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The morning dawn light was just starting to peek its rays through the closed curtains of the window. He was on the bed, he realized, the warmth of Valeriya and Rowan's naked bodies heating him beneath the blankets despite the chill mountain air.

The night was a jumble of sensation, of touch and taste, of tenderness and convergence. Sexual release was nothing new to him, though up until Valeriya he had lived a celibate life for years.. Lissandre. A risk he had been too afraid to ever take again, despite his surgery.
Nor was intimacy unknown. Gregorio. Jova. And now most recently, with his beloved Vale. And what they normally shared was powerful enough, the spark filled uniting of two iron willed stubborn people who found complement in the other.

But the three of them...It wasn't simply an additional person, a purely physical sensation multiplied by some constant. 3. 4. 5. 10. The number would have made no difference, despite the carnal overload. No. There was the divine within them.

And together, they changed. Valeriya had morphed, her wildcat fire and talons altered into fierce pride, as much as in Rowan as her lover as in him. And Rowan, that earthy mother goddess, seemed to root them all, encompassing and accepting as they penetrated to her core. He, too, was not unaffected, finding his pleasure not simply in the act of dominance and control. Rather, making himself part of the whole. In the process, the divine that filled the two encompassed him so that together they were a triad of souls, bound as one.

Even with the end of the magic of the night, the feel of their warmth, the firmness of their bodies called at him to stay in bed and luxuriate in the silk smooth skin and questing lips. Despite his age and their exertions, he felt rejuvenated and ready to go again, curious to see with eyes of dawn what had been wrought under a night sky.

But fate had not brought them together simply for conjugal bliss, as much as he might desire it. There was a purpose. Their shared vision, the three of them in the Garden. There had been another face, one he knew.

Almost, he regretted the need to leave his bed, to reach out across the world to the man. He hadn't realized how he had enjoyed his idyll, despite how it began. The months without the mantle of Regus had proved to be liberating, even intoxicating.

The new life he'd found- feelings he had considered no longer within his ken, a heart that seemed deadend and lifeless to all but his work now pumping joyously and filled with yearning and hope. Yes, real hope, no matter how unlikely. Even surviving the death of Apollyon, he realized, with a start. Foolish. This life was precious, and yet now he would once again root himself within the world, end this momentary freedom that came with anonymity.

He sighed as he gently slid one leg- he couldn't tell whose it was- from off his, disentangled their hands that had intertwined at his chest, and carefully rose, tmaking sure to cover their briefly exposed bodies from the chill. There was some movement and, even though asleep, they sought each other out, their two forms under the blankets merging. He smiled at the sight, heedless of the cold on his naked body, marveling at the beauty before him. Valeriya's face was near Rowan's, positioned in such a way that a single closed eye from each was visible, both as alike as they were different. The Eye.

His smiled deepened as the omen worked its way from heart to groin. He dressed quietly and closed the door behind him and retrieved his wallet. A secure channel opened, he sent the message.

It was time to talk to Patricus.

(Some modding of vale and rowan sleeping. Hope that's ok.)

@"Rowan Finnegan"
@"Patricus I"
“It is such a letdown to rise from the dead and have your friends not recognize you.”
Velvet Elvis

The mere fact that somewhere in the northern European forests of the Baltic states the Pope in the back of a car sparked a wildfire among people. The Vatican Secretary of State was quite pleased with himself, believing that it was his will that inspired the Pope to promenade around the countryside. Patricus promptly corrected the ill-inspired Cardinal with the order to halt their convoy at a national park.

The sky was a murky gray when he emerged from the car. His back was knots, but he embraced the discomfort with a glare that the others stay back while he walked along the path alone. Gravel crunched beneath his soft steps. The landscape smelled of decayed logs and loneliness. Marshes were like that.

As he walked, his thoughts narrowed to questions. The trail ended at the shore of a lake where the water was flat as glass. Like his time in Estonia, the end had come. He was done waiting around for something to happen. “I have something to say to you,” he spoke to the water, but his spirit was oriented elsewhere. The sun flared pink across the sky when he returned to his feet. His head throbbed, and the knots in his back from the car were no better for the walk let alone time on his knees.

Upon turning, he found the patient statue of his assistant waiting at the wood line. As Philip approached, he was shown a tablet. “Holy Father, this was sent from the Vatican. It seems that the Head of the Ecclesiastical Archives is urgently trying to contact Your Holiness.”

