“Time of Reconciliation ... Time of Rebalancing.
Reason over Emotion.
Reinforcement of the Sacred Bound between those who walk the Path.
The Moon, in the Sky, is Full and Bright.”
- The Prophet of Truth
Sarah looked briefly around and ended up sitting on one of the chairs laid circling a small round table. She’d never been in that room, and now that she was, she felt half disappointed to see that it was just another office.
Quite more spacious than the room on the first floor, here there were even more books than the ones filling the two bookshelves upstairs. There were two armchairs in a corner, and in the center a round glass table. At the far end, and contrary to her previous conclusion, on top of a wooden desk rested a modern looking computer, a printer and what could only be an internet modem. It was obvious that that office was used much more frequently than the one upstairs Once more her gaze was lost on the huge painting, that taking up an entire wall, represented a surreal landscape where the sky was purple, the sea emerald green, the plants in bright shades of blue and the sand on too orange to belong to any beach she knew. The candles on the two candelabra placed in the corners magically lit the moment they got in and were the only source of light. And yet, he obviously has electricity down here, she thought wondering why the preference for candlelight.
“So?” Aaran asked, leaning against the table, and Alexis took a deep breath. Sarah wasn’t really sure of when they’d made up but it was a relief to see them talk to which other like always.
“Nothing. Not even a sign.”
Aaran nodded lightly.
“Nothing from my side, either.”
“What about Hale?” Alexis insisted in a hopeful tone.
“He has no news.”
“What does that mean?” Sarah asked, unable to keep quiet any longer. It was the first time she’d been included in a talk like that, but taking into account that the matter was directly related to her, she thought she’d have the right to ask.
“I don’t know. But I don’t like it,” Aaran replied, looking as if he was considering dozens of hypothesis at the same time, and Alexis placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
“We’ve had no sign of them since the fire,” he clarified. “Not from Farran and not from any of the other rebels, which isn’t exactly a normal pattern. Although Farran is able to maintain an exceptional control over his impulses, the same can hardly be said about the others. That beings like Cedrius are able to stay inactive for so long is completely unheard of.”
“If nothing else, they’re compelled to act by need,” Aaran added and Alexis averted his gaze, clearly disturbed by the allusion. “But no attacks have been registered among the Humans. Which can only mean one thing. Farran is somehow keeping them quiet. And so we have to assume he has a plan, an idea that deeply disturbs me,” he concluded, his gaze gleaming in the shadows, and Sarah couldn’t help notice that due to the natural way he always acted around Selena she’d almost forgotten the dark aura of danger constantly surrounding him. Aaran was truly a frightening being.
“And Deborah? Any sign of her?” Alexis asked and Aaran shook his head, folding his arms over his chest.
“She must be hiding amongst them. I bet that we’ll find her when we find their hiding place.”
“It’s imperative that we destroy that data,” Alexis declared vehemently. “I don’t know if she managed to reach any conclusions, but still …”
“Yes. It’s best to take preventive measures.”
Sarah opened her mouth but ended up closing it again. She could tell them that Deborah was still going to the University, almost every day. But what use could that be? Neither of them could hunt her down during the day. And prematurely revealing what she knew could only result in her losing her freedom to act, since she was sure Alexis would never agree to letting her meet the other woman alone. She would take care of Deborah herself, she decided. It was like Alexis had told her before. We take care of our own. And Deborah was clearly Human.
“I believe Selena has grown more accustomed to her present living arrangements?” Aaran asked and it took her a few seconds to realize he was talking to her.
“Oh, yes. Thank you.”
“Has she made any questions regarding the story I told her?”
“No. But Selena is just like that. She will easily believe in the most outrageous things, and doubt that which is obvious and logic,” Sarah declared in a clear critical tone. “Besides, her mind is always floating all over. Now. As for that TV, Aaran …”
“Please don’t worry about that,” he interrupted her. “Assiah’s objects hold no meaning to me, and that includes money. In any case, money is just a means to an end. Selena can use it as she pleases.”
Sarah sighed realizing that there was no arguing with him.
“You spoil her too much, Aaran …”
“And as for the rest? What should we do?” Alexis asked and Aaran seemed unable to give him an answer.
“If they’re after me to get to you, I can always play the bait,” Sarah suggested with a hopeful expression that didn’t last long.
They both answered in one voice, and Sarah looked from one to the other.
“From you, it was to be expected,” she accused, pointing at Alexis. “Now, Aaran too? It’s a reasonable plan!”
“Not reasonable at all,” Alexis hurriedly corrected which gained him a threatening glare.
“I have to agree with Alex on this,” Aaran reinforced. “I understand that you want to help, Sarah. But it’s just too dangerous. Any of them can easily kill you with something as simple as a mere slap. And besides the fact that we swore to protect you, you are now one of us. You’re Alexis’ only family,” he added and Sarah felt her cheeks warm up, although those words had some weight to them. Raising her head she was faced with Alexis’ smile of adoration and she couldn’t help smile back at him. Because although the idea of that eternal bound was still strange, they really felt it like that.
“I’m going out again, Aaran,” Alexis announced and Sarah jumped to her feet.
