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The day after Aria's surprise visit was a busy one. By noon, Michael had sent Borodin his more detailed rank structure. It would be a long process, but a necessary one, as he had discovered. The General was quite adept and thorough with his paperwork and it was proving to be an enlightening, if dull experience.

Far from being done, Michael's day took him into the cold streets, wrapped up in a grey coat. Tomorrow, he would pick up his requisitioned vest from the barracks, so a thick singlet - or whatever they called them here in Russia - was the best he could do underneath.

He caught the Metro to Nikolskaya street and started his search in a run down book store tended by an almost as old and run down man. Fortunately he could speak English better than the other storekeepers he had experienced and greeted him with bright eyes contrast to his appearance. "Afternoon Sir! What brings you to Volaskov's Repository?"

Michael shared a brief smile with the man at the choice of name. "Curiosity."

The man laughed. "Ah, a regular scholar! Curiosity is the foundation on which knowledge is built. You will find the sections marked by genre. If you want for anything, just ask!"

Michael nodded at the former statement and gave his thanks at the latter, surveying the store. It was small in comparison to others in the area but well kept in neat rows of shelves precisely catalogued.

It was not hard to find the section on mythology. Most of it was Russian, but he found quite a few dusty leather-bound books of Greek origin.

Michael decided on a selection of three. The store only had two tables, each with two seats where the customer could browse the book but it was more than enough. Taking a seat, he started his search, as fruitless as it may turn out to be.

Edited by Michael Vellas, Jul 22 2014, 12:47 AM.
<small>[[continued from The Best of you]]

It had been a few days since he'd met Alex and he still wasn't sure what he could do. More and more he wanted to meet with this Inspector Drayson. He'd even called the number she'd given only be informed that the man was out on a call. They weren't even able to forward his call to his cell because the connection was evidently spotty. Connor wondered where Drayson could be in Moscow that would allow for a spotty connection.

But in truth, he still was unsure, even if he had spoke to the man. If Drayson really was the Mulder of the city, that might not be a good thing. He'd watched that show regularly with his dad and only too well remembered how many walls that man ran into. Even his own partner, Scully, who'd seen enough paranormal activity to choke a camel, constantly doubted his explanation despite its always turning out to be right.

Turning his information over to a government official who'd not be able to use it wasn't really what he wanted. He wanted this information to matter, to accomplish something. He wanted it to be blow against the Atharim. He'd only get one shot at this. And Alex was right. One man or woman was not much against a secret society that had been around for as long as he suspected they had.

So now the contents of the drive had been uploaded to a few cloud repositories- some the standard ones and others for more illegal stuff and therefore more safe from casual search. All under bogus accounts of course. He knew his job. He also had a copy in a portable drive in his pocket. He wasn't sure why he kept so many copies when each one might give him away. Truth is, he just didn't want to suddenly find that they had been destroyed. The drive itself, though, that was in a million pieces and had been thrown away in three different dumpsters.

He had the day off and so was walking around, thinking. Ayden was working at Chesterfields but they were going to do something special later that night. He was going to surprise her with some flowers and a night on the town. Maybe dancing. He'd been preoccupied the last few days, though come to think of it, so had she. It would be nice to do something special with her. He was feeling the pressure to get rid of this thing quickly. The sooner that was done, the sooner he could stop worrying.

He turned onto Nikolskaya street and saw an old run down store, Volaskov's Repository prominently displayed on the glass door. It was an older bookstore. He stopped. He loved old bookstores and the smell of the paper and leather and age. The few in the window were old indeed. Once of them according to the label underneath the open book, appeared to be an old 15th centurty edition of the Poetic Eddas by Snorri Sturluson. One of the pictures that appeared next to the alien text was of a man frantically looking up- his tongue sticking out in concentration- at a giant bird. He had a stick in his hand. He couldn't tell if the man was hitting the bird or whether the bird's neck was attached to the stick. There appeared to be cauldron right next to him. He had no idea what the picture was. The caption below the book, though, read "Thjazi and Loki. Beginning of the myth of the abduction of Idun." He wasn't too familiar with Norse mythology, though he knew the name Loki. Every guy his age did, after all. Those movies had been huge when he was a kid.

