“A Man of Power ...
The Beginning of a new Conquest.
A Cruel Plan made Real.
Dark, Tenebrous Soul - the One that Keeps and Originates Destruction.”
- The Prophet of Truth
Alexis allowed his eyes to close for an instant, and took a deep breath wishing the cold air of the night could help him sort out his own thoughts. His mind was filled with information about her, as if the emotional overload accompanying him since Sarah had found him in that warehouse wasn’t enough.
From what he’d read on Aaran’s computer he’d learned that Sarah Wilson was a young woman of twenty-seven years of age. Like all Humans, she’d been a child. She’d been loved and protected by her parents, and had had a happy childhood … up to a certain point.
She’d been an excellent student, although she had never had many friends. And the school reports characterized her as a ‘child with an extremely vivid imagination’, but, since her grades were always enviable, no one had seemed to worry too much about that.
When she was eight years old her father had offered her a pup, a pure bread Cocker Spaniel that had quickly become her best friend, since her inability to socialize with other children her age had worsened with the passing years. Two years after, the life of what had been an apparently happy child had changed completely.
A drunken driver had run over her pet. On the title on the small local newspaper’s cut annexed to the informative sheet was written ‘Dog saves 10 year old child’. Apparently the driver had lost control of his vehicle and climbed the sidewalk where Sarah was playing. The animal had pushed her out of harm’s way but, in doing so, had been unable to save itself. The dog that had bravely survived the accident, had ended up dying five days after. Sarah, who had refused to leave its side during that time, had a nervous breakdown and had to be committed to the Children’s Psychiatric Ward at Hays Memorial Hospital. She’d been released two weeks later, but in the following three years she’d ended up visiting that and other similar institutions quite frequently. Words like ‘schizophrenia’, ‘anxiety disorder’, ‘depression’, ‘social phobia’, ‘psychosis’ and ‘delirium’ were common in her medical files.
And then all that was suddenly over with the birth of her younger sister, Selena. Contrary to medical previsions, Sarah calmly accepted the intrusion of a new baby in the family, and a bond of complicity had been immediately formed between the two girls. On the other hand, socially speaking, her behavior became even more withdrawn as she pulled away from the world.
At fifteen she’d been acclaimed as a local heroine, when she’d saved a child from a rundown building that had caught up on fire, and that everyone had thought to be deserted. The small picture accompanying the local newspaper coverage showed a young girl, with huge scared eyes, her face dirtied from the ash, her light hair completely disheveled. Under the picture was written ‘Fifteen year old girl swears she heard the cries for help of the six year old boy locked inside the burning building’.
She’d had her first boyfriend at sixteen, a boy named Ricky Noland, but the relationship had only lasted for six months, after which, and after three whole years without a single psychiatric episode, Sarah had been committed once again. After two months of hospitalization the words ‘haphephobia’ and ‘anthrophobia’ had been added to the already long list of jargons filling her possible diagnosis. By then her parents moved, leaving Hays to try and get closer to Pittsburgh University, in Oakland, where, against all expectations, Sarah had managed to be accepted into Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
Apparently, while in College, she’d dedicated herself exclusively to her studies and there were few to none reference to friends or other romantic interests, although she’d been involved in various social projects as a volunteer.
An exemplar student since the beginning, no one had been surprised when she’d been invited to integrate the research team at the Hillman Cancer Center, appended to the university itself. The name John Donovan, the Human with whom she’d had dinner the other night, was one of the names in her team.
The most recent newspapers’ clippings made reference to a tragic accident he’d had no knowledge of. At precisely eight days ago the car where Sarah was traveling with her parents had been rammed by a truck. According to the news, the truck’s driver had fallen asleep at the steering wheel. Sarah had miraculously survived the accident. The same could not be said about her parents, which had left her suddenly responsible, not only for all their assets, but for her fourteen year old teenage sister as well. Since those were all legal and bureaucratic matters, there were detailed registries accounting her every step during the last few days. Including a court action to grant her Selena’s custody.
There was so much he didn’t know. So many little things that he would probably have thought irrelevant, if they’d been about any other Human. But with Sarah everything was different. He felt her world as if it belonged to him as well, and he couldn’t help imagine the pain and suffering she kept inside her, in silence, while being constantly invaded by the madness inhabiting him.