“I spent all night in the north part of town. I just want to check on some of the neighborhoods they normally attack, before sunrise,” he explained and Sarah was immediately lost in his stormy eyes. It felt really good seeing that they’d regained their life, and knowing that he could see her there, standing right in front of him. “Don’t worry. I’ll just take a peek; make sure everything’s normal.” She nodded, understanding, even though she could already feel the cold emptiness taking over her chest like it always did, whenever he left her for one of his rounds. Alexis kissed her softly. “See you later, Aaran,” he said, and taking a step back, disappeared amongst the shadows.
“He’ll come back in one piece. Alex is the best warrior I know,” Aaran told her and she forced a smile at his attempt to comfort her.
“And yet they captured him once.”
“Only because that boy’s an idiot!”Aaran declared in a severe critic. “Alexis has only one weakness, and that weakness is Farran.”
“He told me a bit about him,” Sarah admitted with a sigh and Aaran left the table he’d been leaning against.
“Then you understand, probably better than I do.”
“He can’t kill him …”
“Fortunately, Farran seems to share that same weakness. And so they’ve been doing this dance for decades. Farran would have destroyed any other, but he captured Alexis. I’m almost certain that he specifically ordered them to keep him alive. Farran hopes that Alexis will end up seeing things his way and join his cause. And he is right. Those two together can easily achieve the most extraordinary things,” he declared with a certain longing in his voice. “In any case, Sarah. As far as Farran is concerned, your existence is a big obstacle. Right now you’re standing in the way of his objectives. Because he knows that now that Alexis has found his Hridaya, the chances of him ever join him are infinitely less. As if that wasn’t enough, Farran lost his family, while on mission here in Assiah. It was the pain of that loss that led him to join the rebels he now leads. And so, in his mind, it makes perfect sense that, should Alexis go through something similar to what he experienced, he’d end up making the same choices. You see now why it’s simply unthinkable to send you as bait, like you suggested.”
Sarah swallowed dry and merely nodded. She’d never seen herself as such a valuable pawn. Up till then she’d just been the Human Alexis had sworn to protect and, because of that, he’d tried his best to keep her safe. Suddenly the notion that she was clearly a target left her hands cold and sweaty. Especially because now her life wasn’t the only thing at stake.
“But I thought that if I died Alexis would die as well,” she declared trying to sort out her ideas. “If that’s how it works, then …”
“Things aren’t that linear,” Aaran told her. “Should Farran really kill you Alexis would feel your death in him, as if he too were dying, but he’d still have a choice.”
“What do you mean?”
“He’d either choose to disappear with you, which is what happens with most Araphel, or he’d choose like Farran did, to go on living. However, choosing to live is choosing an eternally broken existence. His silver mark would turn black and his essence would be forever in darkness, forever incomplete, because part of him would have died with you. The majority of those who choose to live end up going mad in a matter of days. The pain of losing half of ourselves goes way beyond any other pain. In Farran’s case it’s admirable that he was able to last this long,” he appreciated although his tone was cold and completely void of emotion. “However, I can’t even begin to imagine the living hell he lives in, at every waking moment. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, much less on him. Furthermore, it’s obvious that Alexis would never choose the same path he did, but I fear that, although Farran’s madness has yet to gain full control over him, his mind is no longer working within reason.”
“And yet Alexis still feels for him,” she muttered, remembering his pain as he’d told her about the one he’d once called Brother, and Aaran sighed.
“I know. And that’s why he’s an idiot!” he added and she smiled lightly.
“I swear, Aaran … I never know if it’s you who is unable to feel, or if it’s me who is unable to read you,” she declared, half joking, although she actually wished he’d answer the implicit question, and he faced her looking even more serious.
“Neither is true,” he replied and Sarah lost her smile. “What you sense in me is what I really am, right now,” he declared in the same tone with which he’d been talking about Farran just an instant ago. “It’s true that I can feel emotions and that, like my entire Race, they are intense, unstable and hard to control. In my case, however, the result of that instability is considerably more drastic than with the others. And so, although I do have the ability to feel like everyone else, I’m not allowed to do so. My evaluation regarding others’ feelings, and my own representation of what sometimes may look like an emotion, are mere reflections from what I remember from my childhood, when I still didn’t know how to avoid and control my own feelings.”
Sarah was silent for an instant. His falsely young face, of delicate proportions. His dark-blue eyes tenuously gleaming by the dancing lights of the candles. His white hair, falling straight over his broad shoulders ... He was magnificent, scary, frightening, and just as Alexis had been, terribly lonely.
“I’m sorry.” Was all she could say and Aaran smiled at her in another of those rehearsed expressions.
“You really are an admirable creature, Sarah Wilson,” he declared, although she couldn’t understand where that had come from, and made his way to the door; his wide, elegant pace reminding her of a model strolling down a catwalk. “I suppose you’ll be waiting for Alex? I’ll check the perimeter of the house before taking my leave.”
Sarah just nodded a confirmation, following him to the base of the stairs, and stood there, watching as he disappeared, swallowed by that eternal darkness.