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The Key
Armande and Valeriya had spent longer than expected exploring Gorky Park. His meeting with Theiss had been fairly brief and, as before, he began to make arrangements to farm out the other Khylsty quickly.

But Armande had seen the hunger in Valeriya's eyes as they had come to the park. Things that didn't even impinge on his mind caught her attention. And while she respected they had a mission in coming here and so curbed her enthusiasm, it was clear it was only just barely.

And so after their discussion about the living arrangements of the other Khylsty- another concession on her part, from the look in her eyes- he decided it was more important to give her time to explore. There was no need to hurry at that moment. Indeed, things had worked out fortuituously. The initial news concerning a new Regus being chosen might provoke anger at first. But at second thought, it provided a far better cover under which to act. He had never needed the glory of men. Just to accomplish his will.

Apollyon had no clue he lived. Indeed, the man seemed to be basking in the adulation and worship of the people after his death stroke had been healed- Ahh John of Patmos. You must have had a script. Or an Eye.

The Eye. Valeriya. And so, uncharacteristically, Armande shed the weight of the world for one afternoon. Time would come soon enough. While he could never shut it off- plans churned deep in the background. A trip to Rome. How to handle the new Regus. New strategies for driving wedges between the gods and men. How to unite the people against the these reborn gods. Ways to shatter Brandon's control, to destroy the hold he had over people. And above all, how to kill the false god. While those plans swirled and coalesced and merged, for this afternoon he could just be a man and a beautiful woman strolling through the park.

It barely scratched the surface of the experience of the above. His time below had been relatively short and yet he too felt a new sense of joy at the openness and brightness and vibrancy, the infinite colors and never ending variation of smell and taste and touch and sound. He smiled more than he meant to as they wandered, he letting her lead the way to what she wanted to see, explaining as best possible whenever she asked a question or five, the greatest joy at being able to experience these things vicariously through her.

It was near dusk when they returned to the safe house, the sky painting itself in darker and darker shades of orange and red and purple and blue and black. It was easy to see why ancient peoples worshipped the dawn and the dusk, the infinitely graduated transition of one clear finite state to another a beautiful but necessary state.

She seemed spent from the experience and so they passed a peaceful and content night in each other's arms. The next day, the mantle would be shouldered.

And it was. Theiss was fast. It would take time to coordinate everything, but he had gotten things started. Valeriya took the lead with the Khlysty, matching groups, going over what was needed, tending to her flock. She knew them better than he could, knew which people could be together and which couldn't. Matvei had been neutralized for the moment, but ambition rarely died.

Armande poured over the news feeds, learning as much as possible about what was going on. Numerous things had happened, and it would take time to determine which would be the most useful.

Of greatest news, aside from Apollyon's healing, was the American delegation. Of course both countries had embassies. But this was meetings with Brandon himself. The man was no fool, Armande knew. He was honest enough to admit that in many ways the man was as skilled and talented as he was.

He had an angle and it involved the Americans. While American politics was only something he followed peripherally, he knew enough to see the country was severely divided. It had been that way since he was a teenager. The fact it hadn't broken off into various countries was something of a mystery. The American Constitution was evidently a powerful adhesive. But nothing lasts forever. The cracks had been there for decades, only getting wider and wider with each administration, each blow to American pride and power as the ASU and then CCD grew.

If he were Brandon, he would be trying to widen them even more. How this delegation fit in, he didn't know, but he would look into the reports of Atharim eyes and ears to find out.

The Consulate on Channeling had concerned him. He recognized the Consul. He had been in the room with Apollyon during the attack, broken and dying. Armande smiled, realizing that very likely a god power had been used on both of them. And true to his guess, it wasn't long before he saw the Patheos event, the footage unmistakable. Not God. Not divine will. Just a trick to fool the masses. More use of the power. That was a useful fact to keep in mind.

This Consulate concerned him though. Normalization of....channeling, they called it, was the wrong course. People needed to fear it. They needed to see the danger it posed. Patheos showed the potential was there. The riots around the square showed it. The numerous cases of people being singled out- kicked out of homes- because they were different, just suspected of the power, was proof. They were out there. He just needed to stoke the fire.

