Kirsan walked quickly down the hall examining the books that filled the shelves, he was in the history section. There must be something written about what the Guardian had done to Klaudia, but it didn't seem to be in this hallway. With a sigh he turned the corner and continued searching the endless shelves around him.
He loved the smell of the place, old wood, ink, dust and the unmistakable scent of parchment and paper. Oh, those smells always brought back good memories. He could spend eternity reading here in the comfort of silence and solitude, learning all that he could about the philosophies of men, of the worlds and creations and the powers that governed them. Yes, Kirsan was fascinated by the Hall of Knowledge. He was absolutely certain they would find something about the Mark here, they just had to look in the right place.
After a good while of collecting books, Kirsan returned to the table where they had been studying, put his newly acquired collection there and sat down to read.
"Nothing! There's absolutely nothing!" exclaimed Nash irritated, tossing the book he had been reading on the table. "How are we going to get rid of the stupid Mark, if there's nothing written about it? Remind me why we can't search The Source's archives? It'd be a lot faster."
"Because we can't leave any record of our search. In The Source everything gets recorded automatically and the oldest records are not even registered there. If we searched The Source we might miss something anyway," Kirsan answered calmly while turning a page. "Besides, Raziel doesn't have the power to create a Mark. The information we need has to be here."
"Oh, but the Guardians know someone who can," said Nash in a whisper.
"That's right, there's someone who can," He nodded, "but He Himself would have to put the new Mark on the girl, and if she had been in His presence she would no longer be in this dimension."
"Then where would Raziel get this strange Mark? It doesn't fit any of the sacred ones we know."
"Maybe we don't know them all or this is not a sacred Mark."
"We've already gone through all the books about Marks that have been used."
"Maybe this one hasn't been used before... Maybe it was reserved for them, maybe we're looking at the wrong term.
Nash took a deep breath trying not to lose his patience. Kirsan was making him nervous. He was too calm, he always kept his cool no matter the situation. That was his strength, wasn't it? Nash was not like that.
"The Guardians have the same resources we have."
Kirsan shook his head.
"We don't know that for sure and Prince Emm could have given it to them."
Nash frowned at the mention of the name, they were not supposed to say it, but his companion had never obeyed this rule and he couldn't understand why.
"Then the only one who can give us an answer is the Lord," he replied sharply.
Kirsan gave him a look that sent chills down his spine.
"We won't tell anyone anything about her until Klaudia decides what she wants to do." His voice was ice.
Nash knew he shouldn't push the matter, but he didn't understand why Kirsan was so adamant about this.
"Our Lord trusts us and our loyalty is with Him so why not tell Him? He would know how to remove the Mark and we could stop wasting time with books! There are other urgent matters that also need our attention. Like the fact that we have a mole, or that a group of suicidal fanatics have dug up the forbidden knowledge of the Servers of Shadows from oblivion and tried to perform one of those rituals."
"You are right, there are more issues that require our attention, but Klaudia is our priority. You know the Hall of Knowledge was created in a pocket in time, so we are not really wasting time. As you said, the Lord trusts us, we are His tools, and we will take care of everything. This is the mandate He has given us. We are not going to say a word about any of these problems until we have solved them. We cannot risk this information leaking out, Nash. Do you understand?"
"Then I'll keep looking after training," he said sharply, turning away from him.
Kirsan watched his companion as he disappeared between the shelves of the library. He didn't like giving orders to Nash. But no one could know they had found one of the Kalyerz. He would keep Klaudia safe, even from the Lord. Kirsan believed in the cause, he was loyal to Mael, his Lord, and would remain so until the end of time. His conviction and faith were genuine because he had been free to choose his side and Kirsan chose what he thought was right. But he had never been someone who trusted or followed orders blindly. Kirsan was not entirely sure that his Lord would be willing to give Klaudia the same freedom He had given them, not when they were so close to find out how to access the Spheres of Time. Not when having her on their side, would guarantee the passage through the Veil.
No, as long as Klaudia was in that vulnerable situation thanks to the Mark EraRaziel had put on her, as long as she could not use her power, she would be safer, if no one knew about her. And she wasn't alone, Andreas was always with her.
It had been quite a surprise to find out what a strong mind this boy had. Their initial plan had been to change his memories and make him believe everything was fine, but he immediately resisted and broke down their ilusion. It had been impressive so they gave him a choice and he chose to help them keep her safe.