It was interesting though. In the movies, the gods like Thor and Loki and Odin had actually been beings from another dimension, he guessed. To humans, though, they were gods and were worshiped accordingly. It was all too familiar, really. If they had been real, and could use magic- like Ayden or Jensen- then it all made sense. He'd liked mythology as a kid, though mostly Greek stuff. Perseus and Theseus, Icarus, Achilles and Hector. He remembered reading The Illiad in college, struck by the fact that The Illiad was all about the touching humanization of Achilles. Achilles, like all the gods, was a spoiled child. None of them were affected by the repercussions of their actions. They did not get sick or lose loved ones or suffer as the normal people. Achilles could sulk in his tents while the Greeks and Trojans around him died and it meant nothing to him. Those that he had slain were merely fodder for his glory and reputation.

Connor wanted to relive that part of the story. He went inside and after a brief greeting with the owner, found the mythology sections. There was young man standing there but it was not where Connor need to be so he ignored him. There it was. He pulled the book off the shelf and began flipping toward the end, trying to find it. There. He started reading

Patroclus had been killed and Achilles finally suffered, had been enraged. He killed the valiant hero Hector in vengeance. But then he dishonored the body and refused burial, something that they so desperately needed to ensure that Hector could go to the Elysian fields. But Priam, Hector's father, snuck into the camp-hidden by the gods until the last moment. "Priam walked in, unseen, and went to Achilles. He clasped his knees, then he kissed his terrible hands, the deadly hands that had slaughtered so many of his sons."
This was it, the emotional climax of the story.

“Remember your father, Achilles.
He is an old man like me, approaching the end of his life.
Perhaps he too is being worn down by enemy troops,
with no one there to protect him from chaos and ruin.
Yet he at least, since he knows that you are alive,
feels joy in his heart and, every day, can look forward
to seeing his child, whom he loves so dearly, come home.

My fate is less happy. I fathered the bravest men
in the land of Troy, yet not one remains alive.
I had fifty sons before the Achaeans came here,
nineteen from a single woman, and all the rest
were borne to me by other wives in my palace.

Most of my sons have been killed in this wretched war.
The only one I could truly count on, the one
who guarded our city and all its people—you killed him
a few days ago as he fought to defend his country:
Hector. It is for his sake that I have come,
to beg you for his release. I have brought a large ransom.

Respect the gods now. Have pity on me; remember
your father. For I am more to be pitied than he is,
since I have endured what no mortal ever endured:
I have kissed the hands of the man who slaughtered my children.

Those words had touched his heart. And now, having been a father, he felt them all the more keenly. And Achilles...Achilles heard the words.

With these words he stirred in Achilles a wild longing
to weep for his father. Taking the old man’s hand,
he gently pushed him away. And each of them sat there
remembering. Priam, crouched at Achilles’ feet,
sobbed for Hector; Achilles wept now for his father,
now for Patroclus. And every room in the house
rang with the sound of their mourning and lamentation.

But when Achilles had had enough, and the aching
sorrow had eased from his mind and body, he stood
and took Priam’s hand and lifted him from the ground;
and with pity for his white hair and white beard, he said,
“Unfortunate man, what grief you have had to endure!
Sit down on this chair, and let us both rest from our tears. 510
Heart-chilling anguish can do us no good. The immortals
have spun out the thread of life for us human beings
so that, however we can, we must learn to bear
misfortune like this, but they live free of all sorrow.”

Priam's word to Achilles hit home. The god learned to be a human. Connor smiled. It was a good story. It made him miss his son, though. Not in a paralyzing way. He just missed being a dad, missed having a son by his side.

Edited by Connor Kent, Aug 27 2014, 04:02 PM.
The words were not anything he had not seen before. The tales he remembered. His view however, had altered, and he hoped that it shone light on old words.

Connections were paramount to his search. There were too many conflicting accounts to read one source with faith. However, the connections were there to be found.