And yet she’d chosen the truth and had accepted it relatively well. She’d asked him questions, when he’d thought she had every right to simply run away, screaming in terror. And she’d accepted him, and the world of shadows he’d presented to her. If her life had been completely shattered just a few days ago, meeting him had certainly been a fatal blow, and Alexis couldn’t start to imagine how her frail human mind was able to deal with all that and keep its sanity at the same time.
One more reason to make sure she’ll be able to go back to her everyday life. And that she’ll be able to do so as soon as possible!, he told himself with renewed conviction and allowed his physical body to melt with the shadow of a street lamp.
He’d start on her apartment. He’d make sure that at least that part of her world would remain intact, waiting for her return. He was sure Sarah would want to go home during the day, and so it was important to make sure the building was safe.
The vibration of the presence of another of his kind reached him before he’d even arrived at her place, and so he was immediately ready to attack the moment he took on a physical shape.
His bright gaze was lost on the devastation surrounding him and, for brief moments, disbelief took over his emotions. If not for the fact that he could easily recognize some of the objects broken all over the floor, he might’ve even thought he’d made a mistake and entered the wrong apartment. Nothing had survived the wave of destruction that had passed through that place.
His sharp senses immediately took noticed of the invader’s presence and the intensity of the power emanating from him was enough to tell him his identity.
“Farran!” he shouted in a deaf surge of rage and a man materialized by the doorway leading to the corridor, since the door was broken in pieces all over the room.
“Oh, and here I was, thinking I’d have to try hard to drag you from your hole,” Farran calmly declared, lazily leaning against the door frame, arms crossed over his chest. However, as soon as Alexis took a step towards him, he disappeared again, reappearing by the window, where the distance between the two of them was wider. “Now, Alexius, think carefully. Do you really want to fight me in a place like this? As far as I know dozens of Humans inhabit this gigantic box and by now they’re all probably calmly lying on their beds. Besides, if this little mess irritates you so much, just imagine what you’ll feel if we end up destroying the whole building,” he argued, smiling lightly, even though his eyes gleamed in a silent threat.
Alexis clenched his teeth hard, squeezing his fist with so much force that his nails bit into the palms of his hands. No matter how much it displeased him, he knew he was right. And yet there was a big difference between knowing it and being able to control the fury boiling inside of him.
“What are you doing here?” he managed to growl and Farran sighed deeply.
“Is that a question? I offered you my hospitality and you disappeared without a word,” he declared sarcastically. “Deborah misses you dearly.”
“You’re nothing but a coward that didn’t even have the courage to kill me!” he accused him, forcing his own body to remain motionless, and Farran raised an eyebrow, looking intrigued.
“Kill? That’s a human term,” he replied with despise. “Destroy, annihilate. But kill? Araphel don’t die! Araphel cease to exist!” he declared proudly and faced him threateningly once again. “Besides, destroying you was never my intention to begin with. I was hoping that, given enough time, you’d finally realize that there’s only one path left for us. But I see now that my hopes were in vain,” he added with a sorrowful expression and his gaze fell upon Alexis left cheek. “I did think it was strange. You, protecting a Human. Even stranger that that incompetent would support you …” he muttered, as if thinking out loud, and suddenly his expression changed, his eyes gleaming feverishly. “Alexius! She’s just another Human! Just another specimen of this damned Race that will end up annihilating us all! Destroy her and join me!”
Suddenly the chaos inside him was completely silent and Alexis felt a burning ice take over his entire body. There were no doubts, no contradictory feelings, no guilt.
“Leave her out of this.”
Farran’s smile withered immediately before the deadly tone of those brief words and a sigh escaped his lips.
“I can still remember, back when we were children … and we used to play amongst the shadows of the lakes. Back then you were just a scared kid, always afraid of everything. But whenever I reached out my hand you’d never hesitate to take it. Alexius! How can you trust that aberration?!” he questioned, anger taking over him again. “And leave me! Me! Who was always beside you when you most needed! Your betrayal will only bring you pain! But maybe then you’ll understand how I feel …” he added, running a hand down his neck where the shadows of soft, delicate lines disappeared down his coat’s collar; lines that had once been the color of silver.