Philip looked at the screen with a brief moment of speechlessness. The assistant gently continued. “Holy Father, if you desire privacy, this setting plays the message.” After showing him, the assistant departed several steps ahead. Then, along the solitude of the lake, the connection linked and Philip waited to hear from a man seemingly returned from the dead.
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
Armande saw the beep of a receipt acknowledgement and despite himself, his heart pulsed. He turned, opened the door, and looked back once more into the room, the two beautiful sleeping women, relaxed and content in their rest and in each other, tangled sheets making it difficult to figure out whose limbs were whose. His heart tugged. He wanted to put the wallet down and crawl back into bed with them. He knew they would open up to him, bring him into their cocoon, their haven. The sanctuary.

Not tugged. He felt a tearing. He wouldn't lose them, he knew. Not soon anyway. But perfection required finality. The Greek tense aorist. The action complete. done. Beautiful art in whatever medium- a painting, a carving, a building, a piece of music, a novel, a play- bounded in space or time, to be appreciated in its totality and completeness.

The opera was nearing its end, final notes trailing off to cap the overwhelming experience. The book's coda was being read, bringing the story to an end, to be digested and savored.

Valeriya and Rowan in bed, the new home he had found, brought him to by fate, a place from which to be reborn. He had been Regus of the Atharim, with all its concomitant titles- Vicar of Iscariot, Ouroboros Nominal, etc, etc, etc. They made him tired. In hindsight, it seemed as...venal as the letters at the end of his name with regard to his multiple degrees. BS. MS. Ph.D....etc, etc, etc. He had transcended those definitions. Now, under the guidance of fate- a fate he had railed against once, furious to have felt played or manipulated- he had found his place. Here, with his Eyes. Something beyond the Atharim, even. The core stayed the same. But the world was far larger than he had understood. And his place larger. He felt centered and at peace.

Only now, as the idyll came to an end, could he see it in all its beauty. The attack on Apollyon, the fires that drove him below, the Khlysty, his beloved fiery hearted Valeriya who had patiently stood by him while he postured and played the arrogant fool, radiant in her thousand lashed back to teach him humility, the Voodoo Queen restaurant and his earth goddess Rowan, who had ripped away her own eye so that she should see more truly. And there he stood, with them, a trinity, each face possessing qualities of the other, each face different and unique.

It was breathtaking.

But the vision. There were four faces. The four cherubs.

Thus do we begin again...

He turned, shoving down his heart tearing, and went to the console of the vehicle, placed his wallet on the surface, and activated the comm.

The bright blue shining eyes of Patricus the 1st, looked back at him. Strangely, despite the tiredness and confusion, there was a...difference about him. He would not say content. No, not that. But the man had been on his own journey it seemed.

"Hello, Patricus. I imagine you must be surprised to hear from me." He could imagine the man's response. Of course I am surprised. Last I heard you were dead. Or something to that effect. The man was sharp tongued when the unexpected occurred. He laughed at the memory of their first meeting. “What was suppose to happen? I see this thing and am instantly a believer? Well, it fucking worked.”

He looked back, curious as to whether Rowan or Valeriya would wander up here soon and join the conversation. He didn't mind. It was the three of them now that acted. Three faces, one being, whoever spoke.
Philip hoped his isolation would disrupt the link, that the marvels of modern technology failed to resurrect a past he thought sealed in eternity. A trick, he hoped. A cruel ruse. When the screen rippled to life, it found the wide eyes of the Pope ringed in disbelief. He was motionless otherwise, hands gripping each other tight behind his back, but the eyes betrayed him.

Armande’s authenticity corded the great distance between them. He was untouched by the grave though the shadows of a more sinister darkness touched his expression. He licked his lips and spoke without a single blink.

“Father Armande, I have no inclination about the bounds of your imagination. The dead have spoken before, but I am not surprised they seek me out,” even as he spoke, a veil glazed his expression cold.

“You are no longer Regus of the Archives, but I remain the Pope. I expect to be addressed as such. What do you want?”
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
Armande stifled the slight chuckle that bubbled up from his chest. Phillip was always prickly, a trait that had never really bothered him before. Protocol mattered, especially when dealing with subordinates. It needed to be drilled into them until respect rolled off the tongue without thought. As for the mind, well, there was some truth that repeated affirmations played a psychological effect. Call someone "Lord" or "Master", "Holy Father" or "Regus"- even "Sir"- and a part of the brain began to associate the person with that position, making them more than merely human, but rather an idea. But only a fool conflated that with true respect or loyalty.

And yet felt petty and childish. A a true dominant engendered respect and deference through sheer force of will, freely given, not demanded.

Especially all the more so when dealing with equals or...he turned his head back to the room the Eyes slept in, thinking of them all together as the hand of Fate in the world...when dealing with superiors. The chuckle seemed to evaporate in his throat. He merely raised an eyebrow a fraction, ghost of a smile at the corners of his mouth. Election by a body- an election he had ensured, no less- did not impress him in the slightest. He ignored the attempted correction.

