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The trip was slow going. Not just because of the injuries. The higher they went, the more uncertainty and fear grew. Their band was large. Most tunnel dwellers, those higher up anyway, stayed in groups only half their size. Large enough to deter scavengers and any others who might be dangerous- man or otherwise. Small enough that a small warren of tunnel junctions and pools and whatever else that had been scavenged could support them sufficiently. A little village.

The Khylsty were a different matter entirely. They had born and lived and died under a ceiling of rock and tunnels that was miles thick. The air felt compressed and warm. A womb, nurturing and gestating them, until it was time for the Khylsty to be born naked and bloody and screaming at the strange world they would find themselves in.

He understood their fear and even their terror as they ascended through the bowels of hell, the ante-chamber, the birth canal leading to a new life Above. Fear and terror could easily lead to violence and death- his, Valeriya's, Matvei. Any and everyone, if they gave into it.

Armande knew immediately that his role needed to change, at least for the time being. He was now midwife to this people. Their father, as they called him. Moses, leading them through the wilderness and into the promised land.

His first job was to help them make the gradual transition. That meant avoiding the more used tunnels. The trip would take longer, but that was not a bad thing. Time was what was needed. And for that he needed freedom. He walked at their head for a time, observing those few who were near him. The "youngest"- if they could be called that, in comparison to Valeriya and her brother- who'd killed the cherufe when they first departed, could be valuable.

Sasha, Evgeni, Inessa, and Lev listened as he walked and explained what to be alert for. They knew creatures better than anyone. But they had never ventured this high. Knowledge made the the unknown less fear inspiring. He showed them what to look for and what to avoid so their trip would continue ever upward without encountering the larger encampments. It would mean turning back occasionally, but it would be better.

Confident they could lead for a time, Armande turned his attention back to the others. Valeriya was tired. He could see it in her eyes. She was Eye to this people- his Eye- but she was young still. She'd carried this weight for who knew how long. She knew, far more than any of the others, where they were going. He'd seen her scratchings on the walls. She'd engineered their exodus. But now it was her turn to have some respite, if only for a moment. And reassurance.

"You will do well," he told her with confidence, a hand on her shoulder, before nodding to Illarion with respect. She was strong. All the Khylsty were. But they were human too. He walked from person to person, inquiring about their welfare. Many were stoic and silent, while only a handful voiced complaints. He used the last of his first aid equipment to help those whose injuries were most painful. Water was low and so was food. They would only last a few days with rationing. They would not have time to hunt or forage, which meant they needed to get supplies another way. The thought did not please him, but it had to be done.

At times he could only guess as 'night' they took breaks, himself and a few of the others standing guard for watch periods. In the quiet, he could hear the whispered speaking of the people, their concerns. On one of the earliest nights, Valeriya's screams woke him from a daze. He hadn't realized he'd fallen asleep. He was tired too. Before he could go to her, though, Illarion was by her side. He watched them silently through the dark shadows for a moment, before taking the watch from Lev.

And then, during the day, they trudged along. He had a job to do. Back and forth, through the people to the head, back to the vanguard he had appointed Matvei and a few others to bring up, he walked. "The world has changed, it is true. The world you know is gone. But the Khylsty were kept safe down here for a reason. God has seen to it that you were vouchsafed and made hard. Be proud!"

At first, his words were just words. But he repeated them in variations, recounting to them the pride he felt in them, the strength he sensed in them, the power of their Eye. He told them they were the chosen people, a holy race. He also explained to them some of the things they would see. It was fanciful, of course. They had no frame of reference. But he hoped the repetition and explanations helped them get a hold on their emotions.

After three or four days, the need for supplies became critical. He took the four Khylsty he'd begun to train that first day on scouting missions. There were very few people this far down but hopefully they had ascended high enough. Fate was with them. A small group, no more than ten or fifteen. Thankfully, not the vile Naga or any other creatures. They looked worn out- far more than normal tunnel people. As if they had been running. Worn out, fearful and bloody. Their attention had been on the warren of tunnels off in one direction. Their surprise was not satisfying- it was never going to be, not in a case like this- but it did make things easier. No one killed but enough injured that they could take what they needed without any further resistance. It wasn't a lot, but it would get them through the next few days. Those people could always head back up and get more supplies from the relief organizations that frequented the tunnels.