Africa might be useful. There were rumors near Egypt that might be gods. And al Janyar had been growing as well, especially in the Horn of Africa. Rumor, but every bit helped.

Still, it wouldn't be enough. It needed to be at the heart of the Empire. Another Andlain, perhaps. That could work. But he couldn't actually find one and control him. Still, the idea was interesting.

And the Ball. Armande's mouth turned down in disgust. He could think of many crude terms from his youth that would describe what this would be. In polite terms, it was nothing but a love fest for Apollyon. They paid millions of dollars just to be awed by his power, to worship him. The very concept made him want to vomit.

Every person of influence and power would be there. And there Apollyon would be, the god walking among men.

It was he, the Regus, the Vicar of Iscariot, who must do what must be done. Expose him as a fake.

Disgust drove him. A cruel smile appeared on his face. He pulled out the pocked silver scroll that he had carefully stowed in his bags all that time ago, before his descent into Hades, and unrolled it. He had only perused it the first time, paying primary attention to the missive at the beginning.

Now it was time to study more deeply. The key was in there.

Edited by Regus, Apr 14 2018, 07:35 PM.
Armande rubbed his eyes. It was late. The safe house seemed empty after having been filled with Khylsty. There had been some resistance from a few, Matvei most of all. Valeriya had taken care of him though. He smiled at her fierceness. Illarion was another matter. What he'd feared was now happening. He was losing his sister.

It couldn't be helped. And this time, Armande had no words for him. He didn't have time to coddle the man. Brandon's ball, that pathetic masturbatory spectacle of self-worship, was tomorrow. And Armande's progress was slow going. Thankfully, Valeriya was there. She smoothed things over, at least for the moment.

She was asleep now, her hair in disarray on the pillow, the sound of her breathing quiet and soft, a comforting sound.

It was past midnight now and finally- finally- the scroll had started to make sense. The difficulty hadn't been the language, not really. The words, individually, made sense. But there was no context. Nothing obvious for him to build a framework of comprehension. “I feel a bit under the weather.” Every word was understandable, but the semantic meaning was lost without any context or explanation.

Gradually, though, it started to yield its secrets. The scroll was divided into sections. Certain words seemed highlighted with characters similar to the nymic on the name I-dehs.

Gwele- To kill
Weid- To find or search
Wek[sup]we[/sup]- To Speak or Say
Teks- To construct

These were instructions, a how-to manual of sorts. The opening line made more sense now.
Leghn ti h<sup>e</sup>reǵtos H<sub>a</sub>enǵ<sup>h</sup>-ri judh<sup>e</sup>j-ni.

Laws upright a Hunter to command
Which semantically meant
Rules to properly control a Hunter

The text was filled with circumlocutions, of course, trying to describe concepts and ideas over 10,000 years old. Lengths of time were expressed in beats of the heart. Whoever the Atharim was that wrote this had anticipated that there would be difficulty in communicating.

H<sub>a</sub>enǵ<sup>h</sup>-ri tué h<sub>a</sub>és-si poti med ǵnéhosk<sup>w</sup>em.

The hunter must recognize you as its master.

Tué kehudn were med wek<sup>we</sup>ad per ni upo judh<sup>e</sup>j-ni kapten.

First, you must repeat this sequence of words to prepare it to receive commands.

It was slow going, but the more he learned, the easier it became. A wicked smile spread on his lips as he worked long into the night, plans playing across his mind. Archimedes had said it. Give me a fulcrum, and I shall move the world.

Edited by Regus, Apr 30 2018, 11:06 PM.
She nuzzled her great love as he lay alongside. That book of light was propped on his waist again, but she scrunched her eyes tight to block away the light. She never knew so much light existed in the whole universe than it did in the Above. Even when the Above was cloaked in darkness, night, Armande called it, the lights stung her eyes.

He was obsessed with this man named Nikolai Brandon. He explained who this evildoer was and why the children of Rasputin must resist his regime. Valeriya took Armande at his word. She would always take him for his word. But she didn't truly understand. At this point, she struggled to comprehend night, let alone the atrocities of an evil ruler she did not recognize.

