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Enzo stepped off the train with a large black duffel bag slung around his shoulders. The frigid Moscow air felt like a slap to the face after an autumn in Egypt. He was thankful the Atharim reminded him to bring a good coat, otherwise he would have been 'left out in the cold', so to say.

Speaking of Atharim, he slipped his hand into a pocket and brought out a phone-like device. It was basically a super computer in the palm of his hand that connected simultaneously to cell towers, satellite arrays, and the Moscow public internet all at the same time. He was suppose to be picked up by someone, yes, there they were coming toward him now. He could see their meet-up signals were nearly on top of one another.

The man that was formerly a blue dot on a screen approached. He was younger than Enzo, but it was difficult to say by how much. Clean cut, tall and fit-appearing, he did not seem to mind the cold. He outstretched his hand and spoke with a thick, Russian accent that made Enzo tense.

"You are Dolan?"
Enzo nodded, "and I am Savely. It was I that arranged your travel. I hope all went smoothly. Come, I'll take you to your home."
He gestured and Enzo followed. He was smaller by comparison to the larger Russian, but the set to his jaw was just as serious. If not more so.

"Travel was uneventful, Savely,"
his french tongue stumbled to say the name, and Savely glanced at him with a raised brow for it. "Thank you for all you did to arrange this,"
he replied without correcting the man. Moscow could never be his home. No where could. There was no point telling him, though.

Their journey from the train station through the city was likewise as uneventful as the one that brought Enzo to Moscow. At the first subway station, Savely gave Enzo all the digital marks that were needed to travel through the intricate public transit system on his own. The idea did not sit well with the Frenchman. It would be difficult to carry weapons anywhere he couldn't reach by foot or un taxi.

He arrived in the center of town well after sunset, although the hour was closer to dinner than midnight. Despite the cover of night, Enzo found his attention drawn to a hundred different places. The city glowed so bright clouds pregnant with snow were lit from beneath. Lights illuminated every crevice and decorated every surface. DaLight Holographic screens transformed empty spaces into opportunities for advertisement that were constantly moving. The abundance of sight, color, and light was overwhelming. He yearned for the quietude of his country home, and turned the burden of his memories toward happier days filled with gardens.

Savely gestured as they approached a building. It was modest, but clean. Many windows were lit from within. "This is it, Mister Dolan."
The other man set down a pair of black cases in order to pass Enzo another digital mark that would grant him access in and out of the building.

Once qualified, Enzo thanked the man for his service and completed the transaction of payment for services. As far as he understood, Savely was someone peripheral to the Atharim unlike the woman Enzo was here to meet. He was one of a few men that worked alongside the society without knowing their full secrets.

They shook hands. "Stay safe, Savely."
The two men held one other's gaze for a somber moment before parting. They each knew the destitution implied in the hope of staying safe.

Enzo shrugged the strap of his duffel across his chest and gathered the other two cases to him. He didn't notice the weight pulling at his arms as he climbed a flight of creaky old the stairs.

Some time later, he was knocking on what he hoped was the correct door. She should be expecting him.

[[Continued from Vague Truths]]

She'd been successfully ignoring the buzz of the Wallet in her pocket for some time now; the rhythm synced to the call signified it as not urgent, and she was neck deep in Aria's research, unwilling to be roused. At each vibration of interruption, though, a frown furrowed deeper into her brow, until on the fifth alert - a message this time, not a call - her concentration shattered, and she finally relented to pulling the tech free. It was from Marcus, her liaison when she'd first arrived in DI. Tried to call. You ARE using this thing, right Tehya? HQ has assigned you a roommate. He arrives this evening.

The unexpected flash of words drained her. For a moment she blinked at the screen, letting it sink in. A file accompanied the message, presumably detailing the man she was to expect, but for now Tehya did not touch it. Don't they trust me? Given her conversation with Aria hours earlier in this very room, the suspicion froze hard in her heart. It complicated things tenfold; dropped a stone of doubt in the peace she had found, the hope she had allowed. Resigned, she nursed the bridge of her nose, then scraped back her chair. There was nothing she could do about it. She would endure.

