Chronicles of the Order: Deciphering the Transmundane

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  1. Author's Preface

    The following is an (mostly) unedited continuation of a story that I've been more or less working on since 2007. In brief, it's a fantasy/modern-fantasy that takes place over a 500 year setting about elementalism, angels and demons, and secret societies. It incorporates Dan Brown-inspired conspiracy with a mix of Christian/Hebrew mythology. I thought I would continue drafting the remaining chapters here at Iwaku and showcase the work for all to see. I'm looking for honest feedback and critique (though ass-kissing and cookies are always welcome!). Feel free to post in this thread. The Table of Contents will help you jump to the chapters.

    Each chapter will consume one post, and I'll update the Table of Contents below to hyperlink to each chapter. Starting each of them off will be a quote that will - in one way or another - relate to or allude to the specific themes within the writing.

    Now there is a heck of a lot to this story as this is the second official volume of the series which originally started as a role play at the Roleplayer Guild. I'm proud to say that the original RP (and the continuation RP to the original) were successfully completed. These official chronicles will now re-tell this old tale and expand upon the universe in greater (and more organized) detail. To help explain things that may go over your head, I'll be compiling what I call "The Compendium" on my blog here at Iwaku as the story progresses. You can think of it as a living encyclopedia and author's commentary.
    Table of Contents

    Author's Preface and Table of Contents .............. Post #1
    Chapter 1 ......................................................... Post #2
    Chapter 2 ......................................................... Post #3
    Chapter 3 ......................................................... Post #4
    Chapter 4 ......................................................... Post #5
    Chapter 5 ......................................................... Post #6
    Chapter 6 ......................................................... Post #7
    Chapter 7 ......................................................... Post #8
    Chapter 8 ......................................................... Post #9
    Chapter 9 ......................................................... Post #10
    Chapter 10 ....................................................... Post #11
    Chapter 11 ....................................................... (Soon...)​
    #1 RecAgenda, Jan 9, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014
  2. Chronicles of the Order

    Vol. 2 - Deciphering the Transmundane
    Chapter 1

    "I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light." -Helen Keller

    There was a sudden, painful thump on his stomach, followed by an extreme loss of air from his lungs. Alex Conner buckled and wrapped his arms around his abdominals after the soccer ball bounced back into the air, landed in the grass, and rolled away toward the trunk of the tree that he had been lying on the ground under. He took a moment to gasp for oxygen as a slight panic rushed through his system.

    He heard laughter approach and glanced in the direction from where it was coming. Three other boys, all wearing the same school soccer team uniform he was seemed to be enjoying the fun they were having. "Wake up, faggot!" the one leading them taunted. "Practice is over."

    "Missed it again, you pussy," another said.

    As they walked by, the one closest to Alex kicked his cleat into the ground and flung up a patch of dry dirt, sending it into the boy's head. It broke into pieces of dust when it impacted, spreading everywhere across his unkempt brown hair. When Alex bolted upright he quickly brushed away the dirt and dust, not bothering to turn around and say anything to his tormentors. What was the point? Poor Alex Conner had been teased, mocked, and bullied ever since he came to that dreaded private school. He hated it. He hated them.

    If it hadn't been for the school's requirement to be on a sports team, he would be hiding in the library right now, surrounding himself with books and tomes of all types. He preferred reading to exercise, and losing himself in his imagination rather than confining himself to the social hierarchy of high school.

    He was a freshman this year, bottom of the totem pole; and so far, his odds of surviving the crucible were slim to none. When his father received a promotion at one of the most prestigious commercial entities in the world, the Conner family had to move to an upstate New York town. Actually, it was Alex and his mother that had to move with him. It was his father's endeavor to purchase a prime piece of property in an elitist neighborhood, and the dramatic increase in pay now allowed them to afford it and more. But with fortune and pomp comes a price; and one that Alex was now paying at this tormenting prep school. He either had to become one of the wolves, or be eaten by them.

    Alex picked himself up and brushed off the remaining dirt from his uniform before turning to head back into the school's athletic annex. He chose to tug along far behind the main group of students, keeping to himself. When he finally entered into the cold climate of polished wood floors, art-decorated walls, and trophy cases of awards dating back to the early 1900's, he felt surrounded by snobbery, prideful attitudes and exaggerated egos. Alex quickly turned into the boy's locker room and tiptoed through and around his changing teammates, avoiding eye contact with any of them.

    Luckily, they had all been allowed to choose their own lockers at the beginning of the semester. Alex had wisely waited to choose his until everyone else had, and selected a locker in a far corner of the room, away from all the others. Ever since enrolling at the school, the young Conner had played this same game of isolation, preferring to keep away from any of the students as best as he could. The one thing he could not avoid, however, and in this instance, was the shower room. They all had to do it, especially if they were to remain within the school's hygiene regulations and make it to class on time.

    After he stripped off his uniform, Alex grabbed a fresh towel from his locker to cover his nakedness, a bottle of shampoo and body wash, and took off with graceful stealth toward the showers. At least the school had provided their athletic students with individual shower stalls with curtains and not large communal chambers. Alex was sure he would die in one if that had been the case.

    As he quickly walked toward a stall in the back of the room, one of the three from earlier rounded out of the stall immediately in front of him and stuck his foot out in Alex's path, tripping the boy. Alex barely had time to let go of his hygiene products and brace himself to avoid slamming his face into the tile floor. As he remained on the ground, wincing in fearful preparation for the bully to land a kick in his side, Alex heard the kid laughing as he walked away. When no kick or further taunting came, he slowly picked himself back up, gathered his things, and quietly made his way to the shower stall. After stepping inside and throwing the curtain in front of him for privacy, he leaned back against the wall and let a slew of murmured curses loose from his lips, doing his best to hold back the inner pain and frustration.

    Later that day, Alex found himself in the peaceful sanctuary that was the school's library, now dressed in the khaki slacks and maroon blazer of the school uniform, with a white collar shirt and black tie. Hazel eyes ran across the touchsmart computer screen in front of him. As his fingers rapidly typed out a few search tags in Google for the latest good reads, a tiny and unexpected window, the likes of a command prompt screen, popped up in the corner. He paused to stare at the oddity for a moment. Nothing was displayed in the black box except for a flashing underscore marker. A second later, the underscore scanned across the window, left behind it was a message from an unknown sender:

    Halfway up the hill, I see thee at last, lying beneath me with thy sounds and sights -- A city in the twilight, dim and vast, with smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights._

    "What the-?" was all Alex said aloud when he read the message over and over. Did the computer have a virus on it? He had only just started searching the internet, and he was looking for new book titles, not porn or free media sites. He heard footsteps behind him, and turned his head to see one of the librarians moving over to shelve several books in her arms into one of the nearby bookcases.

    "Mrs. Cercie?" Alex asked, getting the woman's attention.

    The red-headed, middle aged woman, Aislin Cercie, had been one of the few kind persons in the entire school that had bothered to listen to and speak with Alex. Her fair and freckled complexion, combined with the color of her hair suggested she had a strong Irish heritage, but her genuine, native accent proved it.

    "Yes, Alex?"

    "You might wanna come take a look at this. I got this weird message that just popped up on the computer."

    The woman carefully balanced the books on the end of one of the shelves as she walked over to see what the boy was talking about. Her olive-green eyes scanned over the words before she let out a sigh of intrigue. Interestin'. And you just now got this?"

    "Yes, ma'am. I swear, I wasn't doing anything I shouldn't have been," Alex pleaded.

    Mrs. Cercie waved her hand. "Oh relax, dearie, I believe ya'. Let's see... I've actually heard this before, somewhere; but I can't remember..." There was an awkward pause as Alex simply glanced back and forth from the computer's odd message to Mrs. Cercie's contemplating expression. Finally, she exclaimed with an air of excitement, "Longfellow!"

    "Uhm... what?"

    Mrs. Cercie turned to look at Alex, smiled, and then went back to shelving her books. As she did, she explained, "Henry Longfellow was a master of poetic riddles. One of your American ones, actually. Whomever sent you that particular riddle of his is lookin' for an answer. I'm not sure what replying to it will do, but I say go for it. I've always liked mysteries."

    Alex grinned, and such a thing was rare for him to do at school. "You can't just tell me the answer?" he begged.

    "Now where'd be the fun in that?" the woman replied with a grin of her own and an encouraging wink.

    The boy turned back around to read over the message again, looking for any clues in the riddle itself. It could be any type of riddle. Was it a word or letter game? A comparison? Alex studied the different parts of the riddle for several minutes each.

    Halfway up the hill, I see thee at last... That could be any number of things. But Alex was pretty certain this was a symbolism or alliteration riddle; meaning the answer had meaning behind it and it wasn't a tangible thing. If I'm going up a hill, he thought, and something is below me when I turn to see it, it is then behind me...

    Certain he knew the answer, Alex clicked on the command prompt window and began typing his response.

    The past._

    There was a long pause of excruciating uncertainty and second-guessing before the flashing underscore dropped down a line and began moving again on its own.

    Well done, Mr. Conner. We'll see you tomorrow._
    #2 RecAgenda, Jan 9, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  3. Chapter 2

    "That there were other worlds, invisible, unknown, beyond imagination even, was a revelation to him." -Kim Edwards

    The five minute warning bell rang throughout the halls of the school as Alex Conner made his way to his first class of the day. But as it was a normal routine for everyone else, Alex sensed that something was different about this morning. Ever since receiving the strange messages on the library computer yesterday, he couldn't shake the feeling that something was going to really happen. That last message... We'll see you tomorrow. What did it mean? Who had been communicating with him and what was the strange riddle all about?

    Alex found himself excessively paranoid today, looking over his shoulder for any teenage thugs and the usual bullies. He had originally thought the night before that it had to be one of them, trying to play a smart prank; yet the more he thought about it, none of the ones that typically harassed him had the brains to pull that kind of thing off. School computers were well protected and usage was logged. The messages sent to him yesterday could only have been done by hacking; and he couldn't think of a single person - student or teacher - that has such skill.

    "Well if it ain't sissy boy," a familiar voice called out as Alex rounded the corner to the social studies wing.

    "Just leave me alone, Mitchell," Alex said to the taller, black-haired sophomore now standing in his way. Mitchell had been one of the three kids that had taunted him after yesterday's soccer practice, and the same one that tripped him in the showers.

    Mitchell stuck out an arm, face-level with Alex, preventing him from moving around. "How about you ask nicely," he insisted with a snickering grin.

    "Why should I have to ask you to leave me alone?" Alex challenged.

    "Oh, whoah there, Mr. Tough Guy. Ya might wanna watch that pretty mouth of yours before I stuff my cock in it."

    Alex smirked. "What's with you and the gay jokes all the time, Mitch? I'm beginning to think you like me."

    Other students in the hall stopped dead in their tracks and turned their heads in astonishment as Mitchell's face lit up with a furious red glow. His eyes narrowed and his fists clenched up. Alex honestly had no clue where those words had come from, or why he was suddenly in a trash-talking mood.

    "What d'you say, bitch?"

    Might as well finish what I started, Alex thought before saying, "I said... I think you like me."

    The young Conner ducked in the nick of time as his eyes caught the blur of Mitchell's fist flying through the air. With the larger sophomore now off balance from the wasted momentum, Alex stepped to the left and placed two hands on Mitchell's side, pushing him away as hard as he could, slamming the idiot into the wall lockers. Now that he had a clear path to freedom, Alex took off in a dead sprint, putting as much distance between him and Mitchell as he could muster.

    Just when Alex thought he could slow down, he heard the fast approaching steps of Mitchell behind him and the sophomore yelling, "Coonnneeerrrrr! Get your faggot ass back here, you piece of shit!"

    He didn't know why, but Alex felt himself smile and a fit of laughter broke loose when Mitchell was yelling at him, almost as if this was all some game to him. Of course, the terror returned when he realized that the brute would surely smash his face into a wall for making him look like a fool in front of other students.

    Conner ducked to break his momentum and rounded a corner, picking up another sprint with the little stamina he had left, racing down one of the lesser-travelled hallways. His eyes barely had time to register a mop sign and, like something out of a classic cartoon, he felt his shoes lose all traction and his feet fly up under him. When his buttocks slammed on the tile floor, he slid off down the remainder of the hallway, where he thought he got a glimpse of something metallic out of the corner of his eye.