Regardless, Armande said he was evil. He said the man would destroy this beautiful world that Valeriya loved with all her heart. She'd seen something to this effect Below, when the Eye beheld the dark-haired Brandon kneeling before Regus, offering him a crown. Armande would vanquish Brandon in the end and Vale would be there when he did. The Eye saw. She knew what would come to pass.

The tablets furrowed away by Rasputin extremely excited Armande. He was giddy with delight, but he curled over the tablet for days on end and would barely look up. Vale meanwhile was occupied with learning the ways of the Above. She slowly escorted those of the Khylsty out with her. Eventually she became knowledgeable enough to explore further and further on her own.

"What were the words you spoke, my great love?"
She asked of him one time, not recognizing the tongue, but a wicked smile twisted his lips vibrantly.

The Eye of the Khylsty
It was as if he were a student again at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His studies back then might have seemed an odd mix to the casual observer. Ancient Religions and Mathematics. While not questioning the direction, he himself had wondered at the dichotomy. Outside of Kabbalistic mysticism or Pythagorean essences, the two fields did not intersect.

In hindsight, though, the connection seemed providential. Never more so than now. His work up until now had been focused on the admixture of ancient lore and myth- hidden truths- and the hunt, keeping humanity safe. Most of all, being the heart, mind and soul of the Atharim.

And while the underpinnings of his studies- deducing patterns and applying rigorous logic, which were the very foundations of mathematics- had shaped how he thought and analyzed, he had not found himself shifting his mind into that state of mind necessary to discover or follow complex proofs in decades. Not even as part of his Chonng Ran meditations.

To find himself then, now, after all these years, having to do that very thing- to logically analyze, to carefully reconstruct algorithms and command structures, to map out a complete program in an ancient code....well, to say that he was surprised was an understatement.

That amazement seemed to split his mind in two, one dutifully following the track before him, planning and formulating. The other marveling at how his life had been shaped. He felt Valeriya's silken leg against his own, the warm softness of her. The Eye. His destiny had been shaped by someone or something. And he was content.

He- no. He had been purged of his pride. They were the tool to save mankind. He had no idea what Valeriya's destiny was. And that excited him. No one had ever been his equal before. No one had ever commanded his respect. There was newness to the world. The two of them, their sum far more than either were individually, were in this place, here and now, the lines and threads that had placed them there going back hundreds and thousands of years. The two of them, brought together, a confluence of seeds to stand against the greatest evils the world had seen in over ten millenia.

The smile on his face was indeed wicked. He murmured the ancient words to himself, the one that would bind the hunter and open it up to receive programming.

His blow would have to be deliberate and careful, The single hammer strike that would shatter a mountain. The idea had germinated in his mind. Valeriya's words. "You need the right weapon."

Apollyon was powerful, it was true. But his power was from two sources. The ancient power was nothing he could do about, not yet. But the other...He was the Destroyer, but he was not omniscient. He was not omnipotent. He was just a man, in the end. With a 10,000 enemies in every direction. One single hammer blow.

He hadn't realized he was speaking out loud- or that she had awakened- until he felt her nuzzle him and speak softly. The part of his mind that had hummed along, putting together the basic algorithmic flow from the command structures the ancient silver scroll described, came to a halt and all of him focused on her, green eyes shining up at him.

His smile remained but he gestured for her to sit up with him. "This ancient contains the key to using the curse tablet. I used the tablet once before in an effort to kill Apollyon- just before I came to you- and I failed. I did not understand."

He leaned over and picked up the tablet from beside the bed and held it in his hands before giving it to her. The burnished copper was untouched by the passage of time. "The ancient Atharim left this for our time. My people found it months ago. A tool to destroy Apollyon. I thought I knew what to do." His laugh was just a bark. "Now, though, I think I see a way." His smile deepened, just in anticipation of it.

Looking at her, he explained his idea. When he was done, silence hung in the air. "Tell, me, my beloved Valeriya, what is your mind? And What does the Eye see?"

Edited by Regus, Jun 4 2018, 04:08 PM.
If ever there was a time for the Eye to see, now was it. All of Armande's carefully laid plans unfurled like skin before her mind, but the path ahead was dark. In the moment, she clawed instinctively at her neck, only to recall at the last moment that the phallus of Rasputin was long gone. Her crystals remained, but the makings for the potions were lost to the depths.