Between that and his regular attempts at morale boosting, things started to change. Gradually, people began to latch on to his words. As he expected. Faced with fear, staring into the darkness, standing before the unknowable, the need for purpose became as important as food. His words took on a rhythmic cadence, insistent. A heartbeat. A never ending heartbeat. The change was palpable, that powerful sense of purpose that he now sensed as they walked. Temporary, of course. The old rivalries were still there. Fear would return as well. But the common enemy was before them- survival- and the promise of the future- their hope- in front of them. it united them.

The buzzing in his pack grabbed his attention. His wallet had come to life. Evidently, they had ascended high enough for signal to make it down here. Or perhaps some tunnel dwellers had set up a series of signal repeaters for their own use. At least in this one spot. In any case, he pulled it out and used what information he could to get an idea of where they were. It was easy to lose any sense of location without a frame of reference. The compass in his pack had been very necessary.

It was enough, though. They were moving east. On the surface, it appeared to be toward the red light district. His mouth turned down. Not an auspicious introduction of the surface to these people. This group used sex as a binder, a shared frenzy that tied them closer together. From what he had been able to gather, though, outside of that, they appeared very reserved. Seeing the surface there would shock them. But perhaps that was a good thing. Another tool that would knit them all the more closer, the alienness of it all. It would increase their dependency on him. And very likely, it would cement their belief that they had been chosen and kept safe to save the an unclean world.

This could work. In his mind, he ran through Atharim resources available. There were a few places there he could choose. One was big and isolated enough, just on the edge right where it came up against the industrial district of Moscow. An abandoned office with an underground warehouse. It would fit the Khylsty. It would give them some place familiar to acclimate too. Likely, the safehouse was empty, though he couldn't be completely sure, after the fire. And they'd need weapons. He'd have to see about contacting his Archangels to find out what was going on. Quietly. The killing of Apollyon had likely set the city- indeed the empire- ablaze. That would make things easier. Still, caution was second nature to him.

"We are nearing the end of our journey," he told them. "Only a day or two more and we will reach the surface." A few faces showed hope. A few showed fear. And many more were blank. He stifled irritation. Patience. He would have to be patient with them.

He looked to Valeriya expectantly. She had had her respite. Hopefully, she was ready now to begin shouldering the load again. There was much to do for the both of them.

Edited by Regus, Dec 1 2017, 03:57 PM.
Finally--finally the air changed. It didn't take supernatural eyes or noses to know. They all sensed the change. Only to be confirmed when Regus told them that they neared the end of their journey. The Khylsty were both relieved and worried by the prospect, but Valeriya knew their journey was only beginning.

When they encountered another settlement, Valeriya did not participate in the fight. She was more intrigued by the appearance of these people than anything else. Once they fled, she picked carefully through all their belongings, holding up items and turning them over in her hand. She was similarly fascinated by the object that Regus breathed to life in his hands. Lights pulsed at his touch and were manipulated by his caress. Illarion whispered about demons and enchantments, words whispered by others of the Khylsty as well. Rasputin was equally as talented in the arcane arts, she reminded them of their own legends, but already they began to view Regus with new reverance.

She wasn't so sure, though.

"Will you teach me this magic?"
She asked of Regus finally, gesturing to the object he used. Illarion's face blanched and others exchanged fearful looks. Valeriya ignored them.

The Eye of the Khylsty
A ghost of a smile played on his lips. Valeriya's green eyes seemed veiled, as if probing. A test? Or was she hungry? He quirked an eyebrow at the thought. He'd given thought to how the Khylsty would respond to technology. A lot of thought. He'd cast his mind back to examples in history where "primitive" peoples encountered advanced technology.

What had always stuck out with him was how quickly they adapted to it. They moved beyond viewing it as awe-inspiring power rather quickly. "Magic"- the kind peddled in non-scientific societies- held its power because it was in the power of the few- priest, clerics or shaman. They were the middlemen, the mediators, the intercessors, invoking the gods or the power of nature in prescribed formulas and incantations and rituals. The people were petitioners, begging for consideration, offering up obedience and value. The power flowed inexorably in one direction.