Kirsan put the book in one of the folds of his robe and followed his partner. When he got to the training quarters, Nash was waiting in the middle of the arena for the Golem to wake up its warriors. Kirsan sat down on one of the sofas to wait for his turn while he continued reading his book.
Nash gazed at the ten faceless warriors who had just emerged into the arena, deliberately ignoring Kirsan.
He knew he wasn't being fair with Kirsan, but he felt anxious and it was very easy to let out his frustration on him. Nash couldn't stop wondering, if it had been the right call to rescue that human girl from the Evocation. They already had enough problems to deal with and he shouldn't add more to the pile. Nash hadn't been able to go check on her, but he knew she wouldn't wake up any time soon. She was barely alive when he had put her inside the regeneration chamber. It would take a while for her body to recover.
Only Kirsan knew all the details about her and they agreed to keep this a secret too, at least until they could take care of the spy. Kirsan had told him to close the report about the mission, saying he had returned the foreign species to their native planet. No one would think much of it. Instead Nash had transferred the girl to his personal chambers.
Now he was wondering if perhaps he should have taken her directly to Earth as he had reported. But Nash wanted to get as much information out of her as possible and to do so she had to be completely healed or her mind would collapse before he could access the memories. He also wanted to make sure the ritual hadn't affected her in any way so she could return to her life as if nothing had happened.
When the Golem attacked with his faceless warriors, he was still lost in his thoughts, but before the first of them reached him, Nash moved so fast he became a blur in the arena of the training room.
. . .
Klaudia woke up slowly. The sun was now low in the sky. Her body felt numb and her neck hurt from lying on the ground for who knows how long. Carefully she stood up leaning on the table chair and when she managed to focus her sight, memory hit her like a barrelling train, leaving her winded. The nightmare and the visit of Margaret, or Raziel or whatever her name was, and her parents. The warning about 'the Renegades'. What they said about not coming back again, that Andreas and her were on their own now. But her brother had seen her parents, he had talked to them! No, that was a lie too... So had the Renegades brainwashed Andreas?
Nothing made sense!
Klaudia felt like she was going insane and rage spread through her body like burning lava. Her hands started shaking, her breathing quickened as she started hyperventilating and her eyes filled with tears, blurring her vision. Her throat closed when she realized that if everything she heard was true, then her whole life had been a big lie. Her parents had been lying to her all her life. Margaret had been lying to her as well. Could everything she knew about her family be fake?
Klaudia was so wrapped up in her mental rant she didn't notice everything around her started vibrating, charged with energy coming from her body. She didn't even register the intense static charge in the air, her attention was focused on her thoughts and the painful pricking that suddenly spread through her body, numbing her. The girl felt overwhelmed by all these feelings so she started looking for her phone to call for help when she saw the family photo again. Then a depressing thought struck her, fanning the fire running through her. How could she have the power they talked about if her parents were human? Completely normal, Raziel had told that guy, the Renegade, Kirsan, and he had agreed. How could she be different if her parents were not? Had they also lied to her about where she came from? What for? They had already adopted Andreas, if they had also adopted her, there was no need to lie about it too. Either that or her parents had given birth to a future X-Man.
Klaudia felt the pillars of her life crumbling. Her parents, who were the most important people in her life, who had instilled in her the principles that guided each one of her decisions, who had taught her that love, goodness, integrity, honesty and trust were the most important values in the world... They were nothing but phonies. The idea hit her so hard, it felt like someone had knocked the air out of her. At the same time the objects closest to her shattered under the energy flowing through her body. In her fury she was oblivious to all of it.
Abruptly, Klaudia wanted to hate her parents. She wanted to scream at their faces how unfair, stupid and selfish they had been. By not telling her the truth, they left her helpless and totally unprepared, and for what? So she could enjoy a normal life? If that was the goal, they had failed miserably, because neither she nor her life had come close to ordinary. She wanted to make Mar... Raziel pay for what she had done, for abandoning her to her fate and taking her parents to a place they could not return, just when she needed them most. Did that mean they were...?
She couldn't even think of the possibility.
She was crying so much, she was no longer able to see the chaos around her. The chairs, the glass table and granite countertops, also the floor and windows closest to her were being crushed under the uncontrolled energy. Shards of glass and debris from the wrecked objects were hovering dangerously in the air. Klaudia clutched her head with trembling hands, trying to ignore the pain throbbing through her body. The rivers of lava in her veins had frozen, now she only felt cold and empty inside.
