The long awaited next chapter. It’s been done sometime, but I can’t get a hold of my editor, and my email is acting screwy, so if I haven’t replied to mail, it’s more than likely that hotmail ate it.
‘Thanks.’ Blake said as the banker stepped out of the room and closed the door firmly behind him. The past few days had been hectic. His arms were still sore from the work out Clava had given him. This was the first time he had been able to be alone in nearly a week.
Blake pulled the brown envelope from inside his jacket pocket. He had been holding onto the artifacts since the time they had been ambushed on the road. Now he felt it was better to have them locked away somewhere that was moderately safe. It only made sense to put them with the rest of his stuff in the safety deposit box.
Blake went through them as he placed them on the table:
There was an oval disk the color of opal, much like the one he had seen in Peor’s court, a crystal sphere with a liquid center made of bronze or some other kind of metal, a small pea-sized sphere of metal (which he suspected contained some of that bitch-stone he had been exposed to by Peor), and a strange silver pyramid gilded with elaborate designs and some kind of language he had never seen. He could only imagine what they actually did.
As he placed them into the box, he was drawn to the other things he had put there.
A smile crept onto his face as he ran his fingers down the spine of an old novel his grandpa had given him. A little chestnut was in one corner, a gift from a boy in the third grade. His hand stopped when he saw the letter. He forgot he had written it. A wave of shame and regret spilt over him.
::Be calm.:: Khamon said, and Blake felt the simbiont quelling the loathing.
::Don’t mention it.:: Khamon said.
Blake pulled the letter from its resting place and tucked it into the inner pocket of his jacket. He would read it later.
The attendant came and went as if everything was normal, and Blake left with the key to the box in his pocket. The artifacts would be safe, unless someone were to find out their location. He imagined any of Peor’s goons could easily break into the bank.
The search for Noble was futile so far. Blake and Khamon had used every resource and ability at their disposal. The only thing he had been able to pry from Clava was that Noble lived in the heart of the city, but that was blocks upon blocks of houses, most of them abandoned and crumbling. The company wasn’t exactly desirable either. And Noble could be any on of the street youths or wandering hobos Blake saw on the sidewalk.
Having never seen the man outside of combat, Blake was at a loss at how to continue. Even Khamon couldn’t detect any activity.
::It’s possible he has knowledge of an advanced camouflage technique.::
I’d say that anything is likely at this point.
::Clava mentioned he had been wounded on a deep level. Perhaps this wound prevents detection, or scrambles his location.::
Like I said buddy, your guess is as good as mine.
::I don’t underst--::
I know. I know.
Clava’s teachings had become useful in ways she could not foresee. Blake use the clarity and peace of mind she taught to better focus their ability to dim themselves to other simbionts to the extent that he could make himself dim to humans as well. Though it wasn’t invisibility, it was more like making people over look him, which came in handy several times.
Blake managed to make a trip to the city only because Clava had flown somewhere on what she called “business”. Blake had no desire to find out what it was. Clava was a good teacher, but Blake didn’t fully trust her. She was far too bitter and jaded to be a true friend like Jared or Rob.
There had been a palpable tension of late between the two men, especially when Blake was around.
::They wish to fight over you.:: Khamon said one day in surprise.
::It is a common in animals to fight for the right to select the mate of your choice. I suspect they both wish to ‘have a go at you’.::
Blake, who usually dismissed Khamon’s observations off handedly, considered for a minute. It was true; they had both been vying for attention, always trying to one up the other. In a way Blake guessed it was his own fault. After all, he had kissed both of them, though he didn’t regret that at all. He would like to have done it again if the annoying tension hadn’t risen between them all. Now if he showed favor to either of them, they would either balk or faun.
It was a problem. Though not as big as his quest for Noble, even though at times it felt like it.
He only had two days to find the man before he had to return and meet Clava. If he wasn’t back in time he had a heavy feeling that she would know what he had been up to.
It was near the end of the second day now, and still no sign of Noble. Blake was ready to give up entirely when he saw her.
Sitting at the table across the street at a small café, sipping a chai tea, was the woman he saw the first night he had been in Peor’s court.
Countessa. Blake recalled the name instantly. It had been her that drew his blood and revealed the probability of Khamon’s presence inside of him. Peor’s lackey.
::Greetings Atavist.:: The words were stiff and polite. Blake readied his arsenal. She tilted her head, sensing his anger.