In many the ancient myths the Gods who reigned fought their predecessors for dominion and established order under which the later humans were ruled. Those based around the ancient Mesopotamian region spoke of a flood, the wrath of the Gods upon men.

That could be explained as natural. If the Tigris and Euphrates had flooded an isolated society would believe it was indeed the end of the world. It also served as a link between myth and reality. Distorted by time, but still holding a grain of truth.

Michael frowned as he sought the next connection from memory. Yes, it had always been there.

The Serpent.

The book was discarded now, the myth of Ducalion and Phyrra and Zeus' divine wrath left open.

He remembered seeking the nature of the orobouros before. He had found only philosophical reference of time, but the snake he had not regarded.

The Bible, Satan disguised as a serpent gave humans knowledge - freedom- from God. Gilgamesh had obtained immortality only to have it stolen by the serpent. Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent served as the herald of doom. When Jörmungandr released its tail, the end would come.

If the Gods were those with his power, the Atharim - tattooed with an orobouros - could they then be the Serpent? The Bible seemed for the moment the clearest, if his theory was correct.

The Atharim - the Serpent - led men to turn from Gods.

He returned his attention to the Greek mythology. The most prominent serpent myth he remembered was Apollo slaying Python. Although not precisely a snake as such, it would serve as a start.

First, he would search Greece. The most prominent among and copious western mythology. Going back further was difficult, the Enûma Eliš and the Epic of Gilgamesh among the only remaining Mesopotamian tablets.

Michael hesitated. He did not have the time to become a scholar. The storm was gathering and no matter the past, the future was dire.

He pursed his lips in thought. So, he could not uncover the mysteries of the past after more than five millennia of confusion. The momentary excitement was cut short by reality. However, he had gained some understanding already. He would seek as much as time allowed. The focus would have to be dramatically narrowed, but it was something.
Edited by Michael Vellas, Jul 23 2014, 07:06 AM.
Connor held the book, thinking about Priam and Achilles and Homer. It was something. He remembered why it struck him back in college, that the whole point of the story was that Achilles had to grow up from being a demi-god to being a man. Up until then, he had thought he was the only one who thought the gods were are all petty squabbling children. He wondered why the Greeks- or the Egyptians or the Babylonians, for that matter- would create gods that embodied human frailties, cruelties, pettiness and stupidity. There was nothing transcendent about them, nothing to aspire to. The Judeo-Christian concept at least had a God that a person could try to measure up to, someone who was perfect and just.

But if the stories of the gods were really just memories of magic users in the past, well it all made sense. So how long had the Atharim been around? Up until recently, magic was still a legend- well, he thought. Not like he'd really know. But after a lifetime of "normalcy" suddenly, beginning with Hayden, he comes into contact with at least four magic users, two- no, three if you add Alex's father- people who could read feelings and feed off them, and two ijiraq monsters. It was like something in the universe had changed. For what he guessed were millenia, the Atharim had kept things under wraps. But now something had changed.

So how long had the Atharim been around. He looked around the store. Thousands of books lined the shelves, many of them old. But where to begin? It wouldn't do any good to just start at random. He could look at mythologies but there were hundreds of tales. He needed some sort of...survery or overview that focused on various mythological themes.

He wandered around, whispering an excuse as he passed in front of the younger guy also doing some reading. Finally, he found a section on Comparative Mythology. That might do, though there were a lot of titles. he pulled out one or two and flipped through them. Mostly, they seemed to deal with just Greek and maybe one or two other traditions. They looked alright. One, though, jumped out at him. Indo-European Poetry and Myth. Interesting. It looked like it was a comparative mythology of all cultures that descended from Proto-Indo-European. That was what he was looking for. The stories of the gods would have to go back to those ancient times to be the sources of so many myths. He looked over the section on the the gods and godesses and their cognates in each daughter culture.

