces, a few of them seemed to recede into the shadows of their cowls. Whatever it was, he was guessing he had been right.
“You will stop chasing us,” this coming from an older woman who stood on the building in front of them. “In exchange for your lives, allow us to leave without further questions. Soon enough you will understand all that is happening and then our time with the Fold will come. You will fail if you try to rush things otherwise.”
Ilias noticed out of the corner of his eye that a few of the figures on had stood to his left and right had disappeared at some point while he had been focused on the old woman. He hadn’t noticed anyone move. And just moment ago he felt their presence so surely. But now, just as they had suddenly appeared, they had vanished. As if they had been a part of his imagination all along.
“What do you mean your time with the Fold?” Chrestian asked, “How do you expect us to fail when the odds are clearly in our favor. We are much greater in number then just a random few villagers taught some tricks.”
Ilias frowned. Was Chrestian seriously trying to bait these people into a confrontation. Sure if they went against the entirety of the Fold they would have the upper hand. But currently they were two, perhaps three if Dorom showed up miraculously.
And just like that, two more figures disappeared. One moment he saw and felt them there. The next they were gone as if they had simply ceased to exist.
“Our time with the Fold will simply mean the overthrowing of the repressive yoke of the Seven of course.” said the boy who had spoken earlier.
Ilias tried to stare as closely as he could to see if he could make out details of their faces, especially that of the boy who had just spoken. The rain made that difficult along with the dim light from the clouds and dark smoke that was still billowing up from the city. He had been so focused on trying to make out the exact details of the faces that it took him a moment for what the boy had said to even sink in.
They wanted a war? Against the Fold? If this Coven of Fear thought themselves capable of taking on the Fold, it left little doubt that somehow Bel’Durra was involved. Even at best if they could start a war it would force the Fold into a vulnerable position since they truly couldn’t afford a public war with anyone and remain as anonymous as they desired to be. Bringing them into the spotlight to the world would give Bel’Durra an advantage.
“Where is she?” Ilias asked the old woman, his tone tense and sharp as he tried to command some authority.
“She?” the woman queried and Ilias couldn’t help but wince a little at the slip of his mind.
“He. Where is he? Bel’Durra.”
Ilias had expected some sort of reaction from them at the mention of the name. Once again however he received nothing. Not even the slightly hint of recognition.
“We know of no one by that name, child.” The woman replied calmly, her hands reached to her sides as if to make a grand bow.
Only three figures remained before them. How could he have missed the others vanishing? Ilias shared a quick glance at Chrestian, yet the man’s face remained as taunt as it had been since they had discovered they weren’t alone. He had seen them as well. Chrestian had to have seen the others that had been standing there with them.
“Perhaps he goes by another name then,” Ilias said, “A man in a hood, covering his face in complete darkness except for when that dark shines if it catches the light.”
The description made no sense to him, but he knew it to be true. These blasted memories and their “convenient” times of revelation.
The man that stood by the woman’s side laughed aloud in a mocking burst, “We all have hoods if you hadn’t noticed. I would say you have to be more specific than that, but in all honesty it makes little difference.”
Jagged wooden splinters suddenly rose all around them, slowly lifting themselves as three pairs of arms rose skyward as well. The tips of the pieces of wood began to glow again as the three hooded figures fed their energy back into the embers inside the wood. Sounds of sizzling and crackling filled the air along with the sound of rain. Their combined talent would have made for a decent show of power under normal circumstances. Ilias felt that he should have been concerned for their immediate well-being, but at the moment he saw this as merely as slightly over theatrical.
“Since you would not keep to the bargain we offered you at the beginning,” the old woman said, her voice carrying the distinct notes of disappointment as if she were chastising disobedient grandchildren. “You will be spared having to watch those around you suffer and die in what is to come soon.”
Whatever sentiment she had carried at first suddenly vanished as she cackled a laugh, “I’m sure this method might be a little painful but at the least it will be a quicker death then what’s in store.”
Ilias felt the buzz of his Resonator begin but suddenly shut off with a stabbing pain that shot across the back of his head and down his spine. The feeling had apparently been stronger to Chrestian who grabbed at the back of his head let out a yell at the painful feedback they’d both felt.
