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Library of Wonders
Aurora had met Aria briefly. She'd met her outside of her apartment with Nox at her side. She was pretty, but Aurora was more impressed that the girl wore a sword, and a gun, and from what Nox had told her was far more deadly, he wouldn't mess with her. But then again, the two of them had had a very long conversation and now they seemed to be best friends. They shared things with a glance. Aurora wasn't sure she liked that. It was what her and her brother used to do. But she had to admit, since he'd met Aria he was less volatile and far more cooperative. Aurora wondered why that was, but it really didn't matter.

But Aria had shown her to the Atharim headquarters, the library inside was wondrous. Aurora had wandered around for a few minutes while Aria was off doing something else, but now she was here alone.

Aurora wandered the aisle thumbing the books on the shelves, sitting at the computer scrolling through the data available. Aurora had been told that another friend, someone to which Aria trusted with her secret, and Aria's secret was nearly as deadly as her own. A godling in the Atharim, apparently that was not new, though Aria said she'd not tell anyone's secrets.

Tehya was of Native American descent from Aria's description and she was hoping to meet her today. Aria said she'd be in. So today Aurora wandered the library with dual purposes, to meet kindred souls and to browse an awesome library of treasures. Aria also said that the library in Vatican City was twice the size and even far more grand. She'd love to see it. Maybe someday. She still had to decide if she wanted to join an organization officially that hunted her kind. She wasn't quite so sure as Nox was. But he was here to stay, so she would stay for now.
Despite Tehya's reservations, little had changed for her. She barely saw Enzo; their polite distance seemed a mutual endeavour, and once she realised how infrequently their schedules clashed it was not nearly so intrusive to share a roof as she'd feared. That relief was only enhanced by the fact there had been no immediate backlash from sharing her secret with Aria. She did not by any means feel safe. But she did feel purposeful. The horizon that had wavered since landing on Muscovite soil had solidified once more, and Tehya trudged ever onwards.

Aria had shared her findings on the Ijiraq, and she'd spent much time recently pouring over the research; she was as prepared as she supposed she could be until they actually found the creature. In the meantime she could only hope that Elias would not be so foolish as to seek it out, or that if he did he was unsuccessful. She tried not to let those thoughts trouble her, but despite what she suspected him to be, he was still a kid, and protection was the reason Tehya had pledged herself to the Atahrim. Not persecution.

The Atharim's library was not a place she had spent much time since arriving in Moscow; it was too close to the heart of the organisation, and Tehya had preferred to so far remain on the outskirts. She also liked to rely on her own experience before she turned to existing knowledge beyond that of her own family's histories. Today she'd set herself up at a desk, a mixture of physical books and screens, while she made long-hand notes in a small journal - mostly observations on various monsters that differed from her own. An interesting exercise.

At first glance gazes washed over Tehya; nothing about the way she presented herself screamed for attention. Her clothes were often utilitarian and practical, her dark hair pulled into a tail or braid at the nape of her neck. No makeup accentuated her features. A second glance might remark on her height, that she was both lean and strong. Usually that second look met the habitual seriousness of her expression and moved on.
Aurora had wandered past the same desk and lady three or four times while she scanned the immense library of books. It was literally huge, it was the largest collection on myths and legends and books she'd never even dreamed of seeing in a life time. There were entries in the computers that she would never have seen anywhere except in the Vatican or in some museum somewhere, but here they were for her to touch and read and frolic through. It was heaven. Nox had been right in that. Maybe she could get used to it here. They didn't have anything back home anyway. Nox was here, he was all she had. She sighed.

Aurora turned and looked at the woman sitting at the desk, it took her a moment to realize she matched the description Aria had given her of Tehya. She smiled. She'd been so absentmindedly browsing she'd missed the most obvious of things.

Aurora walked around to the other woman's side of the table. She hated to interrupt but she had hoped to find the connection that Aria wanted her to, maybe Aria had designs on her brother, but she was sure that the woman meant no harm either, an honest attempt at helping. Aurora smiled. "Excuse me, are you Tehya. Aria said I might find you here. She also said you and I might have a little bit in common, but she didn't say what it was exactly."

Aurora extended her hand in friendship. "My name is Aurora Durante."
Tehya's dark gaze glanced up at the sound of her name. She didn't smile in greeting, but there was nothing unpleasant in her demeanour either. "I am."
She took the girl in with unapologetic scrutiny, and accepted the handshake. This was the one Aria had mentioned sending her way, so her presence wasn't entirely unexpected. Other than that she knew little, though the girl's explanation suggested something Tehya examined very carefully. A little bit in common. That Aurora was wandering the halls of the Atharim should have been enough - that was all Tehya had in common with anyone, but she doubted that was it, not if she had been sent by Aria. Tehya did not spend aeons sequestered in the library. This was not a haunt she might expect to find a like mind.