After a little while, though, he was frustrated. He wasn't trying to find out about the gods. He wanted to know about the Atharim and there didn't really seem to be anything usable her. What did you expect? You're not a scholar. You're just some guy. And did you expect a section called 'The Atharim'? He was irritated as he put the book back. But another jumped out at him. HOW TO KILL A DRAGON -ASPECTS OF INDO-EUROPEAN POETICS He shrugged and picked it up and read the back. "In How to Kill a Dragon Calvert Watkins follows the continuum of poetic formulae in Indo-European languages, from Old Hittite to medieval Irish. He uses the comparative method to reconstruct traditional poetic formulae of considerable complexity that stretch as far back as the original common language. Thus, Watkins reveals the antiquity and tenacity of the Indo-European poetic tradition."
Now that might be something. Reconstructing old myths back to their original sources. And then he saw something that made him bark a laugh. "In the remainder of the book, Watkins examines in detail the structure of the dragon/serpent-slaying myths, which recur in various guises throughout the Indo-European poetic tradition. He finds the "signature" formula for the myth--the divine hero who slays the serpent or overcomes adversaries--occurs in the same linguistic form in a wide range of sources and over millennia, including Old and Middle Iranian holy books, Greek epic, Celtic and Germanic sagas, down to Armenian oral folk epic of the last century.

Something was tickling at his mind. He took the book and sat down in one of the chairs and started reading. After a while, he skipped to the chapter on the hero slaying a dragon or serpent myth. It looked like the myth was found in every culture. St. George and the Dragon, Apollos and Python, Hercules and the Hydra, Indra and Vrtra, Krishna and Kāliyā, Perun and Veles, Tarhunt and Illuyanka. But he also remembered that in other mythologies too, there was a serpent or dragon antagonist. In the Bible, of course, with the Dragon Satan and the Archangel Michael. And a leviathan like creature called Rahab. But also Marduk and Tiamat from Babylon, Ra and Apep from Egypt.

It was odd. Hebrew and Babylonian were Semetic cultures not related to the Proto-Indo-Europeans. While there could have been some borrowing, why this myth? And he couldn't remember what the Egyptians were, culturally, but almost certainly they weren't related either. So, why all these myths and stories about a serpent or dragon contending with God or the gods?

He wished he could talk to someone about. He thought about calling Alex. She might know. And then he remembered that symbol on the tomb. The snake eating its tale. It was how he'd met Alex in the first place. It was a symbol of the Atharim. And Aria had that same tattoo! Did the snake in all those mythologies refer to the Atharim? It was a strange thought, but it was consistent.

He wanted more information. He put the book back and went to the man at the desk. When the man looked at him, he said, "Excuse me. I'm looking for information on..."
Now he wasn't actually sure what to ask, what area he needed information on. "Well, on myths about snakes. Um, bringing death or life, that kind of thing."
He remembered the image. "Oh, also their connection to infinity. The serpent eating its tail image."

The old man smiled. "That, young man, is called an Oroborous."
At his puzzled look, the man clarified more loudly. "The serpent that eats its own tail is called an Oroborous."
Connor wished he'd keep it down. No sense in letting others know what he was doing.
So far the Enlighten District proved to be unfruitful. Some shop keeps would say, they all look familiar. Or yeah I've seen her, but she's never stopped in here. The latter of course meant that he was probably on the right track.

Giordano stopped in the next shop in the long row of shops was Volaskov's Repository. It actually had two men inside beside the shop keeper. Maybe this one was more reputed than the others? Maybe there would be some hope here.

Opening the door the musty old book smell hit him like a wall. Why anyone would want to touch these books was beyond him, the digital format was so much better.

Giordano walked up to the counter and waited his turn. He had only caught the last part of the conversation. The Oroborous? He was interested in the snake eating its own tail? That was a curiosity. "There are books on that?"

[Image: harrison_ford_05.jpg]

Edited by Alex, Jul 23 2014, 01:21 PM.
The phone rang. Armande picked it up. The Russian voice on the other end was rough from decades of smoking.

"You said to let you know if there were people poking around mythologies that I did not recognize."

Armande hummed a deep, throaty response. "Indeed. I did. Thank you, Borloff."