“Secrets don’t make friends.” Said the Third figure who up until this point had remained hooded and quiet. It had been a girl’s voice, and one that rang with a familiarity that made Ilias’ heart skip a beat.
Ilias felt it then, the fog in his head and emptiness of a block on his mind. It had to have seeped in at the moment they had been distracted with the pain. And now there was no way to try and defend from it. Ilias didn’t care though.
So many years had passed since they had last been together and there could have been many things that could have changed and altered the sound of her voice as well as the language she would have learned. Ilias had felt it though, and if someone had asked him he would have bet his life on it. This had to be Emeryn.
Looking over at Chrestian, he could see that the man had realized they had been blocked off from their gifts as well. The look of confusion on his face must have been somewhat similar to his own when this had happened to him. If for some reason the man tried to attack them, he would not be able to stop him. Ilias’ only course of action was to make the first move, if he acted first he would not have to risk this going wrong for his sister somehow.
The shards of debris all flew at them in one fluid motion, within seconds they were going to be completely torn apart by at least a hundred pieces of hot splintered wood. His heart seemed ready to burst suddenly.
Whatever barrier they had tried to place in his mind to stem his powers shattered without him even trying to concentrate on them. His reactions were done purely by instinct.
With one hand he reached out and pulled Chrestian to his side with a pull of concentrated Energy while with his other arm he swept through the air, swatting away a good half of the flying barrage that had tried to impale them. The remaining pieces lodged themselves harmlessly around them and into the Wards he had created around them.
Ilias could feel the strength of the power that flowed from their three attacks. How they pressed their energy trying to drive the pieces through the hardened air that surrounded and protected them. For a moment he was sure he could even see the flow of the Energy they used just as he had seen with Urvi, he could see the only woman and the young man beside her straining with the effort of fighting against his Ward.
He also saw that the girl, while she too contributed to some degree to her companions efforts, had also started to withdraw and reserve some of her energy. The pieces she had sent and mostly all been the ones that had not directly threatened them.
It was exactly what Ilias had been looking for. He was convinced now and felt determined in what he was about to do.
With what felt like little effort he lashed out with his own tethers of energy onto each of the splinters that were fighting their way through the Ward. Once he was sure of his connection with them he dissolved the Ward in place and the dozen or so projectiles whizzed towards them, no longer inhibited. Now under his control he used the energy they had been forcing into them and guided them around his and Chrestian’s bodies harmlessly, before lopping them up and over their heads and blasting them back with his own Energy flow, taking their attackers by surprise…at least to two of them.
For a brief moment Ilias saw the surprise and shock in their faces moments before the shards of heated wood flew into and a few pieces through their bodies, sending them flying back and out of sight.
Only the girl remained untouched as she coward down, hands raised trying to protect herself from the attack.
She had been safe from his retaliation.
It took only a moment for her to realize that as she suddenly looked up. Her hood had been thrown back and Ilias could now see her eyes were wild with emotion. She had looked only slightly older than he had remembered her, but then, he had not seen his sister in over 30 years. Depending on when her Gifts had fully set in, she would have remained at that physical age. If he were to guess it appeared it hadn’t been long after his own.
“Ilias…?” Chrestian started to ask then trailed off. Ilias had been so lost in the flood of memories of his lost sister and the joy of finally finding her that he had blocked out the fact that he wasn’t alone.
He didn’t care anyway.
“Emeryn!” Ilias called out, loud enough for her to hear while trying to keep from sounding threatening.
She looked over at where her companions had stood only moments ago, and beyond to where they had been thrown. Even from this distance Ilias could see her eyes were still wide with the shock of the moment. At how quickly things had been turned around on them when it had looked as though they were about to win.
Emeryn turned slowly back to him and this time the look of shock was gone. Now in its placed Ilias could see a raging anger and hatred. It was the same kind of look that had crossed the face of the young man that had attacked him earlier.
“Emeryn it’s me, Ili-“
Before he could finish the words in his mouth, she shouted something at him he didn’t understand and turned to run out of sight from where he was below her.
Ilias was not about to lose her again, not now.