She sneered. Good riddance, Vale's anger for the lack of Sight was displaced but genuine anyway. "I see only what I have seen before. The clearing among trees,"
she stumbled over the word, "and the one you called Apollyon knelt before you offering a crown."

Her eyes flicked open suddenly when an idea formed. "Perhaps if I had something of his that I could behold, then the Eye would be roused."
Until now, her only thoughts had been focused upon the Above. Now that she was here, it was almost like the Eye slumbered.

She turned back as curiousity chased away the defeat in order to stroke the object of Armande's fascination. Nothing about it conjured far-off visions, but she wasn't sure what to expect either.

The Eye of the Khylsty
She seemed disappointed that she couldn't offer him more. He considered her request.

"Perhaps I can get something of his. But not in time for this evening."

He was quiet, letting her words sink in. The vision spread like a fog through his mind, the vast forest. Apollyon on his knees. Defeated. He could see it. And it was glorious.

He thought over the last few weeks. His solidity and equilibrium was as strong as ever, now, a tree embedded deep into the bowels of the earth. He was rooted as never before in the destiny before them. Her vision made that certain.

He had been reborn in this very room, as Khylsty. "One that purges." "The Whip." An Atharim, but more. The Remnant that purges. A double edged sword, cutting both ways.

A line from Revelation came to him.

"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty."

And then Kalki Purana. The Great Chastiser Kalki, consort of Padma the Incarnation of Lakshmi, reborn to defeat the demon Kali at the last age.

"The ascetic prince, Lord Kalki will mount His swift white horse Devadatta and, sword in hand, travel over the earth exhibiting His eight mystic opulences. Displaying His unequaled effulgence and riding with great speed, He will kill the millions of those thieves who have dared dress as kings."

Distorted over time, of course, but even so, the similarities were there. There and in many other mythologies.

And yet he, in the depths of despair, had cast aside his role in a fit of pique. Childish pride, he thought disgustedly.

Purged now, of such infantile reactions, he was more focused than ever. Iron changed into steel. His intensity had only grown stronger.

That day had been pain and pleasure all in one, Valeriya the chastiser, the whip, then, words a lash that ripped great strips from his back, tearing away the filth and dross that covered him, leaving him bleeding and naked and stripped of falsehood. His Padma. His Lakshmi.

The day she became his and he hers. His Consort.

Even as he remembered it, an idea came to him. It had been the reason Valeriya had come to see him in the first place. Something she'd wanted to show him.

He looked at her, curiously. "What about the bloodstone?"

Valeriya gasped. "The bloodstone! Of course."
She raced to retrieve it. When she returned, the red stone was gripped to her chest, eyes lit with wildfire.

She sank to her knees and laid the stone before her on the floor. Alone, it seemed rather plain but for the color of blood. Vale would know. She'd bathed in blood her whole life, fighting to survive. Blood of their enemy would be best, honing the Eye upon him directly, but Armande would find the request impossible. If spilling his blood was so easy, he would be dead, not tracked.

She let her eyes sink low until the world she loved so much was blocked from sight. Still, the immense light of the Above leaked around her lashes, casting a warm glow behind her lids. Hands folded on her lap, she let her mind wander until the darkness closed in upon a single point of light.

The light grew and expanded. A tiny pinprick that came closer so fast that she may have been sprinting into it. The light grew and curled around her, embracing her. But unlike the light of the Above, this light was cold as deep waters. It was false light, and Valeriya knew she was close to sight.

The bloodstone swirled, the red fading like ink from the heart of it. She held it high before her eyes and let the cold light seep into its depths, chasing away the red.

She licked her lips, staring into the heart of the stone. She imagined the tablets and the silver tube, projecting her will to see upon the need of seeing it.

When she spoke next, it was a whisper, like anything louder would break the spell. "Screams. Darkness. Silence. Then, he falls. He falls low."

Then, something changed. Her eyes squinted. The image shifted and blurred. The key. Show me the key.

When she lowered the bloodstone, her gaze sharpened and she turned upon her beloved Armande. A wicked smile split her lips.
The Eye of the Khylsty
Valeriya gasped with excitement and bounded out of the bed, heedless of her nakedness. Armande laughed, appreciating the energy- and the view. So beautiful. He stretched his long legs and arms. A lion lounging in the shade, knowing the fight was coming soon. He felt good, luxuriating in bed. Youthful. Virile. She did that. He was 30 again, the weight of the world comfortable on his shoulders. Pride. On their shoulders.