He folded his hands and adopted a friendly if distant manner. "The dead do indeed speak, Patricus,"- the most he was willing to give. " Indeed, Fate is at work in this world. The troubles we face go beyond mere monsters and abominations. It is not just the dead that speak. Fate has made her"- the pronoun seemed appropriate for the moment- " will known."

He leaned forward, the sapphire blue of his eyes burning with icy intensity. "A pillar, with four faces- a bull, a lion, an eagle...and a man." That last was said with an emphasis that screamed "you". His eyes burned with the fire of this singular moment in time. "The prophecies come to fruition. The four of use are called to the garden to find the reality. You have been called."
Following Armande’s presumed demise, the hassle of the administration of the ‘Archives’ was passed to the previous Regus’ second in command, an assistant whose name passed fleetingly across the Papal desk. Since then, the Atharim were a distant nuisance, unspoken until now.

Their last parting was one of mutual respect. What transpired since to erode their carefully laid foundations? It stung, Philip realized, that in their parting the concession from formality was so easy. Philip should not be so surprised. Vileness was an erosion that touched everything.

A porcelain mask fell across his chiseled face, but despite the slap doled to his station, his remained pristine. Armande was once a priest until he was released of his vows to the Order of the Society of Jesus. Unless excommunicated, Philip would call him Father, even if he buried the man.

He was prepared to explain as much until a description halted all semblance of rational thought. Philip’s face fell white as his robes. ”How could you know?” he breathed.

Cherubim guardians etched in everlasting stone. Keys, tombs, trees and dreams. A weight fluttered across his mind that he may faint. Instead, water slicked crimson veins across his eyes. They burned with the plea of one who’d glimpsed the beyond and returned haunted. All these weeks of waiting. Prayer, demands and pleading. To be useful to God and to the Church. To be called to action. Now, he was called, Armande need say not another word. He would go. In a heartbeat, he would go.

[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
Armande ignored Phillip's down turning lips. He was still young. Smart, yes. Charismatic, definitely. Driven, to his core. And he didn't hold it against him. It was something he had only recently come to fully appreciate. Titles were meaningless. Who you were inside mattered most. Respect mattered, of course. But his identity and self esteem was not tied up in his being Regus of the Atharim and all the affectations that went with it. Phillip would learn that, eventually.

Instead it was his connection to the fabric of the universe, that...he paused, trying to find the word, thinking back to his vision of Rowan and Valeriya and himself together on the beach, reality becoming some sort of warp and woof of some energy or force, a tapestry. The threads had come away and all three of them together had been woven into a new pattern of things.

Indeed, pattern was the exact and proper term. Their lives were part of a pattern, shaped in some way by a great force or intelligence. That lens gave a whole new frame of meaning to his life- from his birth destined to be the foe and enemy of Apollyon, Nikolai Brandon. All that happened in his life had shaped him, an arrow knocked, aimed, and loosed. Valeriya, heir to Rasputin, the Eye, hidden and vouchsafed underground 140 years ago, prepared for her ascent. And Rowan, The Bottom of the Cup a beacon to which they were called, only for Valeriya to find her other half, the other Eye. The two of them the single Eye of Fate.

All three of them, woven and shaped and written into a pattern. Lesser men might chafe at the idea. But Armande strangely felt secure and in control despite the seemingly opposite situation. Knowing his destiny gave him confidence and peace. Realizing that he had not been set to a task without any aid, that he was not only up to the task by his own estimation, but quite simply because reality had chosen him that lay the greatest of trust. No one could claim greater.

What was 'Regus' next to that?

He smiled at Phillip, the affection genuine despite the correction. He very much saw himself in the man. That did not mean he would not be hard on him, though. It would be a sign of disrespect to not expect the best this man was capable of. To himself and to Phillip.

To his credit, the Pope did not take the bait regarding station. He knew what was important. Armande nodded, pleased. "The Naval of the World." He did not expect the term to mean anything to Phillip, having come from the reindeer skin map. He included their location- or rather, where they would be by this evening- in the transmission. Lake Baikal had been merely the stopping point. Accounting for geographic changes of millenia- and this map was old, despite the skin only being less than two centuries in age, it bearing signs that it had been copied repeatedly. The language was ancient and unknown to him, though once again, the pattern had given them what they needed. Valeriya was familiar with it, at least terms that were apparently ritual oriented.- Accounting for those changes in geography seemed to indicate they were headed somewhere east. Siberia, maybe. It fit what he knew of Rasputin.