The fury that he’d been trying to contain exploded inside him at what Farran had just insinuated, and in the next instant Alexis was grabbing him by his neck, as they both fell out of the window, plunging into the pavement below; the shattered glass following them down like bright tears.
And yet, when he was finally able to recover part of his ability to think, he noticed that Farran kept smiling coldly. And so, just inches before they hit the ground, Alexis released him and reappeared on the other side of the road. Farran imitated him, successfully avoiding the fall, and landed with ease as if he’d just given a small jump forward.
“What a shame. And here I was thinking that this wasn’t such a bad way for two miserable existences like ours to end,” he told him sarcastically and Alexis flexed his legs, preparing for the next attack.
“I want you to give me your word you’ll leave Sarah out of this! If you have a problem with me, solve it with me!” he commanded severely and Farran unconsciously played with the three piercings stabbing his left ear.
“Come now, Alexius … after all this time you still haven’t learned a thing about my way of doing things. I couldn’t care less about that woman. In fact, I don’t care about any of them. To tell you the truth, as soon as I manage to get rid of our Brothers who stubbornly refuse to see the truth, I intend to greatly contribute to the decline of Assiah’s population. Although things will have to be done quietly. I’m not in the mood to have to put up with Merifri, or even Deiwos, with their usual bullshit about the balance of Souls. Not to mention the Law. Because I don’t know if you noticed, but as long as we don’t disturb the Humans too much, the Law doesn’t care about us at all. That being said! If that Human is the key that will bring you to my side again, then it’s obvious I won’t hesitate to use her. This should be more than enough to make you understand how important you really are to me!”
“I’ll destroy you first! And this time I won’t hesitate!” Alexis replied, feeling the numbing ice take over the burning chaos again, and Farran sighed.
“Do it now, then. If you’re able to.”
He didn’t have to say it twice. Just like before, Alexis was on top of him in the next instant, but this time around Farran didn’t allow him to reach him that easily. With a single jump back he managed to put enough space between the two of them to avoid his next attack, quickly replying with one of his own.
By the corner of his eye Alexis saw fingers suddenly become claws of shadow. He immediately tried to fall back but the momentum of his first attack robbed him of speed. The burning pain that tore at his arm, which he raised just in time to protect his chest, forced him to clench his teeth hard in order not to scream, making him lose his balance as he staggered back. All he saw was a dark figure and, in the next second, a hand grabbed him by his hair, pushing him down face forward, making his head hit hard against the pavement. At the shock all air escaped from his lungs, making him gasp. His ribs hurt painfully, reminding him that he still hadn’t had enough time to completely heal his older injuries, and the weight of an angular knee against his back made him grunt in pain.
“And this is why you’ll never defeat me! You’re still the same coward, wanting to fight me as if I were no more than an insignificant Human!” Farran spat the words with despise and the hand still grabbing him by his hair made him scrub the street pavement with his face, threatening to simply smash his skull as if it were no more than a ripe fruit. “The fear you have of your own darkness doesn’t allow you to fight like a true Araphel! On the other hand, my dear Brother, I guess I should praise you for having the audacity to dare even dream of attacking me in your present state.” He added sarcastically. “As I understand Cedrius wasn’t all that kind to you. And that’s why I’ll grant you a few more days. Because if you really have no intention of joining forces with me, then you better honor me with a worthy combat!” he declared, and to Alexis surprise, released him, the weight gluing him to the pavement disappearing, leaving him coughing and gasping for air. “In the mean time, do allow me to have some fun,” he added, throwing him a small piece of paper, and with a smile that hardly matched the ferocity of his gaze, disappeared amongst the shadows.
Alexis sat up with a grimace, the arm that he’d hurt the night before now practically useless.
Farran hadn’t recaptured him, but although he should feel relieved, all he could feel was anger and humiliation.
His gaze fell upon the small piece of paper lying right in front of him. With a shaky, bloody hand he carefully picked it up, turning it, his bloody fingers smearing it where he touched it. There, in that small, half crumbled, piece of paper Sarah smiled confidently back at him, the light of the sun making her honey-like hair shine like gold, her huge expressive eyes taking all sorts of green shades. The warmth and light emanating from her were so strong he couldn’t help feel as if a knot had formed around his throat. Because the Sarah he knew would never smile at him like that … and a light as bright as that had no place in his world of shadows.