Technology did the opposite. Yes, there were the new priests and magicians of any modern era- engineers, scientists and programmers- who held the final knowledge on how things were made and how they worked- controlled them. But the tech they created was for the masses, empowering everyone to take control. The power flowed in both directions.

And that was how it always worked. The Tlaxacalans almost assuredly would not have had the same experience with Cortez as Moctezuma and the Aztecs, had he arrived a mere ten years later. The Aztec empire was already crumbling from within, due to decay and social ossification, and the Tlaxacala had been on the verge of jumping in and taking over in a coup. They did not view Cortez and his men as the return of Queztalcoatl.

Instead, they were champing at the bit for new technology to coopt. They already had a hold in the Tarascan smiths- who were on the verge of nearly jumping over their own bronze age directly into iron working- and the Zapotecan boat builders who'd broken free of the concept of single log canoes and were on a straight path to large keel, rudder and beam ships.

They would not have viewed Cortez and his technology as magic. They would have recognized these tools for what they were- and exploited them.

It was almost humorous to imagine how few men it took getting their hearts ripped out before the smiths and ship-wrights among them gave up their secrets. The world would have been a very different place.

Aboriginals in Australia had been given television recording and broadcasting equipment and been shown how to use them, and before long, they were producing their own content and sharing them over the airwaves.

The bottom line, proven over and over again, was the same. People were people, "primitive" or not. The same hungers, the same intelligence, the same abilities. They did not have to understand how things worked to use them. The vast majority of people alive today didn't, even among those who worked in the tech field.

The Khylsty would get used to the world above quickly. The language barrier was the bigger hurdle and would take longer.

Still, it would not happen over night. And Valeriya deserved her position. And to retain that position. She was his Eye. Her learning would be a good first step for the remaining Khylsty. It would good for her to learn first and for it to pass through her to the others.

His icy blue gaze swept the group, noting the fear and- yes, in a few places, hunger- before returning to hers. "It is not magic as you imagine it. And all of you will learn it. Soon." He paused, choosing his words. "It does not see as deeply or truly as your Eye. It cannot see beyond the veil to the face of god. But in some ways, it is more powerful than anything man has ever known. I will teach you when we reach our destination."

Unsatisfying, he knew. But supplies were still low. And this close to the surface, they weren't safe. They had been noticed, he was sure. Raiding more than one camp had made them many enemies.

He led them the rest of the way until they reached an exit of sorts. The district drank water and excreted industrial waste. It was vile and slow going, but finally an opening out to the sky showed.

Strangely, he felt a sense of relief and release at the sight of the cobalt blue sky, only a few stars visible through the ambient glare of the city. The moon hung low and fat in the sky, silver clouds wreathed it in halo. The air- despite pollutants- was crisp and fresh and he couldn't help but breath deeply.

He heard hisses and invocations. He looked back at them, his blue eyes glowing in the moonlight. "This is the surface. It is currently dark. But in a few hours, light will appear. We must make our way." He could imagine the fear and anxiety that wormed in them. His voice strengthened. "Fear is understandable! Fear is human. The newborn child screams at being yanked from its safe and warm home. But you are Khylsty. This is your world. You are all born anew! Be brave."

It was a struggle for him. He was not an orator. Inspiring people was not in his nature. He hoped it was enough to get them to where they needed to go. In the safe house, there would be chance for rest and adjustment.

A large group threading their way through the streets next to large, abandoned or closed buildings, had to draw some attention, even as they used every back alley and side street his wallet indicated. The sounds of barking dogs and the occasional car seemed to fill the still damp air. The streets and sidewalks were still damp from a spring rain.

Somehow, they made it undisturbed and Armande entered the master-key passcode on the locking mechanism. The door swung open and he paused, looking down at Valeriya through the shadows behind him. He looked in the room and listened, felt the air, waiting for that telltale indicator that every home or building seemed to have- was it inhabited. Nothing.

He stepped in and flipped on the light. He couldn't stop to imagine their reaction to everything that he was doing. Get them to where they were safe and give them time to acclimate. That was key. He stepped aside, unblocking the way. "Quickly. Inside."