    Just when he managed to stop his slide and scramble to recover to his feet, he looked up to see a man with golden hair in a brown leather jacket and jeans smiling at him, leaning against the wall. One hand was stuffed in his jacket pocket, while the other held a metallic rod about several feet in length. The hand in his pocket reached out to reveal a gloved hand, and his index finger lightly brushed against his lips, instructing Alex to remain silent.

    Mitchell came barrelling around the corner at the far end of the hall that Alex had just come from and leaped over the wet floor - indicating the kid wasn't so much of an idiot after all - and continued running after him. Normally, Alex would continue running, but the strange man's eyes insisted that he stay put; and just when Mitchell approached the intersection, the man raised the rod up to his side and swung it right in front of the bully's face. Alex cringed, imagining the pain that just impacted with Mitchell's stupefied face.

    With Alex's tormentor now lying on the floor, looking to be completely unconscious, the man casually stepped out and off the wall. As he walked toward Alex, the metal rod seemed to slowly vanish from reality from the tip to the end in his palm, with miniscule particles of sparkling metallic dust fading away into oblivion after fluttering through the air around where the rod had once been.

    "Alex Conner, I presume?" the man asked.

    "Who... are you?" the boy asked, taking a slight step back from the stranger.

    "My name is Nathaniel Kenway. You spoke with one of my associates yesterday in the school library."

    Alex's eyes went wide. In the instance of being chased through the halls, he had momentarily forgotten about his previous contemplations over the strange messages. Of course that would happen; right he let his guard down. But was this man a threat? Other than the recent engagement with Mitchell, Alex typically had good judgement; and nothing about this man really gave him cause for concern.

    "Yeah," he finally replied after looking the man up and down. "I'm Alex. What was that about? Yesterday, I mean."

    "Well, to be frank, the organization I work with has had their eye on you for quite some time, now. I'm what some call a 'headhunter'. I look for potential candidates to fill empty roles. And you, Mr. Conner, are a perfect pick."

    Conner raised a brow. "What 'organization'?" he probed.

    "Ah! Nate!" a voice cried out from down the hall. Alex and Nathaniel turned to see Mrs. Cercie hastily walking toward them. "There you are. I see ya found young Alex."

    "Scat," Nathaniel replied. "It's good to see you, again."

    "Mrs. Cercie? You know this guy?" Alex asked, suddenly feeling a lot more comfortable that a friend and a staff member was there with him.

    The Irish woman waved a hand as she dismissed the very notion of not knowing him. "Of course, sweetie. This man is a long-time and dear friend o' mine. Of course, that's not taking into consideration that he still owes me a good ten doubloons."

    "Scat, that was back in, what- seventeen thirty-one?"

    "Thirty, you scatter-brained nincompoop."

    "Well, I don't think you'll be getting those back anytime soon, considering Isabella II replaced that currency with her own in the 19th century."

    Alex raised his hands to stop the two. "Can we just, focus here, or something?" He looked to the librarian and said, "I thought your name was-"

    "-Aislin Cercie?" the woman finished. "Sure, it is; but him and the rest of the lot call me 'Scat', short for Scathach."

    "In Irish lore," Nathaniel said, "Scathach was a mighty and deadly warrior. Aislin here could down a hundred men with a Metal-forged sword in a matter of minutes."

    "Still can," Scat corrected, narrowing her eyes at her friend with a sense of pride as she crossed her arms and shifted her weight back on one foot. There was a sudden, barely audible groan and the three looked down to see Mitchell's head turning on the floor as he began to wake up.

    "Hmm," Nathaniel began. "I guess I didn't whack him hard enough."

    "Alex, dear," Scat said, getting the boy to look her in the eyes. "Trust Mister Kenway. He'll get you to our home, safely; and then all your questions will be answered. Who we are, the people we associate ourselves, and the things we can do. If you like what you'll soon see, you can even become one of us. But you have to open your mind."

    "Wait," Alex said, "you were in on this? You had something to do with the messages on the computer?"

    "Yes, that I did. But there's no time for that now. Go."

    There was a surprising gust of wind that came out of nowhere and Alex whirled around to see Nathaniel standing in front of a black void that seemed to form a tear in the air behind him. What his eyes saw was unfathomable. It was though he was looking into a black hole. Small arcs of electrical danced around the tear, where violet hues of all shades seemed to radiate outward until disappearing. Nathaniel's golden hair and his leather jacket was being blown around in a wind that seemed to come from the rift.

    "Now's the time to make your choice, Alex," Nathaniel shouted over the rumble of the anomaly. "You can come with me and learn what's going on outside this fragmented world. Or you can stay here, and continue to put up with your tormentors."

    Alex turned to look at Mitchell, was now trying to sit up while holding his head. So far, the kid's eyes had been turned toward the floor, and he didn't appear to very aware of anything that was happening around him. If he stayed, he would surely have to deal with him later; and by the sound of it, this was Nathaniel's only offer. If there really was something beyond that thing behind him, this was his one and only chance to find out.

    "I'm in," Alex stated, nodding his head in confidence as he stepped towards Nathaniel and grabbed onto the man's outstretched hand.

    Nausea. That was the first thing that overcame Alex as he and Nathaniel stepped out of the rift. Shortly after he was burdened by a pounding headache and tasted a strangeness in the air around him. He began coughing and wheezing.

    "Steady now," Nathaniel said, patting the boy's back as Alex knelt down on the ground. That's when he noticed they were outside. "Steady breaths, Conner. You're breathing in an untainted and unsullied atmosphere, so it'll take a bit of time for your lungs to fully adjust. You won't find any air pollution where we're at now." He reached an arm around Alex and helped the boy back to his feet. "Open your eyes, kid. Take a look."

    After his stomach settled and his lungs opened back up, he allowed his eyes to take in the picture around him. They were standing at the edge of a dense evergreen forest, where in front of them, on a hill, was a massive and high-reaching fortress of old stone. The sky above was a brilliant blue with pluming white clouds. Birds sang, rabbits skipped and hopped along the forest floor, and the tall grass ahead of them swayed ever so delicately in a calm and cool breeze.

    By far, the most extravagant image, however, was the fortress. Alex didn't know much about medieval architecture, but judging by what he was able to see, it had to be centuries old. Tall towers and large gothic roofs sprawled the massive complex visible beyond the walls. Somehow, though, the entirety of the structures seemed perfectly in tact, almost as if the fortress was recently constructed. No weather damage, no discolouration from time, and no ruin or debris lying around.

    "Welcome to my humble abode," Nathaniel said. "Or, mine and others', anyway."

    "You mean you live, here? Wherever the heck this place is?"

    "Yup. You just took your first journey though a nether realm portal. People like me can create them at will with special, silver objects; most of them are pendants or medallions of some sort. Where we're at is called the Shadow; it's one of many nether realms; other tiny worlds within the world you know."

    "Why 'the Shadow'? It seems pretty bright and warm where we're at."

    "Not bad, kid. I knew I picked a smart one," Nathaniel commented. "We called it the Shadow because it exists as a plane that is separated from the normal world in the same way that a blinding light separates an object into two halves; the object itself, and the shadow it casts. Confusing, I know, and probably over-thought back in the day when they named it, but-"

    "Who are 'they'?"

    "The Sagens," Nathaniel replied before leading Alex out of the forest. "Myself, the people I work with, and the ones that came before us - many of whom are still alive - are all called Sagens. I'll explain more when we get inside."

    When Alex and Nathaniel approached the main gate to the wall, two guards adorned in brilliant golden platemail, with chainmail and white cloth underneath, and a white cape draping down from their shoulders, met with them in a stern manner, blocking their entry before the portcullis. Each of them held a long pike, made entirely of some sort of pale metal, noticeably the same as the rod that Nathaniel had used to knock out Mitchell.

    "Who's this, Kenway?" one of them demanded.

    "A new recruit. That's all."

    The armored hulk stepped over to Alex and leaned down slightly. Alex could see the man's brown eyes through the slit in the golden helm, slightly narrowed as the man examined him. "This runt is your new recruit? Just how old is he anyway?"

    "Fourteen," Alex answered for him. "And I'm not a runt."

    There was a long pause as the man's eyes continued to bore into Alex. Suddenly, the guard stood back up straight and started laughing. "This one's got some balls! I'm just messing with ya, kid." After the guard calmed down, he said, "My name is Lorence. I'm one of the Sentinels of the Citadel. Welcome to the Shadow, kid." The two men stepped out of the way, allowing Nathaniel and Alex to continue on through the portcullis.

    "That was... weird," Alex commented. Nathaniel only laughed.

    The courtyard beyond the gate was a vast plaza of gardens, brick walkways, and four fountains arranged in a diamond pattern. In the center of the plaza, in between the fountains, was a tall bronze sculpture of two helmed knights. Each bore a shield in front of them: with one shield bearing the easily recognizable Templar Cross; and the other bearing another famous cross insignia, the Knights Hospitaller.

    "The Templars and the Hospitallers," Alex said.

    "Correct," Nathaniel replied. "You're a history buff, aren't you?"

    The boy shrugged his shoulders. "Not really. Just trivia I picked up from movies, video games, and history class assignments."

    "Huh. Well, several knights of these two brotherhoods made up the first Sagens. That sculpture is a dedication to them."

    Looking around the plaza, Alex saw that there were many people of all ages moving about, carrying on conversations, running errands at shops located on the outer edges of the plaza, or otherwise just strolling about in the gardens or relaxing at the edges of the fountains. He also took note that almost every one of them were wearing an odd set of clothes that matched a handful of others in the plaza. The design and tailoring of the outfits were the same, but some differed from others in their color scheme. The closest matching group of three individuals walking in front of Nathaniel and Alex wore red thigh-length coats with orange accents at their neck collars and the ends of their sleeves. The orange also carried down the centerline of the coat where a zip was presumably hidden underneath an overlying flap of the material. Two of them wore black pants that went down to their ankles, covering the tops of black boots, while the third wore black shorts, revealing that the boots protected his shins.

    It didn't matter if they were male or female, all of them wore the same outfit. Only the colors differed. As Alex continued to follow his guide through the fortress' inner complex, he continued to sight other strange things around him. As they walked by another courtyard hidden behind a low wall with rose vines creeping up the side, he caught a glimpse of something extraordinary. A person wearing an outfit of two shades of blue was standing at the edge of a fountain and staring into a wave of water that seemed to standing still. Alex could see the ripples on the surface of the water, but the wave never dropped, nor did it move in any direction. The young man standing in front of the anomaly was only holding his hand up to it, but not touching it.

    "Alex," Nathaniel said, dragging the boy's attention away from the courtyard and back to him. "It's rude to stare. That man is practicing his technique; we should leave him be."

    "What was all that?" Alex asked as they continued walking, crossing over a small bridge that had been built across a stream flowing through the fortress.

    "I suppose it's pointless to keep you guessing," Nathaniel admitted. "That man, as well as everyone you see that looks similar to him, are all Sagens as well. As Sagens, we are gifted with the ability to control the elements."

    "So... you're magical?"

    Nathaniel stopped so suddenly that Alex ran smack into his back, his nose taking in the leather scent of the man's jacket. "Gah! What the-?!"

    "It's not 'magic', kid," Nathaniel insisted, looking down at him like a disappointed parent. "It's elementalism. Magic doesn't exist."

    Alex rolled his eyes as soon as Nathaniel turned around and continued walking. "The difference being?"

    "One is folklore and myth; the other is the ability to manipulate energies and tangible matter with the power of divine intervention."

    "Magic." Alex grinned.

    "Kid, I'm about to smack you silly."

    "Hey, at least I'm not wigging out over all of this."

    Nathaniel stopped again, but this time Alex had kept his distance and even jutted backwards a bit in his step. "True," the man replied. "Most new recruits have trouble simply coping with what they've seen thus far. I hadn't stopped to realize that you're handling everything so well."

    "Well I do still find it all slightly..."



    Nathaniel smiled. "You'll get used it soon enough. Come on, I'll explain the rest in detail once we're inside the Sanctorium."

    "The what?" Alex asked as they pressed deeper into the complex.
    #3 RecAgenda, Jan 10, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  4. Chapter 3

    "Can a magician kill a man by magic?" Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. "I suppose a magician might," he admitted, "but a gentleman never would." - Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

    The Night Before...