They disconnected and Armande swiveled in his seat to face a glass work panel. A few swipes and he transferred several hundred dollars to an intermediary account that Borloff could access. It was a thank-you, but more importantly, it was fulfilling a promise Armande vowed to uphold. I will make it worth your while, Borloff, he had told him.

A very short time later, Armande pushed open the front door. A little bell dinged as he stepped over the threshold. He was in a long, elegant wool coat that flared around his knees. Above a snugly buttoned collar, his studious expression gazed about the interior. He smoothed the well-trimmed beard with his thumb and forefinger, and bright blue eyes shifted left and right. He was rarely without a weapon of some kind, but he did not parade around the affluent Nikolskaya street looking ridiculous. He was a gentleman and a scholar.

Two patrons, one middle-aged and the other finely-aged, seemed to be speaking with the Repository's worker. The man was Borloff's brother and Armande guessed he was ignorant of the deal that brought the Regus of the Atharim here today. Of course, not even Borloff knew that much. Only that a generous and wealthy man was interested in anyone who were themselves overly interested in ouroboros lore.

He sized up all three individuals and patiently unbuttoned the coat. Climbing into a warm bookshop after leaving the wet winter streets, the air was stifling.

The shopkeeper gestured that he would tend to the other two men before giving the newcomer his assistance. "Hurry not, brother. I am only browsing."
"Oh, also their connection to infinity. The serpent eating its tail image."

"The serpent that eats its own tail is called an Oroborous."


"There are books on that?"


Michael frowned. There seemed to be a lot of interest in snakes today. Coincidence?

Possible, but unlikely. Why would three complete strangers be looking at something so similar in a run down book store?

How many people knew about the damn Atharim? Weren't they supposed to be a secret society? Could they have survived an Atharim attack? Or had Aria's visit have been more sinister than he had thought?

Whatever the case was, Michael left the clerk to deal with it. Soon, he could start his work. Today, he was just a man spending idle time in a book store on his day off.

Looking up from his seat, he saw an older man make his way deeper into the store. The man held himself with dignity and poise unlike the stiff regulation of General Borodin. Catching the man's eye, he nodded in greeting before resuming his research.
Edited by Michael Vellas, Jul 23 2014, 08:24 PM.
Connor was irritated at the man's broadcasting his question to the store. There had been only the young man sitting at the tables initially. But just as the old man mentioned the oroborous the first time, the door rang as another older man walked in. He was a hard man and Connor suddenly felt very exposed. His feeling was compounded when the old man mentioned the oroborous again and the new man responded with "There are books on that?" He was definitely uncomfortable and acutely aware of what was in his pocket.

It was time to lie his ass off. He laughed at the old man and then glanced at the new one. "Heh...they have books on probably everything in here."
He relaxed his demeanor and was nonchalant. To the old man: "I've been taking classes at the college- you know, comparative mythology- and the teacher was pointing out the prevalence of snakes in Proto-Indo-European legends. You know, their connection to immortality and stuff. It's definitely interesting so..."
He shrugged as if it were nothing. I figured I'd look more deeply into it."
He laughed. "Might be worth some extra-credit maybe.
Then an idea occurred to him, and he looked at the new man for a moment, about to include him in the conversation. Just then, the door dinged again and another man walked in. He was tall, maybe an inch more than him and he moved with a quiet grace.

Connor's gut was screaming at him to get the hell out of there as fast as possible, but not to draw attention to himself. He turned back to the old man and let his laugh turn to a snort. "I told my wife about the snake stuff and now she wants of tattoo of that snake eating its tail thing- the boroboro you called it?"
He chuckled. "Heh...she says it'll be a good reminder to me that she'll be around forever."
He tried to sound put upon. Then he shrugged and joked to the man. "Whatever she wants is fine with me, as long as she's not buggin me about it."