He closed the door at the last of them. The room was rather large, with waist high cubicles and office furniture scattered about. Which was purposeful. It was to be seen only as an abandoned office. Atharim security had been in place, monitored at the Vatican, to log entries and record activity. He entered a code and shut down the cameras. He'd have to meet with the Pope. With everything up in the air, he needed to make sure the
Vatican didn't decide to cut their losses. It had been a marriage of convenience all those centuries ago. When he rebuilt, he'd have to come up with more Atharim autonomy. He'd have done it sooner if not for the myriad of other things vying for his attention- not the least of which was the recognition of Apollyon's appearance.

Which was odd, now that he thought about it. Their passage through from the tunnels to this office- as careful as it was- should have elicited more notice. There were no fires either. The city had seemed placid. It was not what he would have expected with Brandon's death. Had the propaganda arm kept things under wraps? Not that much time had passed. It was possible.

if so, they were fortuitous indeed to be on the ground floor when the chaos erupted, as it eventually must. Perhaps he could even stoke the fires. What a coup that would be.

Later, though. He had the Khylsty to take care of. "This will be our home, for the time being. There are bunks below and provisions." He set the alarms for the building. The noise would alert them at least. Then he led them below to the warehouse- really a barracks- showing them where they'd be staying. He also enlisted some of them to help him raid the pantries for provisions- water, food, blankets, clothing, as well as showed them the restrooms for personal ablusions, and demonstrated their use. Those few would pass the word. He also got the first aid kits and tended to the any who needed it, even if that included the need for simple pain relievers.

He felt a sense of calm. This leg of their journey was over. But it was only the beginning. "Get some rest. Tomorrow we will talk further and I will answer your questions."

He then turned to Valeria and studied her for a moment, curious as to what she was thinking. Of all of them, she alone knew what they had been going to. But knowing and seeing where two different things. And she wanted to learn. He pitched his voice low. "Come with me. I will answer what I can and teach what you wish to know." She didn't know what questions to ask, of course, not fully. But he knew she craved understanding.

He turned indicating an office off to one of the corners, far enough away for private conversation, close enough to be available at a moment's notice.

Edited by Regus, Dec 6 2017, 04:31 PM.
Cold. So much cold. Valeriya shivered in the air and rubbed her hands up and down her arms. Their emergence was nothing like she expected. Where was the Great Blue Above? Where was the light? There was nothing. Just blackness and glowing. The orb that hung overhead did not impress her, although others pointed and gaped. They didn't know what they were missing, and Valeriya grit her teeth and bit her tongue to keep from proclaiming her utter disappointment.

They were hustled across surfaces smooth as water. Towers loomed on either side like cavern walls. All was dark, all was cold. She was outwardly unmoved until a sound punched the air. Hers was not the only voice to gasp and point. Regus hushed them, unconcerned about the unseen beasts, only beckoned them to hurry.

Their group was ushered into an echoing cavern. The walls were cold as ice and slick as oily rock. Mechanisms chinked and metallic thuds boomed in the distance. Regus was busy with more of his magicks, and Valeriya waved her hands that the Khylsty remain in place until he called all was safe.

When the call did come, the Khylsty breathed a collective sigh of relief. They had come to the Above, Valeriya told them, and all they ever known was no longer. They had to put their trust into Regus, for he would not be swayed or lead them to harm. He was their father, she told them, and he would carry them through these dangers until they were all returned to glory.

Illarion wanted to follow her where Regus called, but Vale commanded he remain with the others. They needed to be settled and explore the little bits of their surroundings that Regus declared safe. More importantly, an ear must be kept on Matvei. There was no where he could retreat to speak against her, and with Illarion at arm's reach, he would not dare to defy their Eye.

"Father Regus,"
Vale said as she entered a small chamber after him. "I know this is the Above, but I don't understand. Why is it so dark? Where is the color? Where is the light?"
The Eye of the Khylsty
Her question took him by surprise. That in itself surprised him. He had to pause for a moment. Not that she didn't understand the concept of day and night. That was obvious in retrospect, even though he hadn't considered it.