    In the dark shadows of the alley outside a single night club on the city strip, William silently walked toward a rusted metal door spray painted with graffiti that spanned half the length of the brick wall. Carefully, trying not to mess up his polished Mezlan loafers, William stepped over and around the scattered trash bags that had more than likely been sitting and festering in pools of unknown liquids for days. It was a strange place to be wearing a black, two-button Vinci, even if he chose to sport an open collar.

    When he reached the metal door, a simple few waves of his fingers unlocked the bolt from the other side and he pulled the handle, revealing a dimly lit hallway beyond the threshold. The rumbling beats of the club music already clearly audible from the outside grew louder now that William was partially in the building.

    After gently closing the door behind him, the Sagen casually walked down the hall, heading toward another at the far end. As he walked, he passed by an open door to a security office, where a lone man attempted to interrupt his pace by stepping directly in front of William. But the Sagen was too quick. William, without hesitation, placed a hand on the guard's shoulder, pulled his upper body down and slammed his other fist into the man's gut, knocking the wind from his lungs. In an effortless push, William tossed the man to the side and let him collapse on the ground back inside the security room. After stepping inside, the Sagen positioned himself over the fallen guard, who was already attempting to rise, and sat a knee on the man's chest. Wrapping a hand over the guard's mouth and nose, William locked down any hope of the man gasping for air and patiently waited for the stranger to fall unconscious. Rather than killing the man, William only put him to sleep. There was no need to take his life.

    Taking advantage of the opportunity, William ensured the feed for the security cameras had been rerouted to a particular IP address belonging to the Order, and that any alarms were deactivated. Aa he took his leave, the Sagen closed the door behind him, leaving the snoozing security guard lying on the floor inside, broke the handle, and tossed the scrap metal to the floor. Continuing his casual glide, William walked through the door at the end of the hallway, entering into the blinding lasers and strobe lights of the main club. By now, the music was blaring in his ears and the screams and shouts of oblivious, drunk, high, and joyous party goers were nearly muffled out under the beats.

    As he made his way through the dancers, kindly apologizing for any toes stepped on or a few imbeciles shoved out of his way, William felt a slight vibration in his left jacket pocket against his chest. He was amazed he felt it all, given the heavy beats surrounding him with their own vibrations from the intense sounds of the electronic melodies. His hand slipped into the pocket to retrieve a slim smartphone and glanced at the message on the screen.

    Put the Bluetooth in, you twat!

    After rolling his eyes, William replaced the phone but snatched up a small bluetooth earpiece from his trouser pocket and hung it in his ear, using a conveniently moldable band that reached around the back of his ear to hold the device in place. His finger pressed in on a small button on the side and he heard two audible beeps.

    "Finally," a British voice said over the earpiece.

    "Grayson," William replied. "I assume you find it necessary to talk me through the rest of the way."

    "Well, Mr. Prescott, if your last mission had only gone a bit more smoothly, you wouldn't have to deal with me. But the council deems it best we handlers assist all Sagens tasked in the field now."

    William grinned and continued to push through the remainder of the crowd, now halfway across the dance floor. "I tried to tell them that I only blew up six cars during the chase. It's not like I was anywhere close to the record."

    "The record you set three years ago in Prague. Thirteen was it?"


    "I rest my case. The council believes you've become a serious liability for the collateral while on missions."

    "Haven't I yet to fail one, though?"

    "Not the point."

    The Sagen kept pushing through the crowd, but one of the dancers wasn't too happy when William tried to push him out of the way. The hulk of a man tried to mutter something, but it was inaudible under the music. He swung a heavy fist toward William, but the Sagen simply ducked underneath, spun around and grabbed the man's exposed wrist, delivering a swift kick to his groin. With the fool's head turned down and his free hand grabbing his wounded manhood, William wrapped his fingers on the man's collar and shoved him forward into another bunch of unaware dancers. The group thought the colliding idiot ran into them on purpose and took to initiating a fight.

    "Did you get the camera feeds?" William asked his hander, Darcy Grayson, as he continued to press on through the crowd and left the man that attacked him alone to fend for himself against an angry cluster of club goers.

    "I did, thank you very much," Darcy replied. "I've got eyes on you now. The target is just through the door at your ten o'clock, beyond the dance floor."

    William finally made it out of the crowd and over to the door that Darcy had mentioned. When he tried the handle, he was surprised to find it unlocked.

    "Is he expecting me?"

    "Not likely. Barnes has developed a habit of thinking he's untouchable. Getting to him should be easy."

    As the door opened, William stepped inside a long corridor and looked down to see two heavyset guards standing outside a lone door at the very end, where Barnes was supposedly hiding.

    "Easy huh?"

    "I think only two of them is a cakewalk for you. But be warned; these are Barnes' personal guards. They're more likely to kill you before simply restraining you."

    William started forward with a determined march. Both of the henchmen at the end of hallway took a step forward and prepared to draw the handguns concealed underneath their finely tailored jackets. The Sagen reached for weapons of his own, fingers lacing up the back of his coat and tracing up the seams of two leather pouches holding small gripless kunai. Only the ring and blade made up the weapons, allowing William to easily conceal them in small pouches or pockets. The rings were large enough to fit his middle finger, and inverted curves at the hilt of the blade allowed his index and ring fingers to steady and balance the weapon, keeping the blade fixed and constantly pointed towards his foe. In essence, his punches became extremely sharp and very deadly.

    As the guards drew closer, William twisted his body sideways, balancing on his right leg, bringing up and bending his left to steady the foot on the opposite leg, and used the momentum when thrusting his right arm to throw the kunai, which had been delicately braced in his fingers, toward the first guard. After a painful thumping sound of the blade barreling into the man's throat, William repositioned himself and prepared to dodge the second guard's gunfire.

    The bullet zipped just inches away from the Sagen's head. When William recovered, he readied his second kunai in his left hand and sprinted toward the guard, using his power over Metal to warp the trajectory of the bullets coming at him. Within two seconds, William had gotten in close and jammed the blade into the man's chest. Spinning around and keeping his speed, he ripped the blade from the guard's body, leaned in low, and snatched up the first kunai from the other guard's bloody throat. After slowing and taking a breath, the Sagen used his ability again to reanimate the high-carbon steel and remove the blood, effectively cleaning it by spilling drops of crimson to the floor below.

    After sheathing the kunai in their pouches on the back of his belt, William casually opened the door in front of him and stepped into the dark office beyond. Only a single lamp light provided the dim luminescence within. It sat atop an roughened oak desk that had seen better years. Accompanying the lamp was a lit cigar slowly burning away, balanced on the rim of a plastic ashtray. There was also an empty liquor glass with melting cubes resting at the bottom. The moisture around the glass indicated that it had been very recently drained. A clutter of boxes, papers, and filing cabinets had been stacked and piled against the walls of the small space. At one time, the office had probably been a storage or maintenance room of some kind. Beyond the desk, sitting in a creaky leather chair and with his head atop the desk as if sleeping or mourning, was Malcolm Barnes; the proprietor of the club, an information broker of dark and powerful secrets, and an on and off enemy of the Order.

    The balding man straightened up in his chair and wiped a hand through the greasy black and gray strands left on his head. Tired and bloodshot brown eyes looked up at William, but there was no fear or anger in them; only fatigue. The man's collar was loosened and mangled and a red tie dangled from underneath, the knot a complete mess. His jacket had been draped across the back of the chair, probably to try and cool his body off within the heat of a room that lacked proper air conditioning; or so marked the sweat stains under the arms of his wrinkled shirt.

    "Damnit, Prescott," Barnes wallowed in a low and raspy voice. "Couldn't you wait a little longer before butting in?"

    William Prescott stood tall in front of Barnes' desk with his hands relaxed in his trouser pockets. "I'm sorry, Malcolm," he respectfully replied. "But I have a contract to carry out."

    "I'm not talking about you, personally, you fool," the man barked. "I mean the Order."

    "Yes. The Order." William raised a brow. "That's who gives me my contracts."

    Barnes shook his head. "No, no, no, no... You're an idiot, Prescott. You're just a tool. You don't know anything."

    "Then enlighten me."

    William's earpiece crackled and Darcy's voice abruptly came over. "Prescott, you have a directive. Eliminate the target and be done with it."

    "Shemhazai," Barnes began. "It all leads back to Shemhazai. He's the real enemy here. Or it's I should say."

    Again, William raised a brow, but he was more so intrigued this time. "That name sounds familiar. Who is he?"

    "A fallen angel. The first of the two hundred."

    Darcy's voice came over the earpiece. "He's drunk. First off, there were more than two hundred angels that fell from heaven. Second, one might argue that Lucifer was technically the first. You should stop his rambling now and get out of there. I've got eyes on more guards heading in to relieve the ones you just killed outside. You'll have backup on you soon if you don't escape."

    "Shemhazai wasn't the first," William said to Barnes. "Lucifer was. What are you talking about, Malcolm?"

    "Prescott!" Darcy exclaimed.

    "No, Prescott, you misunderstand yet again," Barnes said. "Shemhazai was the first of the two hundred who descended to the earth... and mated with human women. It's all there in the beginning, my friend. Genesis... chapter six... verse four."

    "What's your point?"

    "That he's back, Sagen. And there's nothing you and your Order can do now to stop him... Not now; not after you kill me."

    "Prescott," Darcy interrupted again, "he's insane. Kill him."

    What Barnes had to say was intriguing, but listening to him any further would only draw William into a trap. He had to end his mission and get out before the arriving guards cornered him. "Good night, Malcolm," he said as a final farewell to the corrupt information broker before unsheathing a kunai from the back of his belt and throwing into the man's forehead. Barnes' body tilted backward and slumped into the back of his chair. Using Metal, William retrieved the kunai from where he stood, allowing the blade to fly out of the target's skull, leaving the blood behind, and into the hand of its owner. The Sagen turned to leave as soon as the ring slipped around William's finger.
    #4 RecAgenda, Jan 10, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2014
  5. Chapter 4

    "All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Present Day...

    Alex strode through the Sanctorium in awe with jaw agape, looking up at the high ceiling painted in a grand fresco of blending colors and archaic symbols. Figures of gods and goddesses, angels and cherubs, and other heavenly and mythological bodies filled the dome, all the way to an oculus. The hole in the dome had been shielded by glass, but it did not stop the brilliantly refracted rays of light from shining into the hall in a rainbow of dancing colors. As the boy spun around, allowing his eyes to dance from one magnificent pillar to the other, all holding the arching dome in place at the outer edge toward the rounded wall, he eventually glanced down to see twelve symbols arranged in a circle in the polished brown marble floor.

    When the teen curiously walked closer to the pattern, Nathaniel's voice echoed through the chamber from the far side of the entrance. "The twelve elements," he said. "Starting with the northernmost array: Fire; the element of passion and wrath. Moving clockwise: Water; calm, but also calamitous. Earth; steady and resolute. Air; unyielding and all-encompassing. Nature; persistent and nurturing. Metal; tempered and progressive. Lightning; energetic and unpredictable. Sonic; harmonious, but also harsh. Spirit; humble, but strong-willed. Light; warming and all-embracing. Dark; reserved, but vengeful. And last, but most certainly not least, we have Time; the element of patience, everlasting."

    Alex took a minute to admire the complexity of each symbolic array. They reminded him of alchemical symbols for the different periodic elements, but these were far older and more artistic in design. Pagan influence, perhaps? He knew little about old religions, and even less about semiotics.

    "Which ones can you control?" he asked.

    "All of them," Nathaniel responded matter-of-factly. "I'm what's known as an 'Elite'. Elites have demonstrated mastery of all twelve elements."

    "So you can learn more than a few?"

    Kenway smiled and replied, "Of course. Once you're initiated into the Order, you'll be granted the ability to control one of the twelve. This first element is your 'signature' element. Before you are allowed to learn any of the others, you must demonstrate mastery over your signature."

    The sound of a heavy wooden door opening with the squeak of brass hinges echoed through the chamber from the right. Alex and Nathaniel looked over to see an older man with silver hair enter the room wearing a Sagen coat, but the colors didn’t match any of the two-color combinations of the arrays. The coat itself was a stark white, but gold trim adorned the ends of the sleeves, the top of the stiff neck collar, down the center line where a fold concealed the zipper, and around the bottom of the tail and base. He was tall man and carried himself like a gentleman; straight back, high chin, and he strode into the inner Sanctorium with a confident stride.