Had she really lost her parents?
Suddenly all the energy that had turned the space around her into a scene worthy of a horror film, exploded, destroying everything in its path.
. . .
Kirsan looked up as Nash sat on the other sofa, still ignoring him. He found his companion's mood swings hard to understand, but he knew it would pass soon enough. He also knew Nash' bad mood didn't have much to do with himself. Once they were done here they would check on Klaudia again. They needed more details about how the Mark worked so they could narrow down the search. He also needed to know if the girl remembered what had happened and if she had forgotten, then if she had accepted Andreas explanations about her parents' absence. But as much as he would like to go to her already, they couldn't skip the training sessions if they didn't want to raise suspicions.
The ten faceless bodies rose as soon as Kirsan set foot in the sand. The Lord had created these warriors especially designed for their training. Their bodies could regenerate in seconds and they were controlled by the golem in the back of the room which was programmed to memorize the target's moves and find the best way to destroy it.
After some time, all the warriors were down again and Kirsan returned to his book. Nash, who was still lost in his thoughts, didn't react, but he came back to reality when Kirsan suddenly jumped to his feet, looking like they were under attack.
"What is it?" Nash felt stupid for having to ask but he couldn't feel anything out of place.
Kirsan had never been one to express what was going on in his head with any kind of body language. Nash often made fun of him, saying Kirsan was one of the Lord's creations, the perfect soldier, a body with no soul, because he was always so stoic,calm and distant. But now, Kirsan, the cold, was looking at him with deep concern on his face.
Nash sensed the answer before he even asked the question.
"Did something happen to...?" But Kirsan had already disappeared into thin air.
Nash stood there long enough for the golem to target him again but he didn't even look at the warriors when he raised his arm and a fiery wave of energy buried them under the sand. The training session was over.
In a split second, his mind found the unmistakable trail of his companion and with a ripple in the air, Nash vanished too.
Kirsan materialized outside the house, the sun was down and the weather was great, but the house was completely silent and he couldn't feel anyone inside.
"What happened?" Asked Nash, he had just appeared next to him.
"Do you smell that?
Nash looked at him frowning, there was no one in the house, he could feel it very clearly, but he paid more attention and quickly he realized what Kirsan meant.
"Blood!" he exclaimed.
Both ran inside the house and went straight to the source of the smell but neither were prepared for what they found after turning the corner in the hallway. The kitchen was basically gone, replaced by a pile of debris and dust, yet all their attention focused on Klaudia, who was in the middle of the mess. Her entire body was full of wounds, her arms raised to protect herself from what seemed to be the ruins of the entire upper floor, floating precariously above her head.
The girl turned around to look at them and Kirsan saw the recognition in her eyes as soon as their eyes met. She hadn't forgotten him.
"You...!" Klaudia exclaimed with wide open eyes, she was about to say something else but suddenly her legs failed and the second floor fell on her.
Kirsan and Nash reacted instantly. Nash launched a wave of energy that stopped the rubble just before it smashed the girl. Then he started working on repairing the damage that had been done to the house. Kirsan threw himself at her and managed to catch her just inches from the ground.
As soon as he touched her, he clenched his jaw waiting for the first burst of pain, but surprisingly, he only felt an unpleasant throbbing that had nothing in common with the pain he had felt the last time he touched her. Kirsan felt very worried as he examined her, assessing the extent of her injuries.
"What in the world happened to you?" He whispered mostly to himself.
He was sure she was unconscious, but Klaudia shuddered in his arms and opened her eyes, her look filled with panic. She was struggling to breathe and then she stopped completely when excruciating pain rushed through her body.
Nash looked at Kirsan with awe as he continued with the reconstruction of the kitchen. Kirsan could hardly believe what was happening, how much blood had she lost already?
"Klaudia," he spoke quickly, not sure of how long she would manage to stay awake, "we are going to heal your wounds before you bleed out, then if you want to talk, we would like to explain who we are and why we came and if you are willing to tell us, we would like to know what happened to you."
She didn't respond, she kept staring at him with wide eyes and he wasn't sure if she had heard what he said. Her pupils started to dilate and she was shaking now. Kirsan knew she was in shock and indeed the girl lost consciousness a few seconds later.
"You take care of the blood, I'll take care of the rest," he told Nash who had finished with the house.