She brushed a hand casually towards a chair, so Aurora could sit if she wanted, and inwardly considered her options. There was a simple way to determine if Aurora was what she suspected, but she was loathe to try it here. It had been enough of a risk to share her secret with Aria, so for now she worked only on the assumption that this girl similarly had gifts the Atharim would kill her for: gifts she would need to learn to control. If it proved to be incorrect Aurora was still kin of a sort, and so very young that Tehya felt a natural instinct to shelter anyway. Aria had been right to send her. "I'm only making notes, you are welcome to join me. Have you been in Moscow long, Aurora?"

Aurora felt the eyes of the woman sitting pass over her as if trying descern what and who she was. It had been something she had to learn to get used to, it was not often she'd met other's like her before. People who noticed the little things. Aurora wondered what the woman might gather about her.

And there was really only one reason for Aria to send Aurora to another female with in the ranks of the Atharim. Could there be another like her with in the ranks. Short of lighting a flame in a rather public setting, and a dangerous setting it was, there was no real way to tell.

The chair across from Tehya was a typical library chair, meant to seat yourself upon, but not linger too long. Aurora smiled at the proffered chair and took it. She glanced at the notes on the table, but didn't linger long, she'd have plenty of time to peruse the books here. But the question asked brought up the very thing she hadn't really wanted to discuss. Nox was being bull-headed in his desire to stay in Moscow. But he did have a point. A home would be nice, traveling Europe and this continent could be fun. But this Atharim world was far different than what they had grown up in.

Aurora smiled as she answered. "I've been in Moscow longer than I'd like. Though at current it seems I am to make it more permanent. A stubborn brother keeping me here."
Aurora giggled softly, mostly to herself. "I think he's infatuated with a girl."
Aurora wondered what Aria had told Tehya, she'd told her very little about the other woman, she probably had done the same for Tehya about her. The girl, no woman, she was several years older than she was, but so small in stature you forget yourself.

"This is a far different world than what I grew up with. My family was born into but we have nothing like this back home. We keep our own notes for generations, but there is nothing like this."
The awe and wonderment were full in Aurora's voice. She really did feel that draw to stay here and learn from an ancient society with rules and structure, and knowledge.
Tehya was ill practised at chit-chat, so though Aurora seemed pleasantly easy-going, she didn't have a whole lot to say in return. The young woman presented as remarkably ordinary, and far too innocent for the life the tattoo would bring her - which was not to say incapable, but internally Tehya lamented the restrictions it would place on her life. "There's much to be done in Moscow,"
she answered. It certainly wouldn't be her first choice of home, but duty was more important than preference, even though it put her in considerably more danger than staying back in the U.S. A pang of homesickness briefly caught her emotions, but she soothed it gently with the knowledge that she was doing the right thing. Belonging to the Atharim was bigger than belonging only to herself. If it cost her her life, she could only hope it was tender well spent.

"It's different from what I'm used to also. More rules and structure. But Moscow is the heart of change. It needs our protection."
And perhaps our influence. Would Aurora be safer under the wing of the Atharim, or outside of it? Tehya had caught no scent of the organisation searching its own ranks for traitors (not that she considered herself such) but that did not mean it wasn't happening. The present Regus was both ruthless and shrewd. They could not hide forever.

Gloomy thoughts. Tehya pulled herself back from them, refocused on the notes in front of her. Given their surroundings, it was the only safe thing to talk about, and in any case Aurora did seem awed by the collection of so much knowledge. "Contradictions abound, but it is also enlightening."
She shifted one of the screens towards the girl. "Pick a creature, let's see what we can find."
Contradictions were right, in the mist of everything the Atharim had taught, godlings and sentient and who else knew what had sprouted inside its very carefully veiled walls. It's not like those who were introduced were not born into the life. Up until the moment she found out she was a reborn god, she'd have done her job without fail. She was sure Nox would have too, but he seemed to take things much differently than she did, and these days it was disconcerting to watch him with Aria.

They'd done much the same thing for a year, but that had made them grow apart, they disliked being around each other because they had bickered so much. Now they actually ate breakfast together and there was no tension, no fighting, just fun like it had been when Mother had died. Nox had watched in fear, frozen he'd seen her mauled to death, seen the claw marks rip her skin apart, seen her insides become her outside. And there was nothing he could do about it. He'd had nightmares for years on that. He probably still had them but they'd stopped sharing rooms when both their parents had died and Nox's proclivaties landed him a new girl in every town. Seems he was still up to his old games, except this girl he'd chosen, he wasn't sleeping with her. Which surprised Aurora greatly.

