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A Lesson
The early morning sunlight streamed in the window. Rivers of dust and lint seemed to dance in the beams of light. The window was a good 3 feet above the table where a man sat.
An older man paced the room behind him. Back and forth, wall to wall, the man paced. Not fast, nor impatient ...pacing was simply what he was doing at present.
The younger man held his forehead in his hands. Stress winkled his face as he continued to stare and search through the texts laid before him on the table.
All night they had been studying. All night and the past week, they had been studying and training.
Punit was 26 years old, a full Atharim for the past 6 years, and yet instead of being out there, doing his work, he was in here, with this man who was proving to be a tyrant of scholarship.
He had been invited to come to Moscow to study with The Regus because of his stellar reputation. He was deadly as an assassin. He specialized in Rakshasa. He loved hunting these specters of the night. He loved following them and hunting them. That magic moment when hunting prey when you began to think like them and understand their movements. That point when you were one ... Right before the kill. He lived for that moment, that rush.
And he was no dummy either. He had studied about the Rakshasa in the Caucus Mountains and in the jungles of Malaysia and Indonesia. He specialized in the creatures. He read everything he could find on those soulless creations. He hated them, despised them. They had taken more than their share of Atharim, and Punit was determined to do his best to destroy as many as he could.
He had been annoyed at first at being taken off his chosen path to stop and come to Moscow. Of course, one did not turn down a meeting with The Regus, and Punit was honored, but still ... He had Rakshasa to hunt and kill.
So for a week, Punit and the Regus had lived in this room. Morning and night. They slept in periods of 4 hour blocks. The rest was studying, or sparring in the yard. The Regus had been tougher and more deadly than Punit had suspected because of his age. Punit nursed several bruises on his leg and torso, and his shoulder had been strained and dislocated at one point. It throbbed now. He would need the ice pack again, if he ever was allowed to sleep again. They hadn't taken a break from the studies all night. Since they had showered after coming in from practice the afternoon before, it had been constant study. Punit was tired and irritable.
"Do you have your answer?", the older man asked.
"I keep coming with the same translation," Punit responded, a note of exasperation in his voice.
"Not acceptable. Keep reading," The Regus said with steel-like authority.
Punit sighed audibly, rolled his eyes and went back to the books before suddenly slamming them closed and staring at the blank wall below the window.
"You have an issue?" Regus asked calmly, without turning around, or ceasing his pacing.
"The translation is the same. The Mark is an identifier. The Beast is the anti-Christ. This is known."
At this The Regus stopped, his voice was only slightly raised, but if he was the steel before, now he was the forge.
"Known? Known! You speak about what is Known? That which you consider to be "known" can fit into a thimble amidst the ocean of what there is to be learned.
"Known is simply a comfort to the lazy. Those who won't or can't stretch their minds to dismiss the impossible.
"Start over. Read it. Again!"
With that word he slammed his hand down on the table.
Punit jumped, he had not felt the other man walk up beside him.
The Regus then gently opened the texts again and pointed with his long index finger to the passage Punit had been reading.
"Again," his voice was steel again.
Punit started to read again, but his temper was up, and he turned to lash out at the older man.
"Foolishness. Absolute foolishness," he declared, an edge to his voice, "There are people dying out there even as we speak. Men, women, children, Atharim ...dying at the hands of make-believe monsters. And you sit here safe. Pushing your books. Bullying me, and countless others. I have work to do. Out there."
With that Punit pushed back from the table and prepared to stand. Anger flooded his face and his eyes blazed in insubordination.
He didnt make it out of the chair, as The Regus's rock hard hand pressed against his shoulder, keeping him in his seat.
"You are angered. This outburst will be forgiven. Return to the texts. We will continue to study these writings. You will learn the connections with these works and the prophecies of our own Atharim."
"I said I was done. Sir. I have no use for anymore of this redundancy."
"You are done when I say your done. Do you really think YOU are in control here? Do you not know that anything you have done, I had done before you were born? Any kills you made, any assignments completed, hunts you have accomplished ...I have done ten-fold?
"Do you think this is an exercise in vanity?" His voice raised on the last sentence. The forge was flamed again.
"Arithmos tou Thēriou. Literally number of the beast in Greek. But now extrapolate. Think. What else could this relate to. You. Are. Atharim. Use your mind, there should be no limitation on your ability to analyze and find a solution"
Punit's body crumpled in his chair. His resistance seemingly evaporated at the onslaught of the older man.
"I...I....don't know. I can't think," he stammered. Days of exhaustion washing over him.
"You can. You will. Arithmos when plural is Arithmoi, Numbers, also the name of the third book of the Hebrew Testament. To the ancient civilizations numbers were simply symbols, nothing more. Symbols that indicated something of greater value. A mistranslation and the word number became a fixture of the prophecy, when the more generic symbol may have been intended. If we continue to look at the connotation and overlap from the original language to the vernacular, we get the more common rendering of "mark". There is a reason our forefathers carried particular words into their translation. Mark can mean sign, sigil, the act of being marked ... Or even "to brand".
"If we then look at the word beast, and it is routinely translated as beast, what do we have?", The Regus waited with patience.
Punit gritted his teeth. His caution evaporated as he thought of the seemingly futileness of this. "I. Don't. Care.", Punit said and looked boldly into the face of The Regus.
He never saw the back of the other man's fist collide with his face, so fast was The Regus.
Punit fell out of the chair and landed on the floor at the feet of The Regus.
"You will know respect. You will know your place. And you will know this work and this world is not a plaything to amuse you or get you laid after telling adventure stories."
These last words were louder and were emphasized with a swift kick to Punit's side.
"Translate this, Great Hunter of Rakshasa.
'ita bestia vulnerata est. patefacta, non mortuos. oraque ultra recognitionem, adhuc bestiam superstite'," The Regus said with cold derision.
Punit was in pain and tried to speak, but before he could begin to translate the Latin words, The Regus threw a scroll down before him. He saw the Hebrew phrase:
וכך היא החיה מצולקת. הניח פתוח, עדיין לא מת. מצולק ללא הכר, עדיין החיה שורדת