::Do not fear. I haven’t come to fight you. Come, join me.:: She beckoned. Blake slowly stood.
It’s more than likely a trap. Keep things ready just in case.
::Affirmative.:: Khamon fell silent.
Blake walked across the road and sat down slowly at the small, round table.
‘We meet again.’ Her voice was soft, but there was steel behind her eyes. Images of her body dissolving into a million drops of liquid fled through Blake’s mind.
‘Yes, I remember that. Rather painful for me, and not exactly the friendliest of terms to start on.’ She whispered into her tea.
‘How did you survive?’ Blake asked.
‘Child, it was my own power that sought to reduce you to your base components. Do you think I would be undone by my own hand? No. I’m much more resourceful than that.’ She said.
‘What do you want?’ Blake asked.
‘This and that. Power mostly.’
‘And I can give you that?’ Blake asked.
‘In a way. Eventually.’ She smiled. ‘I know what you’re looking for.’
‘Don’t worry; the Grau doesn’t know I’m here. It’s just you and me.’ She said.
‘You go behind his back often?’ Blake asked.
‘The Grau is powerful. That is the only reason I serve him. But he is stupid. Where he seeks to destroy you, I see the immediate and long term benefits of your survival. That’s why I’m willing to help you.’
‘And what do I have to give in return?’ Blake asked. Clava’s words came to his mind, “The first step to avoid getting bitten by a snake is to recognize a snake”.
‘Nothing at the moment. Let’s just say your very existence is enough for now. It distracts the Grau, makes him…blind to certain things.’ Countessa gave a smile. It didn’t reach her eyes.
‘I have questions…’ Blake began.
‘I have answers but they’ll cost you.’
‘I’m not sure I’d want to pay the price you demand.’ Blake said, not liking her tone.
‘If you don’t want them then don’t ask.’ She paused, ‘though there is one thing I will help you with. You are seeking the golden one, are you not?’
Blake said nothing.
‘I see. Well, I have no idea of your intentions—he has been solicited by both of the Koda already and turned them down, the fool, so if it is an ally you’re seeking it is better to come to me.’
‘My reasons are private and don’t involve you.’ Blake said.
‘Mmm, just as well.’ Countessa pulled a brown envelope out of her jacket and placed it on the table, sliding it over to Blake with the tips of her fingers.
‘Inside you will find all the information you need to track him down and do whatever it is you wish.’
Blake gave a skeptical look.
‘Scan it over if you wish.’ She said just as Khamon went over it.
Blake looked at the envelope.
‘I’m not going to help you.’ Countessa smiled. ‘And I’m never joining your Koda.’
She laughed as if it were the most amusing thing she had ever heard.
‘The Atavist, join a Koda. Now that’s an idea.’ She said as she stood, buttoning her coat.
‘Farewell, Blake. I hope you find what you’re looking for, and survive it in the process.’
Blake watched as she stepped to the side of the street. A dark car pulled up immediately and she stepped inside. The car drove off. As soon as it was out of sight, Blake gazed at the envelope. It was true, he did need to find Noble, but what price would he pay for using this information?
::It would be most advantageous to experience the tutelage of the golden one. Maybe enough to risk exposure to the Koda.:: Khamon pointed out.
Blake sighed and opened the envelope with a knife.
Blake sat on a bench along the side of the road. A fresh tea warmed his hands and a newspaper several days old hid his face.
The envelope had contained only two things—a picture and an address. The picture was an old building fallen into shambles. The address matched it. It didn’t take Blake too long to find it. The only difference was the building was in better repair than the way it appeared in the picture, and there were several small children playing outside.
Blake parked himself in front of the building, trying to figure out what to do next. He was in the middle of forming a plan when several older kids came up to the building. They were rough-looking and started to push the younger teens around.
Before he could really decide to do anything, Blake was striding over as the oldest of the trio beat one of the boys.
As the fist moved back, he caught it and held it in place.
‘It’s not nice to pick on little kids.’ Blake said. The punk sneered and twisted his hand out of Blake’s grip. The other two attacked from behind. Blake moved fluidly in a way he knew was the Mown Chaal. The other two punks were o the ground before they could blink. And still they came at him. Every time Blake turned them away like oil trying to mix into water.
Finally he threw a well timed punch and drew blood. That was enough to send the kids running. As the fled, Blake turned his attention to the young boy on the pavement. He was no older than nine. Blood streamed down his nose.