No. She seemed....disappointed. As if she had expected something. What? "Ahh. You are the Eye. You've seen the Above in your visions." For a moment, he could imagine himself in her position. Of all the Khylsty, she had been the one who knew where they were headed. They could whisper in awe at everything because it was all new. She had been spoiled with expectation.

A strange thought occurred to him. Strange because it had been so long it was nearly alien to him. A hint of a smile touched the edges of his mouth. "The light comes from the sun. It is currently shining elsewhere." He knew none of that would make sense to her.

It was easy to understand the myths and legends that surrounded the phenomenon of the sky. Helios in his chariot. The stages of the sun as gods to the Egyptians, the apex of which was the Aten, the sun himself shining in all his full glory, radiating light and life. The huntress Diana riding her silvery luminous chariot, bathing the night it radiance. The sky filled with the stories of the gods and men. This was power, the awe and majesty of the heavens.

He looked at his wallet. It was almost fate. Aurora, the goddess, was one of the oldest. She, among a handful of dieties, had survived millenia, from the Proto Indo European H<sub>a</sub>éusōs to Eos. She was the mediator.

And it was strange. He wanted her to see this with her eyes. Not her Eye.

He took her hand and led her to the entrance they'd passed through earlier. Some of the Khylsty were still awake, though many had fallen asleep. He only glanced at them, then noted how many had bundled up in blankets. Of course. He went to a shelf and pulled one before continuing with her, unlocking the door and leading her outside.

There was a chill lf course, but he only now had thought of the transition in climes. He draped the blanket about her shoulders. Then he drew her to the abandoned lot next door and faced the east, pointing.

"Watch. The birth of the sky." And he tried to see things through her eyes.
Tired, disappointed, and cold, Valeriya hugged the blanket tight to her arms and let Regus usher her outdoors. Her feet dragged over the surface as little bits of rock and stone crunched under her feet. Regus wore heavy boots that wrapped his feet with thick leathers. Her own feet were numbed by a lifetime of rocky terrain.

It was then that she noticed their surroundings were slightly more revealed. The dark cloak of night was thinning, and she squinted to make out their location. Something had changed, and where she was sluggish before, a renewed vigor excited her body. Her hands clenched the blanket while wide green eyes searched high overhead.

she said quietly, trying the word out on her tongue. His word for the above seemed fitting. Even the sound of it was lofty.

As the sky changed, Valeriya's thoughts drifted, whisked away like the air pushing past her face. Her heart was touched, caressed even, by the gentle shift of light. The little bit of light glowing from the orb above faded as a grander light overtook it.

A serene palette of colors grew. Valeriya was breathless as she searched for the first signs of the sun as it lifted. It was magical and unbelievable. She snaked a hand from the blanket and wished for Illarion's to hold, but instead, she found Regus's, and gripped his fingers tight. She wanted the moment to be frozen forever in her mind. Something she could never not unsee.

As the sun rose, the first rays hit her cheeks, and warmth crept through her skin. Joy blossomed in her chest. Tears rolled fat from her eyes.

Edited by Valeriya, Dec 24 2017, 09:23 AM.
The Eye of the Khylsty
Armande felt awe at the childlike purity of her gaze. He'd seen the sun lift itself over the Mediterranean as he grew up in Sicily. He'd watched the eastern sky turn purple and then pink to radiate an ever increasing heat to the Libyan desert. He'd awakened early in his fur lined tent to see the rays of the dawn limn the tips of the Himalyan peaks. He'd camped beneath the shelter of Ayer's rock in the outback and watched the slow molasses like creep of sunlight across the mighty wall. He'd emerged from the Navajo hogan, scent of fresh ceder timbers heady in his nostrils, out into the absolute silence of Monument Valley to watch the sun carve out swathes of snow from the deep blue shadows of the night.

He'd seen the sun rise in climes and environs across the globe and marvelled at every single one of them.

But he had never seen a sunrise like the one before him. It was as if he had new eyes. He could see Valeriya and the spectacle before them and he couldn't decide which was more breathtaking.

His breath misted but he barely noticed as he felt her rough tiny hands reach out to his own larger calloused ones. And for some reason he was overwhelmed with emotion. The ache deep inside, the one he had walled off, had continued its spiderwebbed cracking, and now it asserted itself.