"Would you be quicker if I spoke it in your own Malay?
Oleh itu, adalah binatang yang berparut. diletakkan terbuka, tetapi tidak mati. berparut di luar pengiktirafan, tetapi binatang itu bertahan"
"Thus is the beast scarred. Laid open, yet not dead. Scarred beyond recognition, yet the beast survives?"
"Correct," The Regus said as he extended a hand to Punit, and helped him to his feet.
"And now, think, my young friend. How can these be linked. Eschatology is simply the bastardized understanding of our mission and our works."
"With all due respect, sir," the sarcasm as heavy as the blood on Punit's lips, "I believe I made it clear, I had no more interest in this conversation."
Punit elbowed past The Regus and made his way towards the door. He could not believe he had wasted a week of his life, for this. For endless speculations and translations. He had monsters to kill. People to protect.
"Mr. Tengku." The Regus said in the iciest tone Punit had heard. Chill bumps suddenly ran down his neck.
"Turn around Mr. Tengku. Your mission is here. Your blood is hot, but you still have work to do."
Ironically, Punit felt as if his blood had turned to ice. He had never felt this inferior or afraid. He knew how to deal with fear however, you kept moving forward. So he took two steps towards the door.
"Fool!" The Regus breathed under his breath.
Punit made to run, to get out of this man's presence as quickly as possible. He was unnerved, which unnerved him even more.
He made it to the doorway just as The Regus caught up with him and caught him around the neck. A sharp twist as his elbow went around Punit's neck, followed by pressure and a crack, and the young Atharim's lifeless body went limp and fell to the floor.
"Damn!" The Regus said, as hot tears glistened in his eyes.
"Why did it have to be so hard? Why did they have to resist and fight. Why were they so arrogant?", he thought.
The tears dried before they hit his cheeks. They were not for the talented man lying dead at his feet, they were for this organization he led.
They must be shaped to his will. They must become the arrow in his quiver.
The man at his feet was a casualty of a greater war, that was all. A discard. After all, a weapon that will not kill where you aim, serves no purpose.

The Regus stepped over the body and out the door. Another would soon come, and he would be ready to start again. Stoking the forge, over and over, until the weapons he needed were fashioned by his hands.
Edited by Regus, Aug 5 2013, 05:29 AM.
Father Dmitri,

I write you to ask for a favor. Moscow is cold and the weapons we discussed previously have proven null and void. It has come to my attention that you are in contact with a potential acolyte.

As you well know, I am in need of someone who is not only able to fight and hunt, but who fights and hunts with the mind. There is a charge in your care, who is also a part of my "remnant", and I would expect, should my assumptions about her character be correct, you will send her to me post-haste. Her name has been revealed to me as Aria Piccolo.