Jova had been his last partner. Even his daughter, Lissandra, had only been his student. The pain of her loss- her death- washed over him and this time he let it fill him. He did not wall it away.

The two sensations, the pleasure of Valeriya and the pain of Lissandra, volcanic lava and frozen blizzard, warred, pushing and pulling against each other, a swirling storm engine bringing him to life.

And he could bear all of it. Lissandra no longer had to be hidden from him. She was the embodiment of his fight against evil. The magnitude of the pain of his loss, the greatest he had or would ever experience.

And Valeriya held his heart. She was his future, his very queen. His whip and his student. His lover and his friend. The greatest joy he would ever know.

He could contain it all. Indeed, it was strange, but the two experiences together only served to heighten his attention on the present. He felt more than he ever thought possible, as if every sensation, every beat of his heart, every thread of emotion, every touch and taste, were accentuated. As if he had been deaf and only saw black and white and now the full gradient range of color and sound, the symphonic music of life, were opened to him in all its glory.

She returned, bloodstone clasped to her chest, her eyes blazing with fire. I could burn in those eyes.

She sank to her knees and closed her eyes, breath going still. Armande sat up, watched intently. She was communing with the universe. He felt his heart pound, racing to a gallup. The divine was in this room. Not the pathetic power of the gods. God. Fate. Kismet. Archon. Aeon. Intelligence to the infinite degree. Not the first order of infinity, Aleph-null. Rather, Omega, the infinity of infinities.

He could almost feel the room warping, expanding, as if the presence was simply too big, the cloud that filled the Temple of Jerusalem at Solomon's dedication. Words floated through his mind. But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven- and heaven of heavens!- cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have built?

She was whispering, so very quiet, and yet her words were as clear to him as if she shouted. He felt his heart stir, felt the joy of victory, could see it, could taste it. He rose slowly, settled next to her on the floor. Physically, he saw nothing in the stone, nothing in the room. But there was a pressure against his mind all the same.

The stone was in her hands and she tilted her head, as if to get a better look. How long she stared, he did not know. And then she lowered the stone, green eyes sharpened on him, a wicked smile splitting her lips.

And then she spoke, water to his parched soul. He smiled, blue eyed fire meeting green eyed fire, heart exploding in triumph. She had seen it. She had found the key.

He found his hands cupping her face gently as he kissed her, wanted to merge with her, this goddess in human form, to glory in her, to worship her. Their breathes mingled.


It was cold when they stepped outside. The moon was high in the sky, a waning crescent. The ambient light drowned out much of the stars, though his eyes would soon adjust. It was not visible, but he knew what direction the Kremlin was, could imagine a straight path, a magnetic lay line, connecting them to Apollyon. He could almost see the decadence, the hedonistic glorying of men playing god, their sycophantic worshipers thronging around them.

And for some reason, he wasn't angry. He felt peace and calm wash over him. Valeriya's small hand was tucked into his.

They walked to the empty lot where not long ago, he and Valeriya had very nearly consummated their union. Not long ago. A lifetime ago. It had been worth the wait. The taste of her was still on his lips and tongue.

There, under the open sky, they stopped. He pulled the tablet from his bag, along with his notes. He smiled at her, pulled her close with one arm. "Are you ready?"

Edited by Regus, Jul 19 2018, 08:25 PM.
The air flushed her arms with bumps. The night sky fascinated her, as the sky would forever from then on. Never again would she descend below. This great wide opening of the Above was her heaven. She could never be parted from it.

Distant lights twinkled dim ahead, like tiny rips in the black cloak that smothered the world. Funny how when she looked straight at them, they faded from sight, but a little experimenting discovered that they were brighter just when she peered off center a little bit. Vale intended to ask Armande about the phenenemon sometime, but not tonight.

Tonight, greater legends were coming to life. Armande laid the instruments of the ritual before them reverently. It was like watching Rasputin mix his arcane arts.

"I am ready."
She replied, steady as the sky above.