Before relocating to Moscow she'd never lived on her own before, but she'd never shared close confines with a stranger either. In most respects the idea did not bother her; her reservedness was more a result of survival than natural inclination. Of course, it was survival that was the issue. Should she have told Aria? The vulnerability pressed in tight now that she knew an Atharim hunter would be sharing her roof. A brother, she reminded herself. Family. One who'd stick a blade through her heart as she slept if he knew what she was. So much for restful nights.

She tried to leave everything as she'd found it, closed the door softly behind her.


Nothing much in the apartment had changed in the months since she had arrived here, the few decorative adornments having been in situ before she arrived, left untouched. She'd stamped no personality on the place, and thus it was inoffensively neutral. The living space was small but comfortable; a kitchenette with breakfast bar, small table with twin chairs, a sofa, coffee table, and a setting for a holoscreen to stream tv and media that she'd never used. Perhaps the only signs of habitation were the faint fragrant evidence of someone who liked to burn incense, and an ancient model of laptop humming loudly on the dining table.

She might not welcome the prospect of a roommate, but she was not impolite either. Since she'd returned from HQ, Tehya had cleaned, made up the until-now defunct spare room with fresh sheets, and perused the file of the man the Atharim was sending to her door. There were creatures that could imitate a man's features, but she nonetheless felt more comfortable with the forearmed knowledge of who to expect. Vincenzo Dolan. Two years to the tattoo, fresh to the wintry depths of Moscow on reassignment. Those initiated late to the cause usually had tragedy to blame for the veil ripped from their eyes, and their loyalty burned on hate. they burned sharp, bright, and all so often short-lived. Not that she would ask his reasons. She respected privacy.

When the knock finally sounded, she stood. Her research had since drifted away from Dolan and refocused on her hunt for intel on the Ijiraq, filling the hours before her colleague arrived with something useful. The half dozen screens emitting from her Wallet vanished with a swipe, and she pocketed the device. Dark eyes hovered on the door, steeling herself, but she did not delay answering.

The man in question stood in the doorway, laden by a bag and two cases. She didn't smile in greeting, though there was nothing unfriendly in the set of her expression. "Vincenzo Dolan?"
It was not much of a question; she knew who he was. "Come in. I am Tehya."
Enzo had not survived the last two years without learning to listen to goings on behind closed doors.

Enzo stifled the panting that burned his lungs. Wide-thrown eyes latched onto those of his Atharim mentor, Corrado Sabbatini, like a rock-climber grappling for a hand-hold. Corrado gestured sharply and Enzo snapped his gaze down the hall left and right. The way was clear and he took aim at the door. His partner did likewise and on their silent count, burst into the room beyond. Shrieking filled his ears.

The door opened and he recognized Tehya Alisdelisgi although Enzo could not pronounce her surname. She was American, he'd been told, but briefly blinked through a series of understandings. He'd never seen a Native American, before. According to Corrado, the American Atharim were somewhat distinct from the Old World Atharim, but his mentor never elaborated how.

He nodded, "Oui, je suis Vincenzo. Enzo, if you don't mind."
He caught himself from scoping the room beyond her for clearance before entering. She was Atharim, but Corrado's habits were ingrained in him after years at the wizened man's side. Trust nothing but your own instincts, he'd said.

He gathered his things to place them just inside the door. His spine seemed to uncurl as he deposited the weight he'd grown used to upon the floor.

He turned to her as he unbuttoned the coat that he let hang open for the time being. Otherwise his greeting was mild-mannered as his posture. He clearly did not see her as a threat. "Enchanté. And thank you for welcoming me into your home. I assume we will be working together?"
He watched her blankly while continuing to gather his surroundings. The place was small, but not much more than the home he shared with Mireille and the children and all four were comfortable together. Then again, they lived most of their lives on a terrace in the garden whereas Moscow was not suited to meals out of doors.

"Enzo it is, then."
She glanced briefly into the hallway before she closed the door, its lock clicking back into place automatically. The shortening of his name felt uncomfortably intimate on her tongue, but only because within her own blood family such things had been personal. Plenty of people went by nicknames, but she'd have sooner called him Vincenzo.

As he entered she watched him with the cursory interest of one stranger to another - or perhaps one predator to another. He was alert, but unthreatened, and Tehya's posture was similarly relaxed. Her attention was direct - she was not shy to look him over, but it was a functional curiosity. Though she inferred meaning from his native language, the foreign words translated no literal meaning. His accent lilted like melody, and his words were polite and pleasantly superficial.