It is my understanding she may have a "biological" connection to the Historical Archives, which I trust you are working with in my absence from The Holy See. If this connection is true, then I will see if talent is hereditary. Send her with Voynich as well. Do not let her know what the the manuscript is, in fact, do not let her she has the manuscript. If my predictions are correct, the information I have obtained already will fit nicely into what we know about the Voynich. And if Ms. Piccolo proves her talent of the mind is as good as that of her defense and hunting, we may yet know more.

Donec, qui aberrare non reuertisse,
I will await for Ms. Piccolo, and will confirm her arrival in Moscos and that of the Voynich manuscript.

Continued from Renovations

Aria had a bit of time to think on the train. She only wished she could settle down and have one day to herself. It seemed like since her father... No Father Dimitri had sent her away it was one thing after another. Like there was always something more pressing to do. Aria felt more trapped now than she had when living in the Vatican.

But the Baccarat Mansion stood in front of her and there was nothing more she could do than go in, see the horrible person she was to meet and then be on her way to her next so-called mission. Whatever that was.

The way into headquarters was secret, yet it had been broken into. How safe were they really? And why would anyone want to break into headquarters, Aria doubted anything of any value was inside. Surely they had better safes and safe houses than what would be found inside the prestigious building the Moscow headquarters was located.

Aria didn't have to knock on Father Stone's door, it was wide open and the man looked rather pale. When Aria knocked on the door as she stood in the frame he nearly jumped out of his skin. Aria smiled, she could feel the fear emanating from him, it made her feel better. Though she doubted he feared her.

He took a gulp. "I have made a grievous error sending you on that mission. Father Dimitri has insisted rather profusely that you were to go straight away to your next place of um, well, work."

"You have everything he sent you?" He asked rather hopefully.

Aria nodded. "I do."

"Good. The Regus requires your attention."

To say Aria was shocked would be an understatement. What would the Regus want with her? Aria nodded.

"You can find him in the Great Library, two floors down."

Aria nodded, and shrugged her bag higher on her shoulder. Down into the bowels again she went.

The door was closed and Aria knocked politely waiting for admittance. One did not interrupt the Regus.
The ten hour flight had been less than comfortable. Business class--hunting the things that go bump in the night was a thankless job. Still, he was able to get some shut-eye. He didn’t like being around people, not those people. They lived their dull little lives, scurrying around without even the slightest clue what was actually out there. What’d kill’em without a thought if it weren’t for us.
It really was a thankless job.

He didn’t like cities either. In the U.S. he stalked the woods for his prey--it really wasn’t much different from any other kind of hunting. When you got down to it, a rougarou or oni wasn’t much more dangerous than a pissed off bear, and only a little smarter. He didn’t have to worry about cameras, some bluetooth wearing superhero calling the cops back there. Here, one of those two things were a much bigger danger than any monster.

Still, the flight over had been uneventful. The trip through the terminal, too. Atharim Hunters rarely had anything on record. The ones that were dumb enough to get caught didn’t live long enough for it to matter.. Neither do the unlucky ones.
He hadn’t even gotten a passport until he found out he was coming to Moscow. Too busy hunting to travel for pleasure, and the other countries had their own Hunters.

So why’d they need to take me?
It really was odd. It would have been unheard of if they hadn’t taken Rune a few months earlier. He didn’t really mind letting her go, he could tell she needed to get away from the nest. At least, that was what he told himself. You don’t raise someone for twenty two years without a little separation anxiety. He’d kill the first person to call him out on it, though.

Back in the U.S. he roamed around, found a Catholic church with the correct markings and took assignments. But these European fucks have to make things all complicated’n organized...
He sighed. He hoped they had his weapons already. Probably not.

At least he was done with airports. It took a couple minutes to find a cab, but soon he was on his way to headquarters. How many Hunters they got here anyways?
There were no “headquarters” in America. Still, when he got to the Baccarat Mansion he was impressed. At least it ain’t another goddamn church.

Father Woods had given him instructions on how to enter, and sure enough he found the code-locked door hidden behind a dumpster in the alley on the side of the building. A simple four digit code and he was in. 6-1-6-8. Woods told him to find Father Stone, and then wait to meet the Regus in the grand library. Ta hell with that, the old bastard made me drop everything to come here. He ain’t makin’ me wait like his own personal bitch.