She would help if she could, but the writings and symbols were foreign to her. She already struggled to understand the words of the Above, the present Russian was a mutated version of what she knew.

The Eye of the Khylsty
Armande looked at his notes one last time. Unnecessary, of course. He had them memorized. Perhaps it was impulse. Or maybe the need to rethink his logic. He was not sure what he was trying had ever been done.

The scroll had mentioned a function in passing. He wasn't even sure if it was real. But it seemed consistent. None of this would work if the seed could not be planted. The soil was ripe and ready, freshly fertilized in the most rudimentary way possible. Brandon's sycophants would have filled the place with it. Ambition, hunger, pride, arrogance a mix of perfumes that choked the place.

He imagined Eris and her chaos expanding in ripples, growing with each cycle, gaining energy and momentum, reaching out to lap up and consume city after city, swallowing down thousands of men in great heaving gulps. Unforgotten after 3000 years.

He held the tablet in the palm of his hand, felt the weight of it. His fingertips brushed the ancient copper that was not copper- immune to the passage of time and all her ravaging- feeling the carvings.

Time to toss the golden apple.

Armande intoned the words in the ancient tongue as he pressed his thumb onto the command key. He still felt that ancient kinship. But with Valeriya next to him, it felt unnecessary. This slip of a girl, as fiery and alive as any person he had ever met, was at his side. The living embodiment of Maya, of the universe itself. And he loved her. And Fortuna loved him.

He knew death would one day come, as it came for all life. But Valeriya would carry on. Almost, he regretted his decision all those years ago. Almost, he was willing to have the surgery again, to undo what must never be undone. If only so that their dynasty lasted into the ages. Her seed- their seed- should not perish from the earth. Brandon should quake at the thought. The earth itself should tremble. He felt an evil smile form. God, but it would be glorious.

He was unsurprised to see the cloud in the distance. Silvery blue and grey, it came closer resolving into mist that shifted and billowed, amorphous shape sometimes becoming recognizable as something humanoid.

With a voice like a million bees buzzing, intonation and frequency shifting in and out of register, it spoke in the ancient tongue. "I am here to command."

Armande was no longer unsure. His fingers flew over the keys of the tablet, opening it into the proper mode, setting command pathways. It hovered in the air before him, silent, receiving the direction, mist shifting in and out of shape. A light from deep within glowed, beating in a rhythm that seemed to speed up as he worked.

He looked at Valeriya and then back the ijiraq. This was the part he had been unsure of. Hesitantly, his fingers triggered the function he hoped was real. The light shifted slightly, but it remained in place, compliant. He breathed a sigh of relief and relayed his message. Inside his heart was jubilant.

The final sequence was keyed in and the light flashed more rapidly. And suddenly the ijiraq shivered and quaked, billowing out as though a blast of wind had hit it, then coalescing into human form, the one he remembered, death breathing into his face. Satanic form, pointed ears, black skin split by fissures showing hellish red underneath. It swirled around him, tried to contain him.

Armande felt fear stab through him. He didn't understand. Everything had worked! Everything had happened as he expected.

And then, the scrape of nails on a chalkboard, the whine of a drill on bone, it spoke.

"You are a coward. Pathetic man. I have fed on men like you. You do not command me to die!"

Armande's fingers flew over the tablet, tried to get it into command mode again, but it was not working. It drew closer, reddish eyes a gateway into the fires of hell. Armande could feel the heat as it bared a grin, exposing small sharpened teeth.

"Do you challenge me, human? Come then. Call on your power."
Armande felt its hatred. It was visceral. He could touch it. It drew closer. He felt his skin burning. "Draw it, human, draw your weapon. For millenia I have waited for you. You are my prey. I am not your tool."

He didn't understand. He stood, transfixed, those evil red eyes boring into him. He shook his head, grabbed his heart, quelled the uncertainty. The thing was toying with him, trying to find a way out of its mission. His blue eyes blazed.

"I am Armande Nicodemus. I have commanded you. Obey."

It stood before him, a man now, a demon made flesh, black skin split, magma seeping into the breaks. Its fingers were deadly claws. Armande stood his ground.

It had to obey.

Edited by Regus, Jul 22 2018, 11:58 PM.

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