She transformed, for just a moment. Shifted form, became slightly younger, her features altering slightly. The eyes were the same, though. God help him. He trembled. She still pulled at him. He blinked away moisture, felt the cold air on his eye lashes, and she was Valeriya again.

His jaw worked, lips and tongue moving almost imperceptably. A word. A name. Never to cross his lips again. But just the sub vocal movement was enough to stab him, to rip his heart out. Lissandra.

What fate doing to him? Unknotting every carefully tied emotion. Battering down every wall he'd erected. Sunlight burning away every shadowed cornor of his soul he'd hidden.

He tried the Chongg Ran but peace eluded him. He stood on the cusp of a precipice. He'd been there once before, when the succubus had taken his daughter. He'd taken a pledge, then, a vow. Never again. The knife had been quick, the procedure routine, as the doctor had said. No spawn would ever emerge from him again.

He was the savior of man, not its destroyer. He found himself staring at Valeriya. Fate had brought them together. War was still coming. And they had a role to play.

No man or woman would watch their son or daughter be killed at the capricious whims of the gods. No creatures of darkness would steal the heart of a family, a son or daughter.

The innocense on her face is what he fought for. The stolen innocense of Lissandra. The preservation of the terribly beautiful and wonderfully raw human race. There was no price too high to pay, to protect the smile and tears that shone from her face, bathed in that divine light. No sacrifice too great to prevent any child from being stolen from her parents, replaced by a succubus.

The precipice stood before him, an infinite void. Someone was planning. Had always been planning. He'd followed those plans, he realized. Without knowing. Believing he was in control. A lie. And yet.... he was where he needed to be. With who he needed to be with. It had always been so.

He took a deep breath, the heat of the newly born sun on his face, and made a decision. Faith. He stepped off the cliff, surrendering in complete trust. He was the instrument the world had been given.

He turned to her and gently wiped away one tear from her cheek. "Do not call me Father Rasputin or Father Regus. I am Armande. Just Armande. And you are not the Eye of the Khylsty, not anymore. You are the Mother."

The fingertips of his right hand traced the side of her face, from temple and eyebrow, lightly down the side of her cheek, her jaw, down to the side of her neck. Her pulse was strong and steady, skin hot.

They were bathed in the strengthening sunlight, the freshly born rays of dawn hallowing them. Purpose gathered around him like a cloak. He felt powerful with the potency of youth long in the past. "You are mine. Now and forever. Together, you and I will bring salvation to mankind."

Eyes open, he bent down his head to press his lips against hers.

Edited by Regus, Dec 25 2017, 01:01 AM.
She did not want to turn from the sky, but Regus drew her aside. His expression was soft but the eyes remained dangerous, jutting through the downy like claws stretching out of fur. Valeriya had never experienced such an expression before. Her mind was a tangle of confusion just as her heart was split with joy and warning. She let herself be drawn in. Her cheek warmed with his caress, like the soothing lick of sunlight itself stretched its fingers and brushed her skin. Her lids lowered and she felt the softest touch upon her lips. Her heart beat ferocious in her chest, unlike any other time. She'd hunted in darkness and silence, heart pounding. She watched Radenyi, heart beating like a drum. Then there was the anticipation of the sunrise. The blossom of light that sparked her heart with excitement made her breath catch and her heart soar.

This was so different. She had finally seen what the Eye saw. This was the man she dreamed of her whole life, there in the flesh. She had waited and waited for this moment. The time had come for her to seize her destiny and restore all the Khylsty once knew. Rasputin's legacy was reborn in Armande. Armande, the name filled her mind. Her kiss grew wilder as the thoughts spun intricate plans. The crystals around her neck clinked together. The little bones in her hair clacked with the movements. Her heart beat harder and harder, her chest grew tighter and tighter. The cold was gone until only their heat remained. The blanket puddled at her feet. She was a beast, and he was uncaging her.

Her mind howled in triumph. She was free.

She was free.
The Eye of the Khylsty
His lips touched hers and suddenly it seemed as if a powerful current coursed through him. It had been a chaste and yet deep kiss. But with the connection of that circuit, he felt something stir deep within.