When he got inside, a Hunter who must have drawn the short straw to be stuck on guard duty almost jumped out of his skin. Once Seth flashed his tattoo the Hunter calmed down. Kid was too slow--if Seth had been a threat the headquarters would’ve had no warning. Disappointing.

The headquarters wasn’t a complicated area, and it wasn’t immaculate either. Finding the staircase was a simple matter, and the grand library wasn’t exactly hidden. He had no idea how “grand” the library was, but it was bigger than he expected. And deserted, except for a girl standing in front of a door. He happened to catch sight of the inside of her left arm. Atharim. This’s what we’re becoming? Five foot frame ‘n daddy issues.
He caught himself before he started the “in my day” speech. Still, she must have heard him snort, because she looked up.

He grinned. “Hey there sweetheart, this where the Regus stays?”

((Ayyo Regus, drop me a PM and tell me what to expect when I bust into the room. I ain't waiting like Aria is.))
Edited by Seth Marx, Sep 8 2013, 02:15 AM.
It wasn't even a moment since she knocked on the door when a man came down the stairs in a blustery manner. He smelled of anger and disappointment. Aria frowned.

No answer had yet come from the other side of the door. The Regus must be extremely busy and not exactly expecting her right this moment. Maybe Father Stone was getting his ass handed to him again. That made Aria smile as the man asked, "Hey there sweetheart, this where the Regus stays?"

Aria frowned, another American. They were pulling from America a lot to field Moscow it seemed. First Rune and Mr. White, and now him. Even with all the animosity from the United States politics Aria could hardly believe they wanted more of them here in the CCD. It couldn't bode well for anyone.

Aria was starting to get worried, no answer had come from the whole time they'd been standing there. Aria knocked again, louder this time. She turned her attention back to the stranger and nodded. "It's where I was told he'd be."
Dollface knocked hard on the door before turning around. "It's where I was told he'd be."

Well alrighty then.
At least he was in the right place. If the bastard wanted to yank him across the Atlantic on a whim, least he could do was meet face to face. Seth wasn't just some bullet in the guy's gun.

"Then I'm goin' in. Don't tell the teacher I cut the line."
He liked to know what kind of man he was working for. He didn't want to put his life on the line listening to orders coming from a moron. Seth hated orders, but if he had to take them they better be damn good ones.

He crossed the room, walked right past her and opened the door. Better not be wastin' my time.

Edited by Seth Marx, Sep 8 2013, 04:33 PM.
Aria watched as the man did the most dangerous thing she could think of other than not drawing a weapon on a monster. He burst into the office in which the Regus of the Atharim was supposed to be. She stared at the open door and prayed that the Regus would not continue his anger upon their meeting. The last thing Aria wanted was to be a rumor of the Regus running around the hunters.

Sure it was only hushed whispers but they were whispers and no one really knew if they were true or not. It was one of the things that worried Aria the most about coming to a face to face with THE Regus.

Aria wanted to peek inside but she decided it as best just to listen out of sight. She didn't want to be accused of eavesdropping either. But she wanted to listen as the American got his butt reamed by the man she was about too see. Aria fought down that want, it had to be the zeal from having Father Stone berated.

The only thing Aria could do now was wait more. Aria found a chair close by and put her bag in front of it and plopped down in the chair. She pulled the large tome out of the bag and started thumbing through the pages. It would probably be along wait, Aria kicked her feet up on top of her bag and relaxed and waited the anger out. Hopefully.
"Mr. Marx", the Regus said without turning around from the book shelf he was looking at. "I expected you sooner. I see you have learned some patience as you aged."

The Regus turned and looked at the man and the open door.

"Come in Ms. Piccolo," the Regus called to the Open Door, "Your lesson might as well start now with this."

The Regus turned and surveyed the man who had unceremoniously burst in on him. Rough clad and uncouth. The Regus had problems with American Atharim. They were becoming their own breed it seems. Too much "American", with little respect for their Atharim legacy.

This was becoming a problem with his whole society. How far did the fester grow, and how to remove it without setting skilled Atharim loose with no direction, or killing off what was starting to seem like half of his dedicated members. This was no easy task. The Regus was perplexed. And angry. And this brash man, who Armande had had a disliking for since first hearing about his work. Not that he wasnt effective. He was, perhaps one of the best Hunters on either side of the Atlantic. But his purpose was his own. And *THAT* is what bothered The Regus.