Enzo's gaze washed over her, detailing the small apartment around her tall frame. If there was judgement there she didn't care to read it, and when he did eventually look back at her there was an emotionless cast to his expression, almost as if he chose to see straight through her. The dismissal did not offend her; in fact she almost began to hope that they might learn to pass each other as ghosts, barely impact on one another's lives at all.

A wry corner turned up the edge of her lips at the formal flourish of his gratitude. It had not exactly been her idea to welcome him under her roof so he should spare his thanks, though the courtesy was at least noted. "It isn't a home, let alone mine. Your room is on the right. Help yourself to anything you need."
The apartment was somewhere to sleep, and even less of a sanctuary now it must be shared - at least so far as she was concerned - but the openness with which she offered to share the space was genuine and unreserved. Except in one regard.

"You're used to working with someone?"
Mireille was the only woman to call him Vincenzo. To hear another woman utter the sound of his full name ripped his heart out. When Tehya agreed to shorten it, Enzo was visibly relieved. He exhaled and the grievance passed.

She indicated the room he might adopt. How long he would remain here, he could not venture to guess. Until the city's dreyken were eliminated, probably.

The welcome seemed genuine, so he shrugged out of his coat and draped it across a seat. His clothes were simple if a little worn from travel. He wore a plaid button-down, a t-shirt, and workable pants. A hint of a silver necklace could be seen around his neck, but it was tucked under his clothes as though he wanted it kept from sight.

"Oui, I am used to working with someone, my mentor and trainer."
Enzo looked down before he turned away. His expression drained dry. "His name was Corrado Sabbatini,"
he said quietly.

But Enzo recovered. He was Atharim now, a vessel. Corrado taught him better than to fight grief.

"Don't fight your grief, Enzo. Grief burns bright at first. Let it wound you, then smother it as you would a candle and it can wound you no more." Corrado laid his hand on Enzo's shoulder before walking away. Enzo stared quietly at the stars.

"He's gone now."
Enzo added, explaining without elaborating.

"It's true then? What is said about New World Atharim? You work alone?"
He failed to picture Tehya as a lone wolf, but his question lacked the sharpness of interrogation, rather it was softened by genuine curiosity. His was a life new to the society, but that was not to suggest he lacked experience. Not when he was trained by the greatest dreyken hunter of the century.

She crossed the room to scrape back a chair from the table, and sat. Emotion ripped through Enzo's expression, a tell of pain quickly quashed, but Tehya nonetheless averted her gaze in respect. Where her arms lay folded on the table she could feel heat streaming off the humming laptop, a piece of tech she kept around despite the Wallet Marcus had given her when she'd arrived. For a while her attention settled on it, allowing Enzo the moment to compose himself with a modicum of privacy. To news of his mentor she only nodded; a solemn understanding. Words did no justice to tragedy; she did not know him well enough to offer condolence, for either the pain spoken or the one concealed.

Curiosity, though, she could accommodate. "My family have been Atharim for generations. I was born to this."
A finger unconsciously touched where the tattoo lay under the sleeve of her sweater. Its now long since blurred lines had been tapped in laboriously by her grandfather, a promise made with every strike of ink into her flesh. She could still smell the incense, still hear the hum of his voice. The memories stung, but they also forged steel into a warrior's soul. She'd never lamented her choiceless path, even when nature marked her out as an abomination in the eyes of the very society she offered her life's blood for.

"Sometimes we worked together, when it was necessary. But they taught me to be independent."
Though she did not say, it was her notoriety in the States that had brought her to Moscow in the first place, to aid the shifting ways in which the Atharim must adapt in a changing world - at least for those of her brethren willing to accept the necessity for it. Tradition dug deep and pervasive roots: the job turned out to be a steeper mountain than she had anticipated when she'd been back home complementing the offer. New techniques, new weapons, new knowledge. It was needed. But not always welcome.

Within a few days of arrival she had discovered that Marcus - himself indoctrinated to the Atharim - was funded by a benefactor unassociated with the church. The motivations were fuzzy, though Tehya had presumptions. What she had assumed to be sanctioned while she crossed an entire ocean, she now suspected to be somewhat skimming under the radar, though since Tehya agreed with the direction she persisted. If the Regus knew about the project - and from all she had heard of the man, she assumed he had his means - then it had not yet inconvenienced him enough to interfere.