Ancient machinery, long still and quiet from disuse began to move and pump. Slowly at first. Sludge and rust did not move quickly. A heart dead and turned to stone did not respond immediately. But he felt movement, felt the stirring of emotion and tenderness he had not felt in....even as his lips devoured hers, felt her face against his, tasted the sweetness of this beautiful woman who gave herself to him, part of him stood back from habit. Sheer habit. Analyzing everything.

Over sixteen years since life had flowed through him. Since he had died. Since he was nothing more than purpose made flesh. Since he was a singular walking expression of will.

The animal inside stirred, awakend from his slumber. Rousing its head it seemed to shake off the sleep from its eyes. He felt angry. Even in this moment of surrender, he had not let go. Control watched over all still.

Sixteen years. Sixteen years of nothing. No human contact. He touched. Yes, he did. The snap of a neck. The stab of a sword. The slice of a blade. The shake of a hand. Even leading Valeriya outside.

But he was always and forever in Control. Always and forever on guard, heart caged and lashed down. And for the first time he could recall he resented Control to its core. Hated it. He violently rejected the mind over the heart, id over the ego.

He detested Control and sought release even as he felt her lips part, tasted her. A deep breath exhaled through his nostrils at this. His eyes were closed and he realized he was praying...or chanting, in his mind. Freedom. He wanted freedom. He wanted to let go. It was so close, but he didn't know how. So desperate.

The beast paced and growled against its bars. And then he did something he had never done. He unlocked the cage. Let the door drift open.

She was fire in his arms. Her arms were around him, hands pulling him at his head and ears, wild and free. He craved her freedom...he yearned for freedom, pawed and clawed for it. Her blanket was on the ground. Her hair wild, an animal, a huntress, the wild made flesh.

And he wanted her. Desperately. Animalistically. Wanted every part of him to be in contact with her. He wanted to be in her and to feel her in every way possible, to be possessed by and to possess her. His hands, he realized were roaming far and wild, feeling her taught firm legs and and hips, feeling her breasts against his chest.

She was arousing.

The animal nudged at the doors, as if testing. The Control stood there, watching, not stopping. Freedom. Please. Her kisses seemed to feed the beast. Its eyes grew hot. It seemed to grow.

Finally, it lept out at Control. Of course nothing was there, no enemy to confront. The leap was the step. Armande felt something snap, burst open in his heart. He tore his lips from hers and nuzzled against her throat. For a moment he bit softly, playfully, at the side of her neck. But it was a stall. He felt emotion overwhelm him until he could barely contain it. His heart thunderred and he convulsed.

Sixteen years without human contact. Years of meditation and sublimation his only tools to stay sane. He couldn't take the chance. Wouldn't. He was dead, a husk of a man. But it had taken its toll. It exacted a price. And now he was alive again. He fought to bring his pounding heart down, as he breathed great wracking droughts of air. He tried to surpress the tears that wanted to form at his eyes at the beauty of something so pure and raw and basic as this. Simple human intimacy. Contact. Connection.

He stifled the great sob or moan of desperate loneliness that wanted to escape him like air from a freshly opened tomb. It had been the price, to be what he had had to be. The sacrifice he had made. But only now did he realize what it had cost him. He was in a frenzy.

He fought for at least that much Control as the beast took over. And he had it. At least that much. She was in his arms, and somehow they were on the ground as the sun rose.

And he wanted her, here and now. He felt her against him, the feel of her body, her chest against his, the dip of her stomach and thighs, the sensual swell of her hips, the hint of opening of her to him in her movements. He felt tenderness and desire and affection and awe. He wanted to worship in her.

And he surrendured to it all.

He would be human again. Now. Finally. He could be human.

I want to be human! Was that a proclamation or a plea?

Edited by Regus, Dec 25 2017, 02:15 AM.
((ooc - regus moded with permission.))

Illarion shot a suspicious glance at the door again. His twin sister and the Regus departed through that door some time ago. So much time ago that he worried about their welfare. He did not doubt Regus' skill as a dealer of death, and he knew first hand that the Eye was ferocious. They were in a new world now, though. Illarion scanned the slumbering faces around him. The Khylsty were vulnerable here, utterly dependent upon Regus. They were pups that needed their mother's protection. Even Valeriya needed that protection, else the father may turn to devour its mewling child.