‘Are you alright?’ He asked, holding out his hand. The kid’s expression of awe quickly became one of anger.
‘What did ya do that for? I can take care a myself you know.’ He hand was pushed away and the kid stood u, wiping the blood on the sleeve of his jacket.
‘Uh, you’re welcome.’ Blake said.
‘Simon. Don’t be rude.’ The voice came from behind. Blake turned. He knew that it was Noble instantly, but his eyes lingered on the human form of the warrior.
Noble was tall, maybe six and a half feet tall. Taller than Jared. His shirt fell in a way that suggested he was in shape and a mop of short, shaggy hair the color of silver-gold covered his head. Steel grey eyes fell on Blake and he could sense a weight behind them far greater than anyone he had ever met. Noble had an awesome presence about him that robbed Blake of words.
‘You should be thankful this man risked his neck to help you.’ The boy looked at his feet.
‘Sorry, Edam.’ The boy said softly. It came out Eddim. Blake raised an eyebrow.
‘Thank the man, Simon.’
‘Thanks mister.’ The boy smiled as if everything was fine, and then he ran off chasing a ball thrown by one of the other urchins, leaving Blake and Noble alone.
‘Come with me.’ Noble said after several seconds of heavy staring, making Blake feel incredibly self-conscious.
Noble, or Edam, led him down some stone stairs into a small room. They turned down a hallway before once again mounting stairs. They emerged in what appeared to be a huge make-shift green house on the top of the building. Noble turned on him suddenly and Blake was exposed to the awesome might of the warrior’s gaze. When Noble turned away Blake felt drained.
‘Why did you come here?’ Noble asked.
‘I…’ Blake was cut off before he could finish.
‘Who told you where to find me?’
‘Does it matter?’ Blake said, frustration mounting. Noble looked as if he had been slapped in the face before suddenly grinning.
‘No, I suppose it doesn’t.’ The tall man went to a small table and sat down, pouring a glass of water for himself and drinking before eying Blake and pouring one for him, pushing it in front of an empty wooden chair.
Blake took the invitation and sat.
‘Why are you here?’ Noble asked again.
‘I need you to teach me something.’ Blake said, sipping the water.
‘Teach you? What could I possibly teach an Atavist?’ He asked.
‘Your armor.’ Blake said.
Noble looked confused for a moment before responding.
‘Ah, yes. I see. What about it?’
‘I want to learn how to…make it.’ Blake said. Noble’s face turned to one of shock, then horror, then deep thought.
‘Do you have any idea of what you’re asking?’
‘I think. Why?’ Blake said, ‘is there something I should now?’
‘This request…is that all it is? A request?’ Noble asked.
‘Kinda. I don’t know.’ Blake ran his hands through his hair. ‘I just thought if I could do that, what you do, then I could better protect my friends and family.’
Noble stared off into space for a second before looking out the window to the sky. He drummed his fingers on the table.
‘It is something that takes centuries to learn. Even for an Atavist.’ Noble said.
‘What does that mean? Blake asked, frowning at the way he phrased the last part. Khamon was still, listening to everything.
‘Surely you know what an Atavist does? Why they are so special, as well as hated?’ Noble asked.
‘I have no idea! Look! Suddenly one day I’m “The Atavist” and everyone wants to kill me or dissect me! I have no idea what’s going on! I barely know which Koda is which and I don’t know why I’m such a hot topic! As far as I’m concerned everyone can just shove it! I wouldn’t even bother with you if my friends weren’t in constant danger because of me!’ Blake pounded his fists on the table.
‘An Atavist,’ He began, ‘is special because they can absorb the powers of others like us. Other Kam Tah. Even the Kam Sohr and Kam Dahd. Have you encountered others of our kind recently? Wanting to kill you, yes? Using their powers against you? Have you noticed the correlation of the emerging abilities within yourself?’
‘You’re saying that when one of…us, uses their powers on me, I steal them?’ Blake asked.
‘Yes.’ Noble said, ‘Have you not noticed the proficiency with which you use the Mown Chaal? It was learned from the assassin I saved you from. Though it is not perfect, it is a more advanced level of talent than most.’
Memories flooded Blake’s mind. All the times he had done battle, all the times he had killed his attackers. Each blow he took each power he deflected…
…Then he saw it--a