Launching himself into the air with a burst of air he landed on the rooftop just in time to her jump down on the opposite side of the building.
Somewhere behind him he could hear Chrestian calling out to him yelling for him to wait and not go off alone. But there could be no waiting this time. He doubted Chrestian had been able to break free from the mental block that they had been under, not if he hadn’t already tried to follow him to the roof top. Since he had somehow broken through the mental haze that they had somehow put them under he hadn’t wasted time to see if it had actually lifted on his companion. And he didn’t care to waste any time trying to free him now either.
He will only get in the way, slow me down. Stop me maybe.
Despite what he was telling himself however, he knew a part of him was trying to be logical. He was an idiot for following this girl, sister or not, he knew better than to allow himself to chase a target into an unknown situation. No matter who it was it went against everything they were trained to do.
Whatever else Chrestian had shouted after him was lost in another rush of air as Ilias leapt across the roof top. He landed at the very edge of the building giving him enough time to see Emeryn disappear as she rounded a corner a block away.
She was fast.
Launching into the air he flew across the street onto the building on the opposite side and started running diagonally hoping to cut her off. As he ran he reached out with his mind, trying to track her. Something about the way he reached out was different. It was not the way the Fold had trained him to track, this was simpler. Something he guessed came from Urvi’s knowledge.
Taking another leap he landed just inches from edge of the roof and immediately set off at a dead run along it, his eyes searching for her along the darkened streets. Almost instantly he found her further along the street then he had imagined. Glowing with a colored aura he had never seen before, Emeryn made a huge bounding leaps as she traveled. Her every leap and landing fueled by a flow of Energy, every landing on the ground she shifted Matter to soften the landing and help boost her next leap into the air.
There was no mistaking what he saw however; even through the rain and smoky darkness Emeryn’s body was enveloped in a dark roiling mass he had never seen before. Deep inside he could sense it was her, there was no doubt. But on the outside, her body had become hidden beneath darkness, almost indistinguishable. Every time she used her Connection the aura pulsed, like lightning insides of a dark cloud. Every launch with Energy pulsed blue, every landing and shift in Matter pulsed a deep and rich purple.
He had noticed he had begun to see the flow of Energy from others when they used their Gifts, but now this? If this was something he had inherited from his absorbing of a Demi-God, or if this was in fact something different altogether he had no way of knowing. And there was only one way he could find out.
Ilias throw himself over the side of the building and hurdled himself into the air, flying after his fleeing sister. There was no other way he would be able to keep up with her at the rate she was traveling.
“Emeryn wait!” he called out to her.
Whether she heard or not he couldn’t tell since there was no slowing to her movements. If anything they seemed to increase in speed becoming more erratic as she moved from one side of the street to the other, leaping along the wall of a building up onto a roof top before falling back down to the street to cut around a corner and then double back around the next block.
Ilias look up ahead of them and saw she was trying to wind her way around the city towards one of the walls. She had wanted to look as though she had no idea where she was going when in fact she did. The fact that she hadn’t taken to the air or teleported away made him think she didn’t know how, lucky enough for him.
He was determined not to let her go, not when they were this close.
Ilias plotted her most obvious course as she charged across a rooftop and landed just behind her. Landing in a roll, he brought himself back up and punched the air sending a solid volley of compressed air at her back.
Emeryn must have sensed his attack and dodged right, letting the volley fly harmlessly by her, only to have her feet blasted out from under her by a second wave he had sent immediately after. Whatever it was that she had covered herself in dissipated the moment after she started tumbling through the air, the black liquid-like smoke that had surrounded her blowing away into nothing. Whatever it was had been under her direct control.
Ilias nearly missed dodging the return volley of compressed air that she shot out as she caught herself mid fall through the air. Her attack had brought her right back to her feet and a mad dash towards the edge of the building. Had he not come across the boy earlier he may have been surprised at her skill and agility. Their training would definitely have put them on high rankings in the Fold’s Sparring Challenges.
Side stepping the first blast, Ilias slid below the next blast with ease and stopped in a crouch. Placing his hands flat on the roof he took a deep breath and instantly tapped into his energy reserves. He watched as he traced the lines of altered Matter in front of him, shooting out the rooftop in front of Emeryn as she ran. Walls of mortar suddenly rose just in front of Emeryn’s path to the ledge.