"Mr. Marx," The Regus said in cold tones,"quite frankly, you have been summoned here because of your skill and your reputation as a Hunter. However, my reticence has been reinforced by your little display here. Who do you think you are? That you can come in here, to my home. Disrupt our procedures, threaten our security, and barge in like a common brigand. You. Are. Atharim." The Regus said as the back of his hand fell hard across Seth's temple in a flash.

"I knew you would do something like this. With no patience and selfish focus on hunting for hunting's sake. Do you think I do not know your disdain for THIS part of the Atharim? Do you think I do not know that you have sized us up and determined us wanting, in your eyes? That child you judged as "too slow" and "disappointing". There were two full Atharim tailing you from behind. That child is not our security. I have cameras and guards all around here. You were not, for even one second, a threat to me or this headquarters.

"You have some thinking to do Mr. Marx. You can learn some patience and respect. Or you can choose to run and die. You will not be the first to choose the latter. But it is your choice. I have nothing left to say until you decide. Sit there." The Regus pointed to a leather armchair opposite the doorway where Aria stood.

"Perhaps you can learn through observation as you decide.
Ms. Piccolo, please," The Regus motioned her to come to him.
"I'm sorry for your wait. I understand Father Dmitri has sent you with something. May I have it?"

Aria pulled out the leather case Father Dmitri had given her.

The Regus carefully unwrapped the strings and pulled out the vellum. Then in a flash he had a sharp thin knife in his hand, and he sliced open the leather case itself. Sandwiched between the leather sides, The Regus pulled out a small, thin metal case. It was so thin, it was masking as just an enforced side of the larger leather attaché.

The Regus entered the combination lock on the bottom edge and the case sprung open.

"Pay attention, Ms. Piccolo; Mr. Marx. You are both about to learn what kind of Atharim are you. Are you hunting around like base masturbation to fulfill your own desires? Or are you part of a greater purpose?"

The Regus pulled out the small pieces of ancient looking paper.
"Come in Ms. Piccolo. Your lesson might as well start now with this." Aria's heart leapt in her chest. He hadn't scared her, but now in his anger he wanted to see her too. Aria gathered her things and put the tome back in her bag. There was little she could do now. Whatever was about to happen would just have to happen.

The room was quaint. A typical little office, full of books. Aria recognized several titles at a glance, but most of the spines were too in decipherable from the door. The man before he was imposing. He made her feel small. He was not the epitome of control. He was full of anger and Aria cringed at the emotions bombarding her. These two men were going to make Aria lose it. Lose everything she had worked to gain that morning. She took a deep breathe and tried to focus only on the words that came out of his mouth. He went on and on lecturing and scolding Mr. Marx. The violence of the slap from the Regus across the other man's face made Aria's head ache in sympathy.

Aria nearly fell over when the Regus turned on her. While his anger was seething at the seams, Aria didn't feel it directed at her, at least not yet. "I'm sorry for your wait. I understand Father Dmitri has sent you with something. May I have it?"

Father Dmitri had not sent anything with the express interest of The Regus in mind. He'd only sent her a few of her other things.... and the tome. Aria shook her head. It had been his plan all along to get her in his man's company. Aria sighed and handed over the leather tome. Aria had flipped through it a few times she hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary.

But The Regus was not interested in the volume she carried only the case. Aria watched in stunned silence as he pulled a metal case from the leather. Clever.

It revealed very old piece of velum. Aria could almost smell the age of the paper from where she stood. She didn't understand why she was here, but she was more than curious now.
After calling dollface in, old Reggie made it clear he was pissed off. Had a whole speech probably written beforehand on just how pissed off he was. "You. Are. Atharim."

Reggie slapped him. An involuntary laugh escaped Seth's mouth once the surprise wore off. Haha, old man ain't lost all his teeth yet.
He dropped the laugh, but a grin slowly crept onto his face as the speech continued. Senility must be creeping in if the old man thought a slap would faze Seth Marx.

Two full atharim stalking him from behind? Hell of a lot of good that'd have done with the entrance closed behind him. After he killed the kid and grabbed his gun, a couple more bad guys wouldn't be a problem, and the door opening would've been all the warning he needed. Besides, if they were dragging him and Rune out here their "full" atharim couldn't doing a very good job.

"Guess a paper tiger still has claws. Alright Reggie, have it your way."
Seth calmly walked over to the chair and sat to watch. Old man wanted his respect, he'd have to earn it. So far all he saw was weakness.

Edited by Seth Marx, Sep 15 2013, 10:06 AM.

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