    “You must be Alex Conner,” the man said. His voice carried effortlessly through the room. He reached a hand up to his chest and said, “I am Sigil Lehman; the Elder of Lightning and the Voice of the Order. Welcome to the Citadel.”

    “Er- Thank you, uhm, sir.”

    Sigil offered a small, but sincere smile. “No need to be so shy. We already know all there is to know about you, Mr. Conner. Our headhunters are very thorough in their research into potential recruits. You were born in San Francisco, California. You carried on a normal life as just another shaggy-haired boy running over the sand dunes of the beaches with your friends until your father received a promotion as the executive of CryoCore International’s Internal Affairs department. So you moved to New York and have now been forced to attend a prep school against your wishes. You’ve been pinned to wall lockers, chased in the halls, and - just recently - acquired an impressive skill to outwit opponents who are larger, faster, and stronger than you are.”

    Alex wasn’t sure how the old man had known all of this, nor what his point was, but he continued to listen, keeping his thoughts to himself.

    “All the while,” Sigil continued, “you’ve persevered, kept your focus on your dreams, and you haven’t let your enemies control your life.”

    “I’ve had a few lucky breaks,” Alex conceded.

    “‘Luck’ has nothing to do with it,” the Sagen replied. “You have a strong will, Mr. Conner; and a desire to determine your own fate. I like that. We like that.”

    It was dark out now, but the light from the Shadow’s two moons still offered a brilliant luminescence through the oculus of the Sanctorium’s dome. Alex stood in the center of this beam of light, at the very heart of the chamber, surrounded by twelve white and gold coated Sagens. Each of them were the Elders of their signature element, and each stood on their respective arrays, encircling the teenager. This was his initiation into the Order.

    He had been allowed all the time he would need to think things over before giving his answer; but Alex didn’t need any of it. He already knew his answer from the moment he first saw Nathaniel with Aislin, or “Scat”, in hallway back at his school and realized they were far more than ordinary people. It was hard to say if they were even human. Sigil had explained everything to him just hours ago. Acceptance would mean he would gain the power to wield the elements, live within the ancient and captivating walls of the Citadel, befriend others like Nathaniel, Scat, and Sigi... and even have the chance transcend mortality after mastering all twelve elements. Never age? Never fall sick? It was an offer he would be stupid to turn down, he thought. Of course he said yes.

    “Alexander Shepherd Conner,” Sigil announced, using Alex’s full name. Normally, he always felt a small blush when he heard someone call him ‘Alexander’. Who was he to bear the name of one of the world’s greatest conquerors? He was just a kid; he didn’t deserve that name. But tonight, he actually felt a sense of great pride in it.

    “You have been chosen to become a Knight Protector of the Sagen Order. Should you accept, you will be duty bound to aid the poor, the oppressed, and the less fortunate. In times of uncertainty, you will offer wisdom. In times of peril, you will be calm. In times of battle, you will fight on the side of right. In times of judgment, you will show mercy when it is sought, and justice when it is due. You will become a testament to future generations and a model for the innocent. Should you fail to do what is right, bring harm to the innocent, or abandon your brothers and sisters to be, you will be striped of all rank and titles. You will forfeit your gift of the elements, and you will be cast from our grace.

    “Do you accept these terms?”

    This was it. Alex cast his eyes downward to the marble floor and slowly knelt with his right knee, and placed his right fist on the floor. With confidence, he recited the words he had practiced. “I accept these terms and submit my soul as a Knight Protector of the Sagen Order.”

    “Dawn his coat,” Sigil commanded.

    A second later, Alex felt a light fabric gently fall upon his shoulders and down his back. He glanced over just enough to see a white coat with no distinct colors. The trimming was visible, but just as bare as the coat itself. As he was told before the ceremony, this was the coat that all initiate’s were given before they chose their element. The colors would be added later once they chose.

    “Welcome to the Order, kid,” he heard Nathaniel whisper from over his shoulder. He must have been the one to place the coat on him.

    “Rise,” Sigil said.

    Alex did as he was told, and he stood up on his two feet, proud and full of confidence. He felt a surge of a exhilarating energy from head to toe.

    “You are now a Knight Protector... a Sagen. Each of us bare a signature element. You will now choose yours.”

    Each of the twelve, including Sigil, stepped backward off of their arrays. Alex felt a vibration beneath his feet and, to his surprise, the arrays lifted off of the ground by a few inches and moved backward to make way for a brilliant crystal, each of different colors, to rise up from below. Sigil had mentioned before that their powers were given to them by crystals found below the ancient ruins of Solomon’s temple underneath Jerusalem centuries ago; but he didn’t mention where these were kept today. Alex needn’t ask that question anymore. The arrays themselves protected their respective crystals below them like individual vaults.

    “Choose,” Sigil commanded.

    Alex looked around him at each crystal. They were floating above their homes. No strings, no pedestals, not even the hands of the Sagens behind them were holding them up. It was impressive, but Alex shook his head to refocus. This would, perhaps, be the defining moment of his new life as a Sagen. There were twelve crystals; twelve elements. The one he touched today would grant him his signature, and it would be the first he would have to master before learning the others. It was a bit overwhelming, he had to admit.

    No pressure, or anything, he thought.

    He stood there for what seemed like an eternity to him before an unfamiliar voice echoed in his thoughts as clear as day.

    Light, it said.

    Assuming the voice to be his conscience, Alex went along with the out-of-nowhere suggestion and started walking towards the crystal above the Light array. The crystal itself was a blend of white shades, and the light dancing around inside shone brightly through the jagged surfaces. Delicately, Alex lifted his fingers to the object and lightly brushed them against the many smooth faces.

    In a sudden, almost blinding burst, the crystal’s light erupted from within and encased his body. Alex tried to look around, feeling shocked and overwhelmed, perhaps scared; yet he couldn’t see anything other than the twisting arrays of whites and silvers that blurred his vision. He tried to cry out for help, but his voice fell mute.

    A second later, all went black.

    Darcy and William sat at one of the tables in a back corner of the Citadel’s grand library. The sun had set a while ago, and most of the other studying Sagens had left, leaving them in peace to conduct some research of their own. Piled next to Darcy’s laptop was a stack of old tomes and recently published academia. William had immersed himself into similar books, and his eyes were currently scanning through the pages of an old King James Bible with a highlighter in one hand.

    “Why did you hesitate?” Darcy eventually asked, breaking the awkward silence among them.

    “Hm?” was all that William offered in response as his highlighter dragged across a line in the pages.

    Darcy looked up from over his laptop screen and he adjusted his glasses over dark green eyes with one hand while scratching at an itch beneath his black hair on the back of his head. “Barnes. You hesitated before taking him out.”

    “You mean I hesitated before killing him,” William corrected.

    The handler only continued typing on his laptop. “Call it what you will, you had a mission; and you hesitated before completing the priority. Why?”

    “I didn’t hesitate,” William insisted. “I never hesitate. Barnes offered me information and I wanted more than just a teaser. So I waited to see what else I could get out of him. That’s all.”

    “And now we’re on a wild goose chase through books, the internet, and the Holy Bible. All we know now is that Shemhazai led approximately two hundred fallen angels to sleep with human women and give birth to the Nephilim. It’s Judeo-Christian mythology; that’s all. Barnes was drunk when he was talking. He was probably only recalling a recent bit of trivia while facing his death by your hand. He was buying time to live.”

    “With good reason,” William said.

    Darcy looked at him again and with a slight pang of annoyance on his face. “I’m staying up past my usual bedtime to help you dig through ancient history and myth. So please, before the caffeine from my afternoon tea wears off, explain the reasoning behind this.”

    “You and I both know that the Order has dealt with supposed myths and legends before, Darcy. Demons, chimeras... even a few Fallen. I wouldn’t dismiss an information broker’s warning about a Fallen just because he’s drunk. Barnes used to laugh in the face of death. For a shadow, he had some fucking balls and the strength to back up his ego. If anything was gonna scare that man it sure as hell wasn’t me.”

    “Okay,” Darcy conceded, “if what Barnes said was true: that there’s a Fallen roaming the earth somewhere, how would we possibly track him? The last time I checked, old books and questionable internet articles aren’t the same as GPS.”

    William reached over and grabbed one of the books from his own stack. He looked at the back cover and scanned through the author’s notes, eventually sliding the book across the table’s surface to Darcy. When the handler picked it up, he read aloud, “Deciphering the Transmundane... Professor of Angelology Kristen Fairchild.” Darcy looked at William with a raised brow and quizzical expression.

    “We have to start somewhere, Darcy,” William explained. “We might as well start with her.”

    “You sure it’s not because of her attractive photograph on the back cover?” Darcy turned the back cover back to William, revealing a blond-haired woman with mysterious brown eyes, dressed in a white lab coat draped over a tan shirt barely covering a distinct amount of cleavage.

    William’s expression was completely blank. “Remind me to get her phone number when I meet her. We might have to call her back for further questioning.”

  6. Chapter 5

    But, truly, the darkness is simply a piece of the whole, neither good nor evil unless you make it so. ― Jenna Maclaine, Bound By Sin

    There was a stiff cold in the air as the old and frail Raphael McClone quietly hurried into the Vatican's famous Sistine Chapel. The lighting was dim, and the atmosphere had been burdened with an uneasiness that grasped McClone's very being. A red cardinal cap was perched atop his head, and the black and red sash robes of his status billowed around his feet as he pressed down the middle of the large sanctuary. As he continued, he could feel the weight of Michelangelo's Last Judgement bearing down on him. At the very end of the chapel on the altar sat a lone figured shadowed in black; wearing a finely tailored suit of silk and other expensive linen. Jet black hair had been combed back and glistened beneath the light of dim candles.

    He was a tall man, and anyone that knew him would say he carried himself like a gentleman of true bearing. His body was thin, but despite his lack of muscle, many have witnessed an uncanny strength capable of lifting a car with one hand. His skin was always fair; a stark difference from the deep brown of his eyes. All that he has ever said and done has been with graceful tact; but the Cardinal knew, there was much to be feared about the mysterious gentleman that sat before him, casting an ominous shadow across the polished granite floor.

    “You’re here awfully late,” the American cardinal commented.

    The man ran his fingers across the smooth white cloth that had been draped over the altar. “Time means nothing to me anymore. It ceased the moment I was doomed to never again turn my eyes toward the heavens.” His voice was low; his tone, dark and void of emotion.

    “You wanted to see me, my Prince?”

    “You continue to grace me with your courtesy, cardinal,” the man said, turning a curious eye toward McClone. “Do you even know what kind of a prince I am?”

    McClone, ever cautious, took time to consider his answer. Finally, he replied, “You were once a prince among angels; and a Watcher over the earth. You had been blessed with rank, power, and great foresight.”

    “I had been...,” the man said. McClone thought he saw a brief flash of red light in his eyes. “What happened to me, cardinal? What have your Jewish brethren taught you?”

    Again, McClone took a moment to answer; afraid he would disappoint or, worse, strike a nerve by speaking what he remembered. “You... fell, my Prince. You opposed the Metatron’s superiority.”

    The tall man slid off of the altar and stepped to the edge of the raised platform, standing tall above the cardinal. “You mean I opposed what he did not deserve! Azazel, myself, Ouza... anyone one of us three could have been the Metatron. But no. He chose Enoch. A human-turned-angel.” Shemhazai turned away from McClone and looked up at a golden crucifix placed atop the altar. “Despicable,” he muttered through his teeth.

    “I am Shemhazai,” the man continued to say. “I am one of the Fallen; the father of the Nephilim. And I shall have my revenge.”

    As Alex awoke, he felt a strong grogginess forcing him to stay laying back on the soft mattress beneath him. He hadn’t a clue about his surroundings, only that he was still somewhere within the Citadel. The architecture of the ceiling above him was definitely medieval with stone masonry surrounding sturdy wooden planks and support beams. As he continued to try and survey his surroundings, opening and closing heavy eyes, he felt a presence near him in the room. Alex slowly turned his head around on the pillow to see a boy, about his own age, leaning against the far wall near the door.

    Crystal blue eyes looked back at him under the strands of a few loose blond banes. His face was the embodiment of innocence, but his eyes contained an entire history of both pain and wisdom. The kid was dressed in the white and gold robes of an Elite Sagen. In his hand, he held a cell phone, rapidly sliding his thumb across the screen.

    “You’re awake,” the boy said. “I thought you’d sleep all day... again.”

    “Again?” Alex asked, now wondering exactly how long he had been out. “What happened to me?”