The first wall she nimbly dashed over, the second one she stumbled over more than cleared and the final one came up just before she reached the edge of the roof, her momentum thrown off already she slammed into it and stumbled back.
“Emeryn please, it’s me Ilias…” he pleaded as he ran up to her, stopping just short of arms reach. He knew all too well the dangers of approaching a wounded and chased animal, humans were no different. “You have to remember me. I’m your brother.”
The girl rose and spun to face him, her face scratched from where she’d struck the wall. If she had been mad before, she was furious now.
“I have to remember nothing!!” she spat at him, “Your kind has been hunting and killing anyone who gives any sort of defiance to your precious Order.”
Ilias was glad he stayed out of physical striking range as he saw her stand, her fists clenched and body taunt, ready to move if he did. But he was also seeing her body start to pulse again with the dark liquid-like fog and from this position he could see it was not part of his enhanced perception.
Emeryn had created it, that much he had seen as it poured from under her clothes and completely surround her in a writhing swirling mess. He knew he had never seen it, and a part of him knew that neither had Urvi. And not only was her body now completely enveloped in the darkness, but now she seemed to be radiating blue and purple light in flashes within its swirling tendrils.
“Emeryn, what are you talking about? My kind? My Order?” he asked, taking a step towards her which caused her to snarl at him. The action halted him in his tracks.
“What is going on with you? What are you doing to yourself?”
“STOP WHERE YOU ARE!” She screamed at him, her voice strangely garbled through the fog that seethed around her. “You don’t even know what’s happening do you?”
Now and then through the fog he could make out her face, her eyes crazed, body twitching nervously as though her actions weren’t completely hers to control.
For a moment Ilias feared she had been drugged. Far beyond a short term controlling drug, this almost seemed as though her brain had been scrubbed and someone else controlled her now.
“This Fold you serve offers half-truths dashed with their own smoke and mirrors. Yet they sink so low as to claim to offer their people the truth about their past. As if they could actually see what is going on.”
Ilias saw the hues change again as she started to gather energy into herself. But unlike how he had imagined it would look to see it gather from a source, she seemed to take it from nothing. By principle, energy had to be taken from a source. Here before her eyes though, he saw her gathering energy in from just outside the darkness she was wrapped in.
Another flash and swirl and he saw her face again, she was smiling at him, her eyes no longer rage filled yet neither were they kind.
“If you truly have any respect for me or my wishes, you will leave us alone. You will leave me, alone.” She hesitated, “Then maybe I can work out a way for you to live when it all ends.”
She pressed a hand back against the construct of a wall he had created and it instantly cracked apart and dissolved into a swirling Saeriim Portal.
She can open PORTALS?!
Through the swirling vortex of energy and crushed matter he could see dark and moon-lit woods beyond. With only a moment’s hesitation she looked back at him then Emeryn leapt through the portal.
For that moment, Ilias considered respecting her wishes and allowing her escape. But the moment he saw her running through the grassy field beyond and towards the woods, he dismissed the notion.
Already the portal was starting to dissipate by the time he managed to run the few steps distance. Diving through the portal’s center, he felt his mind work on instinct again as he kept the portal open just a second longer so he could pass completely through it.
We will just add this to the list of impossible things done today.
Saeriim Portals were among the hardest things a member of the Fold could create, requiring large amounts of energy and a personal knowledge of the destination in order to bind two different points in space and create the bridge between. Only one person could create or close a portal. And yet here somehow he had managed to keep the portal open, even if for a split second.
The moment he was through the energy was released and the portal vanished just as quickly as it had formed, leaving Ilias laying in the middle of surprisingly frigid field at the edge of forest. Getting to his feet, Ilias saw Emeryn’s dark and shimmering form stop just before she dashed into the tree line.
Taking in a deep breath he started to chase after her. Ilias considered taking to the air again to cover the distance quickly, but with as thick as the forest appeared he would have to fly above it to keep the speed. It would make it much easier to lose her trail that way.
And now that she had taken to running and not using her abilities, there was no aura for him to follow.
Just another old fashioned chase.