"The time left is reduced. But Fate has not left us weaponless. We have been chosen to find the key to save mankind." Melodramatic, he knew. But not any less true for all of that.
After the call ended, Philip passed the device to the priest that waited further along the path. Minutes passed with Philip motionless, peering far as heaven itself before he suddenly moved forward. With a start, the assistant, an Italian priest by the name of Floriano Presto, hurried after. Floriano long ago learned that the Holy Father explained his mind to none, so he was wise to remain quiet.

After Philip returned to his vehicle, Floriano took up the front seat, and the Secretary of State climbed in the back with Philip. The convoy resumed its trip an hour after the Holy Father’s sudden and urgent need to halt for prayer; a prayer answered.

After a few minutes of contemplation, he leaned against the door, watching the trees sweep by, and explained their next move. 
“We are not returning to Rome,” he said. His Eminence, Cardinal Benedek lay a tablet aside and looked at him.

“Where are we going, Holy Father?” he asked with all the patience of one accustomed to the unpredictable Patricus I.

“You’re going to proceed me to make the preparations for my arrival in Moscow. The time has come to meet this Ascendancy.”

Boros jaw dropped. “Holy Father? Are you serious?” In all the years of Philip’s Papacy, he adamantly refused any and all communication from the CCD, let alone hold an audience with Nikolai Brandon.

“I will come after,” Philip said, spotting larch trees buried among the blur of green and brown.

“Where will you be going, Your Holiness?” Boros asked.

With only a bare nod, Floriano passed the tablet to the backseat. The map was up when Boros accepted it.

Philip rolled his gaze aside just long enough to tap the spot.
“There,” he said.
[Image: hiclipart.com_-e1597513863757.png]
Man is like God: he never changes. 
It was warmth and the need to empty herself that stirred Valeriya awake. She found the supple flesh of her sister’s arm draped near her cheek, and her lips naturally pursed upon the softness. Rowan’s injuries were superficial, she came to learn early, but the Eye searched their remnants anyway. Even the simplest of wounds may weep pus after a day or two. Sometimes, deadly fevers followed.  After finding Rowan would be okay, glory be to the Great One, she sat up and searched herself over. She was not herself without marks, but they were acquired in Radenyi, bites and scratches that twinged even today with wonderful ache. Her skin wasn’t the only place that ached, she found with great amusement, upon getting up.

A brief search told her that her great love was near the front of the vessel, and Rowan slept as she needed. So Vale went to relieve herself and returned some minutes later. She wore a robe that hung open down her belly, and her hair remained tangled and gnatted. It would be perfect for tying up the finger bones of that leper fish that attacked them, but alas, she lacked such ornamentation. Rowan had pretty stones and jewels. They would suffice, but that was for later.

She wound her way up toward the front of the vessel, slipping the skeleton of her hand upon her love’s shoulder, squeezing it tenderly.

“Whom did you speak with, Great One?” She asked with eyes full of love.
The Eye of the Khylsty
Rowan’s eyes fluttered open at the sound of her sister’s voice from the front cabin of the RV. Taking a moment to review the night’s events, a wide smile crept across Rowan’s lips. She had not known such passion since her late husband and the debauchery they had enacted in New Orleans. It was invigorating. Moments of unbridled passion shared between loved ones was something that Vodun encouraged – indeed the Loa themselves took great delight in such unions. It was only too bad they did not have a few extra bodies at hand, the three of them could have gotten into some very creative positions if they had had a few extra limbs and tongues to play with. Rowan made a mental note to show the other two around to some of the more upscale Brothels located in Moscow.

                The wounds from the previous day seemed a trifle – sex always had a healing effect on her. Oh, she would not wear a shorter dress for a few weeks to be sure, but she could ignore the itch and the pain that came with the body’s natural healing capabilities. It was too bad that Vale could not harness Magic, much less Heal with it.

                With as much deftness as she could muster, Rowan slid silently from the satin wrapped mattress and moved into the bathroom where she attended to her morning needs. She took a few moments to half-assedly throw her hair up into a loose updo and threw on some concealer and eye make-up. A long, silk negligee was thrown on over her naked form and soft slippers came onto her feet. Taking a look in the mirror, she was proud of how delicious she looked with such little effort.

                The door to the bathroom opened gently as Rowan made her way out and into the front of the RV to rejoin her lovers. Vale was already draped over Armande and Rowan smiled at them as she snaked an arm around her sister’s waist.

                With the tilt of her head, Rowan spoke in honeyed tones, “Did the world end as we surrendered to the throes of pleasure?”

"The power Voodoo. Hoodoo? You do! Do what!?"

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