    “You chose your signature, that’s what happened. It’s common for new Sagens to lose consciousness when they receive their gift. The power entering your body is like a freight train running into you; or so I’m told.”

    “Told?” Alex asked as he pushed himself to sit upright, leaning against the headboard behind him. “You were born as a Sagen, then?”

    “I was.” The boy tucked his cell phone into the outside pocket of his jacket and kicked off of the wall. “I’m Jason, by the way.”


    “Oh I know. Everyone in the Citadel knows by now.”

    Alex raised a brow. “Why is that?”

    “Because you’re my new pupil.”
    #6 RecAgenda, Jan 13, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  7. Chapter 6

    "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." — Albert Camus

    Alex's breathing became increasingly heavier and strained as he jogged, with a tiring effort, through the forest north of the Citadel's towering walls. A large rucksack had been tied around his shoulders and waste. The skin tight white tank top over his torso was completely soaked in his sweat and his mangled hair dripped in front of his eyes, stuck to his forehead. Several yards ahead of him was one of the many of beacons of Light energy that had Jason had created throughout the forest as a waypoint path that he had to follow. It was a simple training exercise that focused to increase Alex's endurance. He had completed the trial over and over again for the past three days that he had visited the Shadow after school. He had told his parents that he joined a new after school athletic club to explain why he was always returning home late in the evening completely scraped up and sweaty.

    In reality, Alex had been secretly sneaking off with Jason through a portal that his new mentor created and concealed behind the school grounds. It would remain open indefinitely for Alex to traverse through, and only he could see it from a special vision ability that had been granted to him by wearing a tiny silver chain necklace. Jason explained that it had been infused with a Light power that altered his visual perception to a highly attuned state in order to pick up the most overlooked details of the natural world. So far, he had suffered a few headaches from the necklace's gift, but his eyes and mind had quickly adjusted. He could control the details of whatever he was looking at rather quickly now, liking adjusting the focus lense of a camera.

    Throughout the forest run exercise, Alex was required to keep up his aura; a special energy that surrounded the bodies of all Sagens. The color of the aura reflected the Sagen's active element, and the more visible it is, the more powerful their attunement to that element. Auras could only be seen by other Sagens, allowing them walk freely in the crowds of the normal world without being noticed. Maintaining one's aura could little concentration for experienced Sagens, but new ones like Alex would have to learn how to keep their attunement in check under pressure and exhaustion.

    "Auras act like a soft, protective coating," Jason had explained. "Much a shield, your aura is used to lessen an attack's intensity, sometimes completely reflecting it - if you're attunement to your active element is high enough."

    Attunement, Alex had been told, is a Sagen's connection to the full power of an element. The higher the attunement, the stronger and powerful they become. However, it takes time to fully attune to a recently activated element. In combat, switching from one element to another would be like reloading a gun. Elite Sagens are able to reach their maximum state of attunement in a matter of seconds if they switch up, making them highly versatile warriors. The more experienced you are with an element, the faster you can attune to it.

    In only the last couple of days, Alex's attunement to Light had greatly increased, and his speed to reaching that maximum has quickened. But he was becoming anxious. He wanted to throw a punch, or shoot off a bolt of energy. Jason had forbidden any combat practice with his new power.

    "You must first master your patience, before you can master your wrath," Jason said.

    He was right. Alex straightened up as he ran forward, taking steady, deep breaths to slow his heart rate as he pressed on toward the next beacon. He thought of simply, enjoyable memories to push the thoughts of fighting and training out of his head. Eventually, he found himself sweating less and his breathing had steadied to an almost normal rate, almost as if he had been walking all along. He closed his eyes as he ran down a stretch in the path he had become familiar with over the last few laps, letting the crisp air of the Shadow flow through his messy hair and cool off his body.

    And then a strange sound came from ahead of him. He opened his eyes just in time to see a black ball fused with arcs of electricity surging toward him from somewhere up ahead. It had been flying so fast that it was nothing more than a blur at first until his eyes could adjust from the power of the necklace and alert him to the danger. On instinct, Alex skidded to a halt, but it was too late to duck or dodge. The ball slammed directly into his chest and Alex felt himself lift up into the air and fly backward, landing with a hard several thuds on the ground. He was dazed, and the wind had been knocked from his lungs.

    "Not bad," Jason's voiced called out from the distance. As usual, he sounded like an overjoyed kid having a blast.

    Alex slowly pulled himself up when he could breathe again. "What the heck was that?!"

    "A Dark blast," Jason replied, stepping out from around a large tree up the pathway. He walked toward Alex with a relaxed, almost cocky, stride with his hands buried in the front pockets of the white and gold Elite jacket. Alex witness that brief change in Jason's aura, from black to white, indicating his switch from the Dark element to Light. "Look at your aura, Alex," he said, pointing.

    Alex's eyes glanced down to observe the slowly pulsing light emanating from his body. It had made a bold outline all around him, illuminating the ground he sat upon. "I... wow," was all he could say in surprise. He had seen his own aura before, but it was never as strong as it was now.

    "Your aura managed to stop a Dark blast that would kill most normal people," Jason said with a childish grin. Alex's stomach churned at the thought.

    "So... you could have killed me then..."

    Jason only laughed. "Trust me, if I had any doubt you could handle it, I wouldn't have shot it." The seemingly-young mentor reached out his hand to grab Alex's and hoist him up. With a glint of seriousness in his eyes, Jason then quietly said, "You're ready for combat training."

    The following afternoon, Alex was even more excited than normal. Today, Jason would teach him the basics of Sagen combat techniques. As soon as the bell rang to release the final class of the day, Alex bolted for the doors and ran down the hill towards the soccer field. Scat had spoken with the coach and advised him that Mr. Conner would no longer be participating in athletics, laying the blame on him being victim of bullying as a legitimate and half-truth explanation. So, with looks of curiosity, his former teammates glanced at him as he sprinted at full speed across the field toward the woods beyond the school's perimeter. He hadn't noticed the thugs that had picked on him earlier. According to the class rumormill, they had all been suspended for their roles in several bullying incidences that had been investigated after Alex's brief disappearance last week. It seems Scat and Grayson have a lot of pull and influence with the school officials. How far did that reach actually go, he wondered.

    After rounding the bend in a long-forgotten path under the overgrown trees and shrubbery, Alex saw the ripple effect of the portal to the Shadow, floating just a foot above the ground. It was in the shape of a stretched oval, tall enough for an average human to jump through. The young man wasted no time in doing just that, immediately leaping forward and bringing his legs up to his chest as he cannon balled from the normal world, into another.

    Something was off, though. While he definitely in the Shadow, he was somewhere he didn't recognize within the Citadel grounds. Jason's portal should have lead to the massive garden behind the main portcullis. But he was now in a large, plain courtyard. No flowers or other foliage around to decorate it with serenity. The environment itself was cold, empty. He had a peculiar feeling that he couldn't shake.

    "Where am-?"

    "Heads up, newbie!" a slightly high pitched voiced yelled from off to Alex's right. He glanced over just in time to see a small, white haired kid swinging solid stick upward at him. Alex dodged out of the way in the nick of time, but he felt the violent cut through the air just centimeters from his chin.

    Regaining his balance, Alex saw that the kid had an identical stick in his other hand. They were some kind of training weapon, crafted like nunchucks, but with no chain or rope attaching them. The wood was smooth and finely polished to a dark brown. "Who are-... Actually, what the heck was that about?!"

    Evil-looking eyes narrowed back at him and the boy replied, "Less talking, more training, noob."

    Alex felt his brow twitch in slight annoyance. Thanks, Jason. I wasn't expecting to be thrown into this so suddenly. But it was instinct that told Alex to begin charging his aura. He had no clue how to fight, but his experience with dodging the school bullies would probably help him a little. He just hoped it was enough to survive; he was fully aware that running wouldn't defeat an opponent.

    The kid ran forward jumped upward, gracefully spinning his body in a perfect 360, going beyond that, even, to strike high at Alex's head with one of the sticks. The young Sagen swiftly ducked, making his opponent miss; but the ferocious child simply landed and maintained his momentum to continue spinning on one heel, landing a solid strike to the side of Alex's leg. In a continuous, strong motion, Alex was lifted up and he landed on his back. He dazily looked up to see the boy standing over him, the stick shoved just an inch from his neck.

    Tauntingly, the boy stuck his tongue out at Alex and said, "You suck! I win!"

    Alex only blinked, attempting to ignore the pain in his glutes from the hard fall.

    Both boys looked over when they heard a pair of clapping hands and saw Jason walking out from the shadows of the shaded pathway that surrounded the courtyard. "Surprise and overwhelming speed. That's how you throw your opponent off balance should you ever wish to take the offensive, Alex." When approached the two, he held an open hand toward the other boy with messy white hair. "Alex Connor, meet Kyler Reigns."

    Alex recovered to his feet and looked the new kid up and down. He was shorter than him by a foot or so, and he was wearing a black tank top with khaki shorts. His pale arms seemed like he was hardly ever outside, but he looked rather cool and his large blue eyes gave away no hints of sun interference. "How... old are you?" he asked.

    Kyler raised a brow. "Not much younger than you, twirp."

    Caught off guard by the response, Alex argued, "Hey! I'm taller than you by nearly a head! Who are you calling-" He was as fast lightning. Kyler had rammed one of the training sticks into Alex's abs, knocking the wind out of him and forcing the boy down to one knee while he wrapped his arms around his stomach.

    "Lesson number one," Jason said, raising a finger as if to count off several points he was about to make, "never underestimate your opponent. Kyler is only thirteen, but he has undergone extensive mixed martial arts training and is a master of four elements. If he wanted to, he could snap your neck before you'd see it coming. He'll be your hand-to-hand combat instructor during your training."

    Over the next hour, Kyler instructed Alex on the basics of unique Sagen fighting styles, which incorporate an exotic mix of martial arts from all around the world. The Sagens fit these combat techniques into three styles: passive defensive, active defensive, and conservative offensive. One of the strict ethical rules of Sagen combat is to never lose control and use your power over another in an aggressive way.

    "We never attack another out of self ambition, vengeance, or insanity," Jason explained. "To do so undermines our code of ethics. Each of the three fighting styles should be used with grace and harmony, no matter which you choose."

    As the instruction continued, Alex learned some foundational skills about the passive defensive style. First and foremost, it was called "passive" defensive as the style incorporated only combat techniques that were meant to block and deter an enemy's strikes. It required that the Sagen never make an advancing move toward his or her opponent, and they remain fluid during the fight, backing away when it is needed and standing their ground when necessary. The passive defensive style is meant to discourage the enemy from continuing to fight someone that absolutely refuses to return their aggression.

    On the other hand, the active defense fighting is used in protection of others and to advance on the enemy only insofar as they have advanced on you. It is not necessarily retaliation, as rather than returning the favor, the Sagen's objective is to eliminate the threat by meeting force with force. "Elimination of the threat" can be interrupted in many ways... all depending on the situation. Sometimes, killing in order to save yourself or the lives of others is necessary.

    Finally, the conservative offensive style is only used when a Sagen has been given a mission to retaliate against an enemy that has already attacked, or launch a preemptive strike to thwart their plans and intentions. In Sagen terms, to retaliate against an enemy is to seek justice, not vengeance. It is called "conservative" offensive due to the restrained nature of the aggression used with the style. Chops, kicks, punches, sweeps, holds, and grabs are all performed with a calm, collected mind; otherwise, the Sagen risks losing control.

    Despite everything he learned today, however, Alex still went home with an utterly defeated body. The little Kyler had dealt heavy damage with every move, and Alex was helpless to stop the attacks. He did manage to learn how to keep calm, though. Every time Kyler knocked him down, he just jumped right back up and kept pressing. This seemed to really impress Jason. He could see him smiling out of his peripherals, as if silently cheering him on.

    "Don't worry," Kyler said when they had completed that evening's training, "you're actually better than what you might think. Your determination actually forced me to fight with half of my strength; not bad for a newbie. I typically just go ten percent of the way. Tomorrow I'll start teaching you how to block without actually taking hits."