As if the memory had prompted the question Tehya had asked her to choose a creature, it was a quick response, an eager response, almost too eager. "A hell hound. One killed my mother."
Aurora swallowed hard, even now that she'd just watched the memories flash through her head, just saying it out loud made it more real. Aurora let he single tear fall. She was not some child to cry over the past, but she missed her mother. And her father, but his own demise had been less that Atharim, drunken into a stupor. She sighed. And now she was losing her brother to a home.
Despite the stone of her exterior, Tehya was surprisingly maternal. Aria had not shared anything of Aurora's past, but Tehya could at least understand the unique difficulties of growing up in an Atharim family. And the inherent dangers. Their kind did not often live to old age, and the lives they did lead were often not strangers to loss. She did not know Aurora well enough to know whether comfort would be accepted or rebuffed, and erred on the side of caution, despite the tear that tracked its way down the girl's cheek.

"Fiery-eyed, black dogs. That much is agreed upon."
A few gestures honed the surrounding screens to their new topic, and Tehya spent a few moments shuffling through the journals on the desk - painstaking copies of long dead Atharim. "Almost every piece of evidence suggests a ruthless determination once the hellhound has selected someone - even killing one rarely saves the victim, only delays the inevitable, for another takes its place. Though there has never been any evidence to suggest they roam in packs. I've never seen an autopsy report, either."

"But there are anomalies. Those who report to have glimpsed such creatures, and lived to tell of it."
She turned to the written journals for that. Such tales were few and far between, thus didn't make it into the official profile taught to new Atharim. Most attributed it to hoax, or a confusion with some other type of creature. In any case, the only way to find such snippets was to physically search for them, and only the most esoteric usually had time or motivation for that. "In such cases, the dogs are spoken of as guardians. That they aid the lost back on track. Another creature entirely? Possibly, though the description is often the same. A distortion of the original myth perhaps. There's much we don't know."
And no-one is finding out.

She was carefully aware of Aurora as she spoke; she did not intend to suggest that Aurora's mother might have been saved - there was nothing to support that once a stalking had begun, a person could avoid their fate. Rather she was pointing out that the Atharim did not always take into account everything when profiling the creatures they hunted, nor explored behaviour that did not fit already established understanding - even to rule it out.
Aurora gave Tehya a half smile. She'd known most of that. Though she hadn't found any reports or myths on one actually being killed. It would be nice to know how to kill one for future reference. How did you kill something you didn't know where it was.

Aurora gave Tehya what little information she remembered. "Nox said he couldn't see the thing at all, we could all smell the sulfur. But Nox, he watched the whole thing. An invisible creature clawing and mauling at her. He had nightmares. Maybe if things were as they are now, she'd be alive, Nox could have done something."
Aurora wasn't sure how Tehya would take the comment the moment she said it. But things had definitely changed since their mother had died. He was still his carefree self, and she her overly protective one. But they had been close once. And now, well they grew apart, and yet closer together. Irony.

But he was also much more aggressive, much more keen to fight than before. Aurora didn't want to fight anymore, didn't want to have to lose anyone else. And the thought of those long months without knowledge of Nox, of the actual possibility he could be dead forever, it raked a hole painfully through her heart. But she still wasn't sure this place was the best thing for her anymore.

Aurora wasn't sure why she wanted to know but she wanted someone elses story, why they joined, maybe it would help. "If it's prying too much don't mind me, but I'm curious as to your reasons and methods of joining such an elusive group?"
Aurora rolled up the sleeve of her sweater to show the lack of a tattoo. "Coming to Moscow has given me new insight into this world. I doubt myself."
she said, though she didn't truly think so. She'd never heard of a victim escaping from a hell hound, not once they had been chosen. It didn't make it impossible perhaps, just very unlikely. "But that is a heavy regret to be burdened with."
And it was sad truth that most Atharim had such stories to share; moments of failure and loss, a trail of ghosts muttering what ifs that resonated ever louder in the dead of night. To linger on it could break or make a person; the vow to improve, reforging the dedication to the life of a guardian, else an insurmountable shame and a life revolving around one mistake. To be Atharim, there was little chance of escaping such pain. Often times, it was the very catalyst that set a person on the path to the tattoo.

"It isn't prying. I was born to it too; my family have been Atharim for generations, and I suppose I never considered that I might be anything else."
Even when she had realised what she was, and what she would grow to be: an abomination to the very people she had already ceded her life to. "I had good influences. There is more, but it is perhaps not a suitable topic for here and now."
Her dark eyes were unblinking, and she supposed Aurora would know what she meant; the matter of her power, antithesis to the role she claimed.

"But I didn't take the tattoo unwillingly. It was a choice I made and a choice I stand by, despite everything it has cost me, and may cost me. I keep myself separated from the trappings of an ordinary life, I make the Atharim's causes my subsistence, and it is not a life suited to everyone. I believe in our cause, Aurora. To protect, above everything else."
The honesty with which she spoke was stark, shining like a bright light in the dark corners of her mind. She held nothing back bar the things she could not safely speak of. The only one who could decided Aurora's future was Aurora, and Tehya would not push her one way or the other.

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