The shopkeep smiled as if to say 'nobody cares, and I have customers,' for which Connor was glad. "Well, there aren't any books on the oroborous itself that I know of."
His words emphasized the proper pronunciation of the word. "Of course, you can check the internet. I'm sure you can find something there."
His tone showed just what he thought of the internet's reliability in comparison to his precious books. He was old. Probably same age as his dad would've been. "I can tell you of a few individual legends mentioning snakes. Most of them have to do with creation and rebirth though. Julungul of the Australian Aborigines. The Naga of India. Kulkulkan of the Maya"
The man paused. "Those are just a few. There are just too many mythologies to mention. Indonesian, Aztecan, Greek. They appear everywhere."
He wound down. "But I do not know of any specific books that endeavor to collect all these myths into one place."
He looked at the other men in the store, one of whom was just browsing deeper into the stacks. "All of those I mentioned are in the mythology section you were just in. Is there anything else I can help you with?"

Connor was glad for the dismissal. And that the man had rambled on about snakes and mythology. He couldn't leave right away- he still the Watkins book in his hands- and he thought leaving might call attention to himself. The man had given him suggestions and it would do to look like he was checking them out. Besides, he was being paranoid. The men were probably harmless. Well, he remembered the hard way they looked. Not harmless exactly. But probably not interested in him.

"No. But thanks. I'll check them out."
He smiled at the man and then went back to that section. His heart was beating fast but he had to ride this out.

Edited by Connor Kent, Jul 24 2014, 02:48 PM.
Now there were four men in the store besides himself. Giordano knew that this was probably the most customers the shop keep had seen at one time in his store. He almost turned around to come back later, but the last man who came in gave Giordano an odd feeling. He had a menacing presence about him, he definitely wasn't here to just browse. But it really mattered little.

He really didn't care for the books here, he was looking for someone. Someone in particular, and from what he knew of the Atharim, this was the perfect cover for such an operation. All their old traditions and their murderous ways.

The man in front of him was clearly worried about something, and was lying like his life depended on it. Did he really understand the dangers of the myths he spoke of? The Atharim weren't quite so secret as they had thought.

The last man who had entered pretended to be looking through the stacks, but he was concentrating on other things. It didn't matter either way.

Giordano took the picture from his pocket and approached the shop keep. "You seen this girl? Her name is Aria."

The shop keep took the picture and looked back up at him. "It's blurry, I suppose I could have. I think she lives above a shop a few doors down."

Jackpot! "You know which one?"

He shook his head. "Sorry. She's usually leaving when I close up. No idea where she comes from. But I know it's always from the same direction." He pointed the way down the street.

Giordano nodded. "Thanks a lot."

Who was seeking the Sentient? The thought cleared from his mind. The answer would arrive soon.

Armande spent his idle time surveying his surroundings. He casually strolled here or there, hands tucked behind his back as he moved. He would pause long moments before a shelf while his gaze roamed the selections on display. His primordial soul was a student of philosophy and history. Shops such as this were temptations to prickle his never-ending quest for knowledge, yet many of the titles on display were already known to him. The more valuable editions were prominently arranged nearer the front:

A nineteenth century edition of Plato's The Republic was positioned next to Being and Nothingness by Sartre. The extremely brilliant Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein was tucked next to the Confessiones of St. Augustine of Hippo. Armande smiled fondly to himself. He had an eighth century edition in his library in Vatican City. The Church's archives had an original from the fourth century. Written in the style of David's Psalms, the autobiography was a model of all Christian writers for the following thousand years of history.

He plucked the book from the shelf to read the first line. 'For Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee.'

He sneered after checking the 75-year-old book's price and returned it to its place on the shelf.

A quick glance at his fellow shoppers' whereabouts, and he turned his attention to a Wallet pulled from his sleek wool coat. In all likelihood he was cross-referencing the price to online estimates of value. He tilted his head back as though his old eyes were having difficulty focusing on the screen. He tilted and turned the Wallet to position it just so...

...and in doing so, very subtly took pictures of his companions. Thereafter, he returned the Wallet to its pocket and continued to browse while it ran the faces through Atharim databases.
Edited by Regus, Jul 24 2014, 06:50 PM.

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