    Later that night, Alex lay awake in his bed. He was surprised that his body had recovered so quickly from the beating Kyler had dished out. Though his muscles were incredibly sore from the workout, there were no visible bruises or cuts. What should have been black eye had completely healed and hardly noticeable by his own parents, who only complained about the stench of his sweaty clothes. Reaching his hand up toward the ceiling above him, Alex admired the faint glow of the white aura around his skin. As his eyes became heavy, his mind began to race and he saw visions of pleasant memories from his past; quality moments with his parents before his father's job became such an interference, friends and good times from his previous school, and occasional crushes that he had on classmates.

    A knock came from somewhere inside the house; the kitchen, probably. Alex's eyes snapped fully open from the sound and then grew wider when he saw the tiny orbs of bright light above his hand. He sat up on his bed and brought his palm closer to see the orbs up close. There were four or five of them, each would occasionally fade away into oblivion and then reappear a second or two later. They were swirling around above his hand effortlessly through the air, bringing a warm feeling when one or two would dip low to just above his skin.

    Is this Light? he wondered, already knowing the answer to that question.
  8. Chapter 7

    "There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance." — Albert Einstein

    William entered the lobby of Shire Tower, one of the many sky rises of Chicago that houses the offices of many corporations, enterprises, and organizations; whether they be law firms, accounting firms, or research branches of any particular field of study. One such branch of the latter happened to be the offices of the Fairchild Institute of the Transmundane and Paranormal. The Sagen wondered how exactly it managed to purchase office space among the elite and more respected businesses.

    After walking out of the elevator and into the main lobby of the institute's offices, William was immediately greeted by the warm smile of one of the receptionists who had just finished speaking with someone over her headset, pressing down on the small talk button outside the speaker that covered her right ear.

    "Hi there, sir! How can I assist you?"

    William glanced left and right, noticing that the floor had been finely decorated with a pleasant, modern mix of polished cherry woods and reflective chrome. A dark maroon carpet covered the lobby floor and the hallways on either side, leading back to the main offices, picked up with a smooth wood surface. Privacy glass walls surrounded most of the offices he could see beyond the lobby. He was impressed. For an organization that based its research off of the unseen, they seemed to be doing well for themselves.

    "Yes," he eventually said, returning his attention to the receptionist, "I have a one o'clock with Miss Fairchild. The name's Prescott."

    The receptionist pecked away at her keyboard for a quick second before replying, "Ah, yes; Mr. Prescott. Please have a seat over there while I notify Miss Fairchild that you're here." She pointed to a small row of vacant tan leather chairs placed in the lobby for guests and clients. William went ahead and sat down in one of the chairs, immediately noticing the cold that harshly welcomed his thighs, right through the fabric of his trousers.

    That's when the rest of the atmosphere became suddenly noticeable. He was surprised he hadn't sensed it as soon as he stepped out of the elevator. Everything about this placed seemed... cold. Instinctively, William's silver Metal aura grew a little brighter, widening around the outline of his body. It was a habit that Elites like himself developed after years of experience in the field. William knew when things seemed out of place or overly suspicious; when the environment wasn't quite right.

    The sound of heels clacking against the wood surface of the hallway furthest from where he sat caught William's attention and his eyes looked up to see a spitting image of the woman he saw on the book cover from the other other night. Long blond hair fell down over her left shoulder, and she leaned against the cutoff of the wall with curious brown eyes. She was tall, but not a giant; and had, in William's opinion, perfect curvature. He had to brush a finger just below his bottom lip to ensure that he wasn't drooling, faking an itch while not looking the woman in her eyes.

    "Mr. Prescott?" she asked.

    William slyly looked up at her, pretending as though he hadn't expected to see her so suddenly. "Yes, that's me."

    The woman smirked, and William feared that she had seen right through the charade. "Welcome to the Institute, sir. Come on back to my office and we can talk there."

    Oh, baby, I'd be happy to.

    As Kristen Fairchild led him down the hall, William took a peek into the offices as they walked by, glimpsing several employees hard at work behind their computer monitors or studying interesting antiquities in small laboratory setups. Another office had one man and one woman sitting side by side in reclined chairs, another man in a lab coat was sitting in front of them, scribbling several notes down on a pad.

    "What all do you do here, exactly, Miss Fairchild?"

    "Please, call me Kristen," the woman insisted. "My institute conducts studies in all manner of paranormal and supernatural phenomena. The term 'transmundane' is applied to anything reaching beyond the world that we know; it is a force that drives and influences our daily lives, powered by unseen sources."

    The two entered Kristen's office, a large space that offered a beautiful view of the inner Chicago city. Her glass-topped desk held few items, save for a laptop a few family photos of a husband and two children - boy and girl - and a cup of pens. A chrome-topped lamp lay at one of the far corners, accompanied by a small fern. William took a seat in one of the two black leather armchairs in front of her desk while Kristen moved around to sit behind in her matching executive chair.

    After placing both hands on the surface of her desk, with the loud clank and rattling of a silver chain bracelet around her right wrist, she leaned forward and said, "So, you're here to inquire about the Nephilim race, correct?"

    "Correct," William said, engaging her directly with the practiced smile of a conman. "My own firm, the Tacitus Group, is interested in pursuing the origins of the Nephilim. We've already planned for an excavation that will soon commence in a remote region of the Sinai Peninsula." It was a lie, of course. While the Tacitus Group existed, and William was prepared to offer a forged employee I.D. for "proof" that he was apart of it, he knew that Kristen wouldn't bother with an investigation into the story. She, and others like her, were too proud of their work to be suspicious of fellow researchers in their field. Two years ago, the Tacitus Group was responsible for the discovery of another tomb in Egypt's Valley of Kings. Like the Fairchild Institute, Tacitus was also interested in investigating the unexplained.

    "The Sinai Peninsula? That's awfully far from any of our current digs. You found evidence that they were out there?"

    "While I'm not at liberty to give any details, yes; we... stumbled across some very valuable information."

    Kristen nodded. "I understand. It's actually wise to keep such information privy only to certain people. I'm happy to help in anyway I can, so long as you can guarantee my own firm's benefit from your little escapade."

    That was quick. "I must admit, I wasn't expecting such immediate cooperation."

    "Let's just say that my latest book piqued more than your interest, Mr. Prescott. May I call you William?"

    Can you call me Daddy? "William's fine. Er... since, we're cutting to the chase, I'm looking for any information your firm may have uncovered in regards to Shemhazai."

    Kristen's entire demeanor suddenly changed and she raised what appeared to be a suspicious brow toward William. The Sagen noticed the cold atmosphere suddenly return and he felt very uncomfortable in that office. Kristen suddenly lost the lustful attractiveness she had just seconds ago during the conversation.

    "Shemhazai? The leader of the two-hundred fallen angels? That Shemhazai?"

    William pressed through with his practiced character. "The one and only."

    There was an awkward, drawn out moment between the two of them before Kristen smiled and said, "Well, I'm afraid I can't be of much use outside the book I authored. Everything that my firm knows about him is available in chapter ten. Shemhazai is considered to be one of the many myths in Judaism so you won't be able to find much concrete data on or offline." There was another awkward pause before she asked with a stern face, "I'm assuming this expedition of yours has something to do with him?"

    "As I said, ma'am," William maintained, "I can't say."

    "He asked about me?" Shemhazai inquired while holding a slim cell phone up to his ear. "Hmm... What was the man's name? ... William Prescott? ... No. I've never heard the name before; but I can take a guess as to who he is. You did well to contact me, Kristen. Now, listen carefully to my instructions..."

    The Fallen hung up shortly after and slid the phone back into his inside jacket pocket. A smile crept across his face. And so the games begin. Shemhazai whistled a dark tune akin to a piper's old melody as he walked through the streets of Chicago's downtown. The Sagen Order may have grown immensely over time, but they will soon be no match for my army... My children.

    Stuck in the middle of Chicago's annoying rush-hour traffic, William took a deep breath and reached over to the passenger seat of the black Chevy Impala and snatched up his cell phone and Bluetooth earpiece. After wrapping the small device around his ear, he flipped through his contacts and called Darcy's number. The cell emitted a brief encrypted signal that was redirected by the nearest tower to a specialized satellite orbiting above the Earth. This satellite was capable of monitoring communication frequencies sent and received from the Shadow, changing them at an incredibly high rate of speed to frequencies that could be sent and received from the normal world. Multiple satellites like the one now intercepting Prescott's phone call had been placed in geosynchronous orbit over each hemisphere.

    There was a brief delay while the call was placed before Darcy picked up the line and answered, "How'd it go?"

    "I didn't get her number."

    A loud sigh came from Darcy. "Did you least get any information?"


    "Damnit, Prescott! What the hell happened?"

    "Actually, nothing. She didn't have info on Shemhazai to give me. She almost played me for a fool though. She had me thoroughly convinced that she had bought my story about Tacitus until I mentioned 'Shemhazai'; all of a sudden, her body language drastically changed and she locked up, telling me to simply read her book."

    "You suspect she knows more than she's letting on."

    "Correct." William's eyes glanced up at his rearview mirror to see a slick, black sedan with no front license plate force its way in behind the taxi immediately following his own car. "I've also got a tail."

    "Come again?"

    "I'm being followed," William calmly clarified. "Give me a second to lose them and I'll call you back."
  9. Chapter 8

    Death never takes the wise man by surprise, he is always ready to go. — Jean de La Fontaine

    William's foot felt the vibration of the Impala's engine as he hastily weaved in and out of the heavy traffic in the middle of Chicago's's busy streets. The black sedan following him had managed to keep up for several blocks now, and he was quickly running out options to lose them. He had tried swerving blatantly into oncoming traffic, turning down one-way streets, and even pulverizing boxes and tin trash cans in an alleyway to get to another road, but his pursuers had managed to stick right behind him the whole way.

    Persistent bastards, aren't ya.

    An intersection lay ahead, and William was prompted to stop by the red lights. A line of cars in his lane, waiting patiently for a green light that wouldn't come in time, blocked him from continuing to race through. The second forward lane was taken up by a large tour bus, full of onlookers that hadn't a clue about the car chase fast approaching them from the rear. William made a split-second decision and down shifted into third gear, powering through at close to fifty miles per hour, just barely sliding in between the bus and line of cars. He heard the loud smack of his left side mirror disappear from one of the sedans, and then the smack of the right mirror lost to the bus. Such a short trip over the white line and into the intersection was dragged out for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, however, he made it through.

    William's sigh of relief was bittersweet, though. Just when he was sure that he had made it safely across, he glanced to his right when a black blur disturbed his peripherals, seeing a black sedan identical to the one that had been behind him, driving straight toward his side. He hardly time to react. The impact of the crash through his body against the driver door and he heard the glass all around him cave in and shatter. His arms and hands did little to shield himself from the shrapnel that pelted and cut into his body. The inertia of his car fishtailing across the asphalt sent his head spinning, blurring his vision. When everything had finally stopped, he felt a incredibly sharp pain in his side. There was no doubt in his mind that he had bruised, possibly cracked, a couple of ribs from the impact.

    "Son of a... aaaghh!" He raised a palm against the door and used what energy he could muster to quickly attune his body to Metal, pushing out against the elements in the door. After a brief few seconds of the alloys inside creaking and moaning, the door broke off of its hinges and flew out into the intersection, slamming and skidding across the asphalt. William allowed his body to freely fall out and collapse to the ground. His head began to swim and his vision blurred again. Judging by how he felt, he must had suffered a head injury during the wreck.

    Through the constant black that kept trying to crowd his eyesight, William could see a pair of legs covered in crisp black trousers casually walking toward him. When the polished shoes, now somewhat visible, stopped just feet from his face, the man wearing them bent down and turned his head sideways to look into the Sagen's eyes. They were as black as night, and then silver within an instant. His jet-black hair had been slicked back, touching the tip of his collar. A malicious grin crept across the stranger's face, and William could see a frighteningly dark violet and red aura begin to surround his body.

    "Well, now," the man said. "That was quite a show."

    "Alright, Alex," Jason gleefully expressed, "show us what you've learned!"

    Kyler and Alex faced off in the same courtyard that the young Conner had been training in for the past three days now. In such a short amount of time, he had quickly learned multiple fighting and self-defense techniques using his hands, wrists, feet, and legs in combination with his aura. One of the attributes of his high attunement to Light was the increased speed of his attacks, and the incredible reaction time to Kyler's own. Today was his chance to prove to Jason that he was ready to start learning how to control his gift beyond punching and kicking. He would have to fight, and defeat, Kyler by pinning the kid to the ground for three counts.