"Moscow is different,"
she conceded. She did indeed work with others here, but not usually on the hunt - and then only when need dictated it. The idea was not repulsive, but she was used to her independence. Moreso, her plans with Aria were fragile enough without an added complication, and if she was ever discovered, she would not wish for someone else to be tarred with her betrayal. Nor did she wish to open herself to the possibility that he might be on the one to reveal her nature. Instinct said no. Instinct urged her to shrug and inform him he was on his own.

Of course there was also duty.

Left to his own devices, bereft of mentor and whatever ill thing had propelled him to pledge himself to the Atharim in the first place, would he simply throw himself into the fire? Burn in a blaze of glory until the pain no longer touched him, taking as many creatures with him as he was able? She had no means with which to convince him to live, but she could ensure he at least didn't have any inclination to kill himself. If only for her own conscience.

"America is vast, and we are few. I can't speak for other New World Atharim"
- the term held a touch of amused dryness - "but I didn't even know many others who weren't related to me by blood. Here there are more of us. Collaboration is less unusual. What did they tell you they were pulling you to Moscow for?"
Corrado spoke of the legacy of the Atharim often and with reverence, but to be born to duty, Enzo could not fathom the life Tehya must have lived. Meaning that as a father, a man somewhere in the world raised his daughter in this life.

Enzo steered his imagination away from the dangerous crags of what-if. Tehya's ways were not his ways and although the concept was foreign to him, Enzo learned adaptability at an accelerated pace. He accepted without judgement or doubt, but the isolation she described frosted the warmth from Tehya's memories. A vast and isolated land, possessing only the bonds of family to shield against horrors of the night, was a forlorn melody for a child.

Enzo placed his things just inside the bedroom he would adopt and afterward leaned against the door frame, arms crossed, and pensive. What had she implied when she said Moscow was different? He had not the mind for inference, but the statement seemed more political than not. "I do not know why. I will learn, I hope, tomorrow. I have been summoned to the Regus."
He pictured the man, briefly. He had not been in the presence of their leader since his initiation rites.

The Regus was not a man Tehya had ever met, even since arriving in Moscow, but his reputation far preceded him. She knew enough for both wariness and awe, and perhaps a touch of fear. Respect edged her judgements of the man, but it also shaded her impression of Enzo. Not personally, of course, but there were disturbing rumours as to the current Regus's disposition; he sought to re-galvanise the Atharim with a closed fist, and if Enzo was under his watchful eye it was one more reason to practise caution. Weariness descended with the thought; not a new one, but heavy nonetheless.

He seemed thoughtful, though whether about what she had said to him or in contemplation of tomorrow she couldn't say; most probably the latter. A summons was worthy of the curiosity, a testament of recognition, but also a solemn omen. She thought of all that Aria had told her. Of Apollyon. The shifts and changes twisting the world, and none of the Atharim united on how to confront it. War was descending, and she could taste it like tears.Inevitable, Aria had said. It iced a shiver across her skin.

She said nothing. Silence did not bother her, and she did not find its intrusion awkward. Her own conversational skills were lacking, and wary of the darkness in his past she did not wish to press too deeply into uncomfortable territory. Rather than skirt the issue delicately, she chose for now not to address it. In its place she might have offered frivolous things; the weather, his journey, superficial talk of the city of Moscow, but it was simply not her nature. Her presence was earthy, quiet and steady like the centre of a forest.

"If you've travelled long, you should rest."
Protectiveness of a brother was an innate thing, and she had already committed herself to consideration of his welfare now that they were to share a roof. He was lingering in the doorway like perhaps he wished to retire, though showed no other particular signs of fatigue. She didn't know where he'd come from, but she remembered the laboriousness of her own journey well.
A river of silence stretched between them. Enzo was content to let it flood the room.

Tehya offered no opinions about the Regus. However, Enzo was not looking for one. He had his own formulated and that was utmost respect. In the rites, he'd wholeheartedly sworn to uphold the ways of the society. The Atharim were at war, and while Enzo was but one soldier, he was bound to obey their commander. Such was where he'd placed his trust.

"You're absolutely correct. Thank you again, mademoiselle, for allowing me to come into your home. I should prepare my things. I'll leave in the morning and try not to wake you."
The promise floated on the air a moment before he turned.

The bedroom door closed behind him.


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