He pushed to his feet and decided to check for himself. The slab swung open with the push of his fingers. Just as he was about to close it behind him, another hand caught the handle. Matvei stepped out with him. The two men spared each other an exchange. Their shared curiosity, or worry, whichever it was, was enough to tolerate the presence of the other. Both were momentarily consumed by the ever-brightening span of colors overhead, but Illarion saw them first. He discarded the sunrise in favor of a far more troubling spectacle. He felt his jaw clench as his teeth bit down on his tongue. At his side, the spectacle was finally revealed to Matvei. The other man smiled deviously at the scene.Yet neither moved from where they stood. No matter how much Illarion wanted to.


The scruff of his hair drew painful scratches across her cheek. She welcomed it. She clawed in return with nails that dug into the thin skin of his throat. He pinched and tugged at her in return. They both wrestled for dominance. Valeriya's fight driven by carnality denied her whole life; Armande's by the impulse for control.

Among the Khylsty, Radenyi was orchestrated by smoke and oil, something to engage as a group in careful and coordinated pairings at first. As the smoke thickened and heat hugged the bodies closer, order devolved into a daze of commotion. Valeriya watched over it all until the haze overtook her, but she was never allowed to participate. The Eye was too valuable to sully in the chaos of Radenyi. Her partner would be chosen from among the blood. She always assumed it would be Illarion paired with her. She dreaded the possibility that it could be Matvei, but the Hand was always a prestigious option. Yet in her dreams she yearned for Rasputin, as though their departed father would be reborn and reclaim his child for his own. She never, ever thought it would actually happen. But Rasputin's - no, Armande's - body pushed against her in this moment. His lips devoured hers. His hands claimed its spoils. She was glad to submit, fearful only that this was all a dream and reality would soon overtake her.


Regus put his twin to the ground and pulled at the tangles of her black bodice. While his weathered hands slid up her dress, Illarion's curled into fists at his side. At his side, Matvei whispered into his ear, "This is not Radenyi. You must stop them."
Illarion's breath deepened, as he forced his legs into rocks. He would not interfere, he told himself. Regus laid on the ground and beckoned Vale across him, and another whisper clawed into his mind. "Now! Before it is too late."
Matvei hissed and Illarion's sight turned to mist.

He rushed forward, "NO!"
he yelled in defiance, grabbing Valeriya's shoulders and yanked her from Regus before he could sully her. All thoughts of Regus kicked aside as he fell to his knees in front of Valeriya's beautiful face. Her hair was a tangle of black cloth, her lips red, her cheeks scratched, her eyes flashing like fire. The shock on her expression turned to fury in that moment, and Illarion hurried to explain. "No! You cannot! I love you Valeriya. You cannot chose him. You cannot."


Vale drank in the sight of her beloved Armande as he waited for her to overtake him. She bit her lip, lifted her skirt and settled across his hips. She gasped at the touch on her thigh, shaking uncontrollably in the moment, when she was ripped away.

She screeched defiantly, scratched and clawed like a starving animal torn away from its meal. When she settled upon colorless eyes and pale flesh of her twin, his words skimmed the surface of her mind. Thoughts red as fire, hands sure as instinct, a stiletto flashed and her hand swiped. Illarion cried out, fell backward. A deep red gouge cut into his pale cheek. "You dare to tell me what I can and can not do."
She seethed fury and brandished the blade between them. "You dare tell the Eye what to see? You dare to tell Rasputin what to claim? You? Who are you but the parasite that our mother should have destroyed. I AM THE EYE. YOU ARE NOTHING. I have waited for this. ME! Armande is MINE! You WILL NOT take him from me!"

She lowered the blade to her side, returned to Regus and snaked his hand into hers, beckoning that he follow. They would return indoors to that small chamber and block themselves in for as long as she desired.

Matvei was only a barrier to her. A dangerous flash of eyes was enough to make him shrink back, even to go to Illarion and check on the wounded man left behind in the dirt. She took Regus within and there, finally, claimed her birthright.

Edited by Valeriya, Dec 25 2017, 04:05 PM.
The Eye of the Khylsty

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