    "Are you ready?" Jason asked, leveling a straightened hand out in front of him as if he had just finished a karate chop.

    Alex's narrowed in on Kyler's, and the two boys crouched in a fighting stance. Kyler was wearing a purple turtleneck covered with a white v-neck t-shirt, and blue jeans. His white hair was just as messy as usual, as if the wind had blown in around every which way. Alex had chosen to wear loosely-fit polyester gym pants and a gray t-shirt in order to freely move without much restriction. He still wasn't sure how Kyler could be as flexible as Jackie Chan with what he chose wear, but then again, the kid had training a lot longer than Alex had.

    Kyler Reigns was one of the many children in the Shadow that had been born and raised among resident Sagens of the Citadel. He had never actually been to the normal world, not even when he was small enough to hardly remember. Both of his parents were Elite instructors that taught other young Sagens how to master the elements. Kyler's signature was Lightning, but he also had an affinity towards Dark. It made sense to Alex after he had a chance to get to know the kid a little better after their first unusual encounter several days ago. Kyler was both quick-witted and fast on his feet; preferring to remain unseen and come out of nowhere when he was least expected. Alex was surprised to find such a kindred spirit, however, given the fact that he enjoyed using Dark so often in their sparring matches.

    This was a mistake often made by newer Sagens; attributing the elements such as Dark or Fire as being "bad" or "destructive", while believing that elements such as Light and Spirit are "good" or "gentle". However, as Jason explained to him when Alex asked about Kyler's personality seemingly conflicting with his preference for Dark, the elements cannot, nor should they, be defined by characteristics of "good" and "bad", and so on so forth. Rather, they simply reflect the personality of the elemental controlling them. Kyler is shy and very timid, and prefers isolation to large crowds. He works on his schooling alone, and will only lend a hand when no one else is around to watch. At the same time, he is full of pent up energy, can think on his feet, and responds quickly when kindness is shown to him. The first element he showed signs of controlling, a few years after he was born, was Lightning, and so it became his signature.

    "One versus one skirmish!" Jason exclaimed. "Winner declared after a three-count pin! No transmitted attacks! Begin!" As soon as his tongue hit the "n", Jason bolted his hand upward, slashing through the air, signalling the start of the match.

    Kyler, as was typical, struck first, launching forward with a solid kick at bolting a few steps towards Alex. But Conner was just as fast at readying himself to block the kick with a focused amount of aura around on his forearms, made into an X in front of his face. Reigns' shoe made contact, and then the boy kicked backward off of Alex's block. As soon as he landed, he bolted again; this time aiming to strike upward with a fist.

    Alex blocked with a downward palm, grabbing the fist with his left hand and making an opening for his right. With a solid swing, he jabbed Kyler in the abs and then pushed away. Normally, such a punch would knock the wind out of someone, but Kyler was an awfully tough nut. Rather than fall over to gasp for air, the kid just kept pushing. The skirmish became a constant trade-off of kicks, punches, chops, and slaps; with Kyler as the aggressor and Alex as the pacifist, only attacking when he was sure that he had an opening.

    The young Reigns was starting to look a little annoyed and briefly paused in his onslaught to look at Alex. "You gonna stop avoiding me, or are you- who-wah!?-"

    It was all the time needed for Alex to swoop his right leg behind Kyler's left and push back with his hands to force the kid backward and onto the ground with a hard thud. As soon as the boy's body was on the ground, Alex dropped his weight down onto Kyler's torso and grabbed both of his legs by the backs of the knees and hoisted them upward. With Alex's full body weight on top and no leverage from his legs, Kyler was helpless to move. Jason raised his hand and counted off with his fingers.

    "One! ... Two! ... Three! That's it!"

    Alex let go and pulled himself away from Kyler, letting the boy gasp for a breath of fresh air and roll away from his victor.

    "Nice job, Conner," Jason commended. "You managed to defeat your opponent in one move after wearing him down; a perfect display of everything you've learned up to now."

    Reaching out with a hand, Alex helped Kyler to his feet. He half expected the kid to resent him for the defeat, but Kyler only looked at him with an approving smile and actually nodded. It was a gesture that took Alex completely by surprise. "You did alright, I guess," Kyler said.

    "So does this mean I get to move onto the next phase of my training?" Alex eagerly asked, looking to Jason.

    Jason nodded with a smile, but it quickly faded when he glanced over to one of the corners of the courtyard. Alex and Kyler followed Jason's eyes to over to another Elite rushing into the area and fastly approaching Jason. He leaned over to whisper something the boy's ear before turning back and, in another hurry, rushed off to where he came from.

    "Come with me," Jason said with a stern, almost commanding tone. Alex had caught a look of alarming concern in his eyes. He wondered what exactly the Elite had quietly told him to so suddenly change his mood.
  10. Chapter 9

    Knowledge is power. — Francis Bacon​

    Alex found that keeping up with Jason's determined stride through the corridors of the Citadel was quite a daunting task in and of itself. He wasn't sure what was going on, but the news that his fellow Elite had whispered into his ear must have been on the bad side. As he and Kyler struggled to keep pace with their mentor, butterflies excited his stomach.

    Several turns later through the stone-walled hallways of the inner fortress, Alex entered a cozy study room, where each of the walls were lined with bookshelves that stretched from the maroon carpet to the oak-plank ceiling. Grand mahogany desks and tables were dispersed around the room for reading, computer work, and other study-related tasks. Several flat-screen television monitors had been mounted in carved-out spaces within the bookshelves, and a few were placed on steel tripod-like stands in various places throughout the room.

    He immediately recognized Nathaniel and Scat, as well as Sigil Lehman, the Voice of the Order. All of them wore a look of concern on their faces. There were few Sagens in the room that Alex had not had the pleasure of meeting yet. One of them was a fiery-haired man with rimless spectacles, sitting in front of a laptop placed on one of the mahogany desks. He was busy pecking away on the keyboard at lightning speed; a bead of sweat could be seen slowly trickling down his jaw line, appearing to have started at the side of his brow.

    Another unknown face, and one far more intimidating than the others, lazily sat atop another of the desks, with his feet propped up on the back of the desk's chair, and his own back leaning against a bookcase. Twin pistols were strapped to his thighs, and though he didn't wear the traditional coat of a Sagen - having chosen to wear black denim jeans and a brown leather jacket - Alex could tell what he was by the strong silver aura emanating around him.

    "What's happened?" Jason asked; or, really, demanded.

    "Prescott's been captured," Lehman said,.

    "By whom?"

    "A demon," the one with the pistols said.


    Alex had to blink a couple of times before comprehending the response. A demon?

    "Not a demon," the red-haired man corrected. Alex thought he heard a slight British accent in the voice. "A Fallen."

    Jason looked at the man for a few seconds of sustained silence before asking, "Darcy? What do you mean by 'a Fallen'?"

    The man named Darcy made a few final strokes on his laptop before pointing to one of the television screens. "A fallen angel," he said. "Shemhazai."

    Everyone in the room, including Alex, turned their heads to gaze upon the blurry image of a traffic camera that captured a man dressed in a black suit approaching what appeared to be another man lying helplessly on the asphalt just outside of a severely wrecked car.

    "Do we know where they're at now?" Jason asked.

    "The GPS transmitter in his ear piece gave me a feed up until three minutes ago; that was twenty minutes after the abduction. The last location I have is at a derelict warehouse near Lake Michigan. It's not likely they moved him; the transmitter would have pinged back with a unique signal if the earpiece was being damaged in any way; thus none of his abductors have realized yet that we know their location. They simply turned it off."

    There was a loud clack and everyone reared their heads to see the Sagen with the pistols holding one of his weapons in the air and admiring the beauty of the pristine steel. Alex guessed that he must have triggered the slide release. While he didn't know a lot about guns, his father kept one in a lock-box inside the house. He had been shown a thing or two should he ever have to use it for self-defense.

    "Excellent," the Sagen exclaimed with a smile. "Should we go in guns blazing and rescue our James Bond-wannabe?"

    Lehman shook his head. "No, Cius; that would be a bad idea. We can't risk any harm coming to Prescott."

    "Actually," Jason intervened, "a direct approach is the most plausible way of handling it. Prescott's a well-skilled Sagen. He can easily break out of whatever bonds they're holding him with. The only reason why he hasn't done it already is probably because of the sheer numbers he's surrounded by; not to mention the Fallen himself. If there's a right way to go about this, it's through a head-on approach. A direct attack will buy Prescott enough time and room to make an escape and open another front in the fight."

    Scat was the next speak. "Well then, lads; you'll be needin' a hand, I reckon. Nate and I can offer our support."

    Nathaniel glanced at her with a bewildered expression. "Wait, what?"

    "Come on now, you twit," Scat teased with an elbow in Nathaniel's side, "don't be such a scaredy-britches!"

    "In case you guys didn't get the memo," Nate interjected, rubbing his rib cage where Scat had nudged him, "we'll be going up against Shemhazai."

    "Who's that?" the question had escaped him before he had time to thoroughly think it over. Alex's eyes widened for a second as everyone turned their heads to look directly at him and he felt as though he had spoken completely out of turn."S-sorry."

    "Don't be," Darcy said. "I'm glad you asked, actually. Prescott and I were looking into that particular Fallen. The target of one our latest missions had revealed something about him that peaked Prescott's interest. Basically, Shemhazai was - or is - one of the original two hundred fallen angels that came to the earth many thousands of years ago and supposedly raped human women. This incident paved the way for a new race; a hybrid of human and angel, known as the Nephilim. They were giants, according to legend; and ruthless murderers. Shemhazai was one of the three leaders of this sect of Fallen; along with Azazel and Ouza.

    "Anywho... Prescott suspected that Shemhazai is active in the world again, so we started an investigation - one that I was reluctant to pursue, mind you - and we ended up with a lead that has now placed him in Chicago."

    "What was that lead?" Nathaniel inquired.

    "A book titled Deciphering the Transmundane, by a certain Kristen Fairchild. She's some blonde that Prescott had the hots for. Not much of a lead, I know, but her book mentioned Shemhazai in one of her chapters so he tried to follow up the information with her. She's supposedly an expert in angel- and demonology."

    "And she ended up meeting with him?" Jason asked.

    "Yes. I can't shake the feeling, but I feel as though she had something to do with his abduction and Shemhazai's perfectly timed appearance. Right after he left their meeting downtown, he claimed that he was being followed and hung up on me."

    Trying to keep up with the conversation, Alex leaned over to Kyler and whispered close to his ear, "Am I the only in this room that doesn't know who this Prescott guy is?"

    Kyler suppressed a faint giggle and replied in an equally hushed whisper, "He's one of the Order's greatest Metal Sagens. Pretty cocky though, too."

    "Cocky doesn't even half describe his personality," Darcy suddenly said, having overheard the two boys. "William Prescott is an insatiable, egotistical-"

    "Darcy," Lehman interrupted.

    "-thick-headed buffoon that thinks he can take on the world with a glass of scotch in one hand,-"


    "- and a kunai in the other."


    "Sorry, sir."

    Jason looked over to Lehman after a moment of awkward silence in the room. "What does the Voice command?"

    Lehman thought for a moment, tapping a finger against the thin, finely trimmed hairs on his chin before replying, "After five hundreds years, Jason, I trust your judgement. If you think a head-on approach is best, then so be it."

    Jason gave a stiff nod of his head and said, "Yes, sir."
    #10 RecAgenda, Jan 26, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014
  11. Chapter 10

    Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. — General George S. Patton​

    William awoke with a pounding ache and heavy eyes. He slowly blinked away the drowsiness, fighting off the dull blur until he could clearly see his surroundings. Judging by the feeling of his arms raised at forty-five degrees above him and the weight of gravity tugging at his legs and torso, he was being suspended above the ground. He could feel the coldness of concrete against his shoulder blades. All in all, William counted two arms, two legs, and twenty digits to accommodate them. He was, thankfully, in one piece; but why had he been spared?

    He assumed the devilish man he had seen before blacking out in the middle of the intersection was Shemhazai himself. No one with that aura would so proudly prance around the surface world otherwise. If he wanted to, the Fallen could have done him in right there. But no; he must have decided that William was worthy of capture.

    Two rows of eight pillars stretched out before him. They were made of solid concrete, thick and round, with about a six foot diameter. William slowly craned his neck to look upward and saw that the raised ceiling was a mix of steel support beams and weathered slating. With about twenty-five feet or so of space between the floor and the ceiling, adding in the beams and the bland architecture - or lack of thereof - William guessed that he was in some kind of old warehouse or textile factory.