Kirsan lowered her to the floor gently and put his hands on her head and torso. This time the Mark didn't react at all against him, a detail that would certainly help with the search. Then his energy ran over her, scanning her wounds. Glass had cut through an artery in her right arm, which explained the shocking amount of blood she had lost, she also had more deep cuts over the rest of her body. But it seemed like her arms had seen the worst of it, with major damage to the nerves and tendons. The right side of her torso was also very damaged. Her ribs had broken and splinters had perforated her lung. As soon as he finished the check up, they started working on fixing the damage.
The energy they were manipulating flowed from their hands like silver fibers that started to rebuild the tissues repairing the damage while all the foreign particles still stuck to her skin disintegrated into a nebula of luminous dots that vanished into thin air. The strands of light covered the girl's entire body and spread across the floor to cover all the blood she had lost. A scarlet mist rose in the air forming filaments that returned to Klaudia's bloodstream through wounds that weren't healed yet. It was quite the sight.
Luckily she fainted, Kirsan thought, watching a couple of strangers tamper with her blood and body tissue is not exactly the best introduction.
When they finished and her body was back to its natural state, the girl stopped shaking and her breathing became deep and steady. Her vitals returned to normal and Kirsan made a final scan to make sure everything was in order.
"Now what?" Nash asked, breaking the silence. "Should we wake her up? It looked like she remembers something."
"Not yet. Her mind needs more time to process and heal. But you are right, I'm pretty sure she recognized me, which means the Mark doesn't erase her memory when she tries to channel her power. My theory is this Mark acts as a dam. It blocks the gate so the energy can't flow freely, but if she pushes enough, it overflows resulting in pure destruction. I'd like her to confirm this herself after she recovers from the shock."
"The explosion definitely came from inside and no one else was here, so she must have been the cause," said Nash agreeing with Kirsan. "What I want to know is what could have triggered such a strong reaction in her."
"I have no idea, but I'll be paying more attention to the wards we've put on the house so we can prevent things from getting out of hand. Get Andreas, let's speed up whatever progress he's made with the plan. We need to make some important changes to make sure this situation does not happen again. There is no need for her to face this alone."
Nash nodded and disappeared. Kirsan carried the girl into the living room, carefully leaving her on the couch. He then sat down to monitor her recovery while Nash took care of the tedious bureaucracy needed to delay any suspicion about the parent's disappearance. He also had to arrange things so Andreas and she could go to that school in the middle of nowhere where no one would track them down.
In the meantime, he didn't want to leave her alone after what happened. It was possible someone else out there had felt the incredible amount of energy she had used and would come here to snoop around. So he settled down next to her and continued reading his book.
. . .
After they cleared up the details regarding the girl's safety with Andreas, they agreed to come back in a few days to finally introduce themselves and explain everything she wanted to know after talking to Andreas. That way she would have some time to assimilate what had happened. They would use this time to find more information about the Mark and hopefully some way or theory to erase it, if she agreed.
Kirsan went back to the Hall of Knowledge to continue the search. Nash went to check on the human girl, he didn't want her to wake up alone after the traumatic experience she had gone through. That would only give him more memories to erase and more work was the last thing he needed.
Kirsan ran his hand over the spine of the books in the section he was searching, enjoying the soft touch of the leather, and stopped when he noticed one that was out of place. It was one of the old archives that contained records about the first generations. This one in particular spoke of the life of Hanam, Kirsan knew the name, had read about him in other records when he had studied the history of curses. Hanam had been the first cursed human during the second Era and his offspring had inherited the curse. He reshelved the book correctly.
Much better, he thought and kept searching.
When he reached the end of the corridor, he froze, it couldn't be. He dashed back and opened the book and read several pages at full speed. No wonder they didn't find anything, all that time they had been looking for the wrong thing. Now he had found something that matched the information they had about the Mark, but this was a curse, not a Holy Mark, as they had assumed. He was about to go find Nash when one of the servants came running.
"Master," he said breathless as he bowed his head, "I have an urgent message for Master Nash, but we haven't been able to find him."
"Nash does not want to be disturbed," he answered without looking up from the book.
"But this is extremely important Master. It's about his rooms, something is happening... we think, maybe... we're not certain, but…" the servant kept wringing his hands sweat beading on his forehead.
"But what?" His babbling annoyed him. Also what he had just said didn't please him at all, Nash was in his rooms taking care of the human so he could take her back to her home. Nothing strange should be happening. "Explain yourself clearly. I don't have time for nonsense right now."
The servant swallowed hard but he started speaking despite the fear.
"Master, we believe an intruder has managed to get into Master Nash' chamber and the master's safeguards have trapped them because the alarms started ringing suddenly and we cannot get near the corridor. The doors and the walls around his rooms started shaking as if the safeguards were overloaded with energy. We can also hear someone in there, screaming as if they were being tortured."
Kirsan put the little book in his pocket and looked at the servant with such an intimidating look, the poor being seemed to wilt.
"Get back to work and tell the others no one is to go near Nash' rooms. I'll take care of the problem." The servant bowed his head even more and left as fast as he had come.
Kirsan rushed to the nearest exit, he couldn't disappear inside the anti-jump wards, and as soon as he stepped out of the Hall, he vanished.
Kirsan wanted to go directly in front of Nash' doors but a powerful energy field pushed him back. The first thing he felt was the suffocating pressure in the air, then he heard the screams. He immediately recognized this energy had nothing to do with Nash' personal safeguards. It felt like hell had been unleashed on the other side of the doors and it sounded like someone was being killed slowly and painfully.
He pushed his senses further, looking for Nash, he was supposed to be there, but Kirsan wished Nash had left the room before this pandemonium happened. A foolish hope. It didn't take him long to find Nash' presence, but it was very faint. If they weren't so attuned to each other he would have missed him beneath the presence of the powerful energy. Kirsan crossed the corridor as fast as he could, it felt like he was moving through quicksand. The pressure was overwhelming and with each step the atmosphere became more and more suffocating.
When he finally got to the doors, he tried to disable the safeguards using the identifier on the wall. Kirsan backed away from it after barely touching the metal, it froze his skin and now the tips of his fingers were frost burned black. He looked at his hand shocked because he couldn't remember the last time something had injured his body, let alone killed his cells. Kirsan used his armor and cover his hand to avoid further damage, then he took a couple of steps back. He would have to use brute force. He pointed his good hand at the door and let out a blast of silver energy that hit the doors hard and reduced them to dust.
Once the doors were gone, the screams hit his ears hard and now he recognized Nash' voice, but he wasn't the only one. Kirsan jumped through the cloud of dust without hesitation, even though he couldn't see what was happening inside.
The room was filled with a really strange cloud-like darkness. It was gaseous, but at the same time it had a very tangible consistency. As soon as it touched his skin, a numbing feeling spread across his muscles, making it even more difficult to advance.
Kirsan now was forced to channel all the energy he could bear just to keep moving through the viscous darkness. The pain this caused him, clouded his mind and senses, blinding him momentarily under the excruciating environment that only added to the agony. The gravity and pressure multiplied with every step he managed to take, his body felt like it weighed tons. Kirsan was following the source of the screams when he stumbled upon a trembling lump on the floor and fell heavily beside it.
Now he could see Nash next to him, despite the shadows. His companion was holding his head in his hands, shaking violently and screaming with an expression of pure misery painted on his face. Kirsan felt fear spreading through his chest, he ignored it and focused all his attention on finding a way they could escape the darkness.
Kirsan prepared himself, gathering all the strength he had left to create a shield that would protect both of them from the devastating effects of the evil darkness. But when he touched Nash, a thunderous Voice that felt like it was coming from the core of the planet itself, destroyed his eardrums. Kirsan lost all focus and fell down, trying to cover his ears, unable to bear the horrible sound in his head that seemed to be tearing his soul apart.
The Voice was deep and terrifying, it sounded like it was made of a million screaming voices. More deafening than a lightning storm. More powerful than a hurricane. The shadows covering the room began to concentrate in the center until the human girl was visible floating inside the darkness. Kirsan and Nash were writhing in pain on the floor as the shadows crushed every inch of their bodies and the only thing they could do was feel the meaningless horrible words the Voice howled over and over again.
"BEHOLD… DAY OF DESOLATION COMES… CRUEL FURY BURNING... REVENGE ARE MY DESTINY... TIME MY ENDLESS REALM... MY EXISTENCE WAS BEFORE ETERNITIES... I WILL BE AFTER THEM... I AM INSATIABLE POWER... FEAR EXISTENCES FOR WAR AND INGLORIOUS ARE MY NAME!