    Patiently, the Sagen simply continued to hang on the wall, with wrists and ankles suspended not by any conventional material like duct tape, wire, or steel cuffing. Rather, someone had used a very tough conjuring of Dark energy. Like coils it grappled his limbs to the wall, completely unmovable. Even with his Elite status, he was unable to manipulate the Dark that held him hostage.

    “So you’re finally awake, I see,” a voice said, belonging to a man in a finely tailored black suit, stepping out from behind the left of the closest set of pillars.

    William looked the man in the eyes and saw nothing but a dead soul. “Shemhazai.”

    The Fallen blinked once, grinned, and then raised his hands as if in praise and joyfully replied, “Aaah! In the flesh, I am! And once again, I roam the earth.” He began pacing as he continued, asking William, “Now, you know who I am; but I’m afraid I know nothing about you.”

    “You know what I am.”

    “Yes, yes. I know what you are. You’re a Sagen. But I don’t know anything about you. So… let’s start with the basics.”

    There was a whiff of black smoke that suddenly appeared where Shemhazai had been walking, and in the blink of an eye, William found himself staring directly at the Fallen’s face only inches away. He was actually caught off guard by the sudden move. It wasn’t phasing, exactly; but a form of it? Was it the use of Dark, or something else entirely? It had been hundreds of years since a Sagen had last encountered a Fallen. Their techniques and abilities were completely unknown to William; and considering this was Shemhazai - no mere Fallen Angel - there was no telling what he was capable of.

    “What... is your name?” Shemhazai whispered in most malicious manner.

    There was really harm in playing along. “William. William Prescott.”

    The Fallen joyfully smiled again and, just like before, whisked away to be seen elsewhere at a speed that just couldn’t be seen by the untrained eye. Shemhazai reappeared where he was before, picking up against with his pacing. “Prescott… Prescott, Prescott. Prescott. Aha!” He snapped his fingers. “An Anglo-Saxon name for sure. But the question is: where exactly did it originate from? Do you know? I do.”

    “I… what?”

    “Oh come on! It’s your name, isn’t it? Should you know the origin of your own name, Sagen?”

    “I guess I don’t.”

    As soon as he finished the sentence, William shouted out in agonizing pain that erupted from his left leg. When his shot downward to the source, he saw a long jagged limb, the color of ebony, rammed into his flesh. Fighting off the urge to cry out again, his eyes followed the limb all the way to Shemhazai’s palm. The Fallen stood there, smiling, but it was an evil, psychotic smile.

    “Now, now. One should take pride in their namesake, Mr. Prescott.”

    This is nuts, Alex thought, looking out the tinted window of the Mercedes speeding down a two-lane road in a line of others. He, Kyler, and Jason were all riding together in the same car, with Scat driving and Jason sitting in the front passenger seat. Kyler and Alex sat in the back. The young Conner felt a rush of fearsome excitement. He was afraid, anxious, but also couldn’t wait to see what a real fight looked like.

    “You’re to stay back with the others for protection,” Jason had told him with a very strict tone. “Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to intervene in the fight or provide assistance unless it is asked of you. Do you understand?”

    To ensure his compliance, Jason instructed Kyler to electrocute him if Alex actually tried to do anything during the mission that was anything more than standing and watching. He was there to learn, and witness first hand exactly what could be done with his new gifts. It was dangerous, being so close to a fight with a Fallen, but the learning experience would be well worth it. Sometimes, there just isn’t anything better than the real thing.

    The car was slowing down and Alex shook himself out of his day dreaming to see that the caravan of look-alike black Mercedes was pulling into an old complex of warehouses and shut down factories. Piers and docks could be seen in the distance through the spaces of old conex boxes. They were right on the edge of one of the largest lakes in North America; Lake Michigan. When the cars parked and all of the Sagens slowly stepped out, Alex took in a deep breath of fresh northern air. The smell of lakes differed greatly from the smell of the Pacific back in Cali. It was dull, and much colder; where the ocean was salty and warm. Regardless of the feel and smells, however, Alex guessed that the view of the lake was actually fairly pleasant without the surroundings of these old industrial stations.

    “Hey, let’s go,” Kyler pleaded, tugging on Alex’s shirt.

    Alex turned and followed his new friend to catch up with the others. In total, there were fifteen Sagens, all wearing their colored coats. Some of them were experienced Elites, others were specialists. But no matter who practiced what, Jason had assembled a very formidable team of highly skilled Sagens. Like something out of a western flick, they all marched across, in a straight line, the empty outside cargo zone toward the largest warehouse at the end of the complex. Some had forged swords using Metal, others carried pikes or batons similarly crafted.

    Jason led them, walking in the center, two paces in front of the line. It was an odd thing to see for Alex - someone as short and young looking as Jason leading a pack of wolves. But he knew that out of all of them in that line of Sagens, Jason was the best. He couldn’t prove it, and he didn’t know why he knew that; but he just did. There was a certain way that Jason carried himself, a certain way that he talked, and even a certain way that he looked into someone’s eyes. Experience? Wisdom? Confidence?

    Walking together, Kyler and Alex tagged along several yards behind the line of Sagens. They were to simply hang back and observe the fight, while the “grown-ups do what they do best”, as Nate had put it. As long as they stayed out of the way, the two boys shouldn’t run into any trouble.

    It started. Just when Alex had become comfortable with their walk, several men in black outfits - suits, turtlenecks, nylon, and other fabrics - ran out of the woodwork at once, coming at the line of Sagens from every angle in front of them. To Alex’s surprise, there were a lot of them; definitely more than the fifteen that Jason was leading. Could they handle them on their own?

    Kyler grabbed Alex’s wrist and started to drag him off to the left. “Come on! This way!”

    “Hey! Wha-?!”

    “We can get a better view over here!”

    Kyler led him in a partial sprint to the left flank of the enormous concrete pad that dominated the center of the complex. In front of one of the smaller warehouses were several median barricades used in road construction. The two boys dove behind them and peered out over the top to see the fight.

    “NOW!” Jason commanded the top of his lungs.

    Hearing the shout, the line of Sagens took one final step in perfect unison and then leaned forward to slam their fists into the concrete below their boots. With their sudden attunement to Earth, they moved the minerals buried beneath and within the stone-hard mixture, ripping apart the smooth layers and sending shrapnel flying above and forward as title waves sent the rock asunder. The horde of henchmen could barely stand as the shockwaves knocked them off balance and forced half of their numbers to trip over warping concrete.

    Without hesitation, the line of Sagens broke their rank and rushed for their targets. Some kept their attunement to Earth and slid across the broken concrete on a single slab summoned from below while others switched to a more preferred element.

    Jason kept marching in a straight line. Alex and Kyler followed his intended path and saw that he was aiming straight for someone that looked to be the leader of the horde, a dangerous-looking man with a ski-mask drawn over his face to conceal his identity. He was wearing a black leather jacket and jeans, with fingerless grip gloves. A chain was coiled around his left hand, and a Desert Eagle rested in his right. With confidence, the man waved the pistol in the air and shouted words that were muffled over the distance, but it was clear enough to Alex that he was ordering for others to try and stave off Jason’s approach.

    A small horde, but a horde nonetheless, rushed out of a nearby warehouse behind their leader and approached Jason at a dead sprint. Each had bludgeoning weapons in at least one hand; bats, metal poles, or more chains.

    “Oh this is gonna be sick,” Kyler said, hardly able to contain his excitement. Alex kept looking on.

    [Start Track - The Reluctant Heroes; Shingeki no Kyojin]

    A flash of light was all that Alex saw next. In the blink of an eye, Jason had disappeared and then reappeared several feet behind the last thug in the group that had been rushing toward him moments ago. There was a red line now visible across his torso, moving upward at an angle, yet perfectly straight; thin, yet noticeable. Alex could barely make out the oozing blood coming from wound. Beyond that, he wouldn’t have noticed the very finely crafted Metal sword in Jason’s grip if it weren’t for a glint of the brilliant alloy under the sun.

    The thug collapsed, with his body noticeably split into two parts. Alex’s stomach churned, so he quickly looked away, focusing his eyes on Jason alone; but that proved to be a difficult task, as the child-like Sagen twirled around and was suddenly lifted into the air just a couple of feet from the concrete. Then, like a ghost, he sailed across the ground toward his next targets with eyes completely closed; sword raised with the hilt at shoulder level, and blade aimed slightly down. With an updraft of Air coming from below his feet, keeping him levitated, the tail of his coat elegantly fluttered behind him. With both eyes still closed, and a smile on his face, Jason’s fighting style was as graceful as it was impressive.

    In a pitiful attempt to parry, Jason’s next target raised his aluminum bat to block the sword; but a burst of Light energy from behind propelled Jason at such an incredible speed that nothing could stop him. The Metal sword cut through both the bat and its victim, severing a perfect line.

    “Jesus! He’s fast!” Alex exclaimed, watching the extremely one-sided fight. “And he’s doing it with his eyes closed?”

    “He’s using Sonic to locate the enemies.”

    Alex glanced toward Kyler. “But he just used Light to rocket forward. And isn’t he using Air right now to levitate off the ground? How is he also attuned to Sonic?”

    Kyler smirked and replied, “That’s why Jason’s one of the best. He’s actually attuned to all three, including Metal right now in order to strengthen his sword.”

    “But… how? I thought you could only attune to one element at a time.”

    “Look at his aura.”

    Alex looked back to the battle and focused his eyes on Jason again. As the boy propelled himself into the air to fly over the top of another opponent, flipping upside down, Alex finally saw the shimmering multi-colored aura around his body. It was a brilliant array of every element, giving off a rainbow effect.

    “It’s called Aether,” Kyler explained after a second. “No one knows how he mastered it, and he’s the only Sagen that has; but once it’s activated, he wields full power over every element all at once.”

    Alex watched as Jason perfectly landed a full layout, ending up behind the guy he had flipped over, facing his back, and now positioned right in the center of the gang attacking him. Surrounded on all sides, Jason knelt low and swung his sword completely around his body with only a slight grip of the hilt in order to let the blade fly unhindered. Alex caught the heat flash disrupting the air with a bulging wave before a sudden flare of Fire erupted in the atmosphere, completely engulfing the ones that tried to rush in for what they thought would be easy prey.

    With the group fallen, utterly charred by the exploding ring of fire, Jason was left with the leader. But the man didn’t seem too impressed by the display, and calmly raised his gun and to fire several loud shots in the boy’s direction. But Jason was too quick even for bullets. Alex watched as Jason left behind him a zig-zagging bee line of Light to close the gap.

    The leader was quick, too, however. With a surprise, an aura of Dark energy immediately engulfed him and he dodged backward several paces, dropped his chain from his wrist and then gripped the end. Alex saw a part of the Darkness from his aura slowly creep around the chainlinks, blackening it. Raising his fist, the leader brought his chain up and then swung out with a strong throw, lashing the chain in Jason’s direction.

    Jason dodged, executing a perfectly timed ariel through the air and propelled himself around the thug’s left flank, grabbing the chain with his free hand. With ease, Jason glided around the man in several complete circles, tightening his own chain around him, finally stopping when the gang leader was unable to move. In the next instant, Jason was sending a powerful current of Lightning through the metal chains, completely breaking up the Dark energy surrounding them and electrocuting their captivated master.

    Wow…,” was all that Alex and Kyler were able to say in chorus.

    The battle was over with… or so they all thought. Having defeated all of the hired muscle that had rushed out of the complex in a futile attempt to overwhelm them, the Sagens stood tall and proud, looking onward toward the largest warehouse just ahead of where Jason was. Out of a doorway on one of the far corners of the giant structure came a single man. He was dressed in a crisp black suit with a dark violet open collared shirt. Jet black hair was slicked back and his skin was as pale as the clouds. He walked tall, with shoulders back and chest pushing out his lapels.

    After several seconds, or what seemed like a long minute to Alex, the new comer finally stopped and stood near the incapacitated - or, perhaps, dead - body of the thugs’ leader, and then he started to clap his hands in a very slow, nonchalant manner.

    “Well done, then,” the man facetiously proclaimed.

    Even over the distance, Alex and Kyler could hear the two speaking. “Who are you?” Jason demanded.
    #11 RecAgenda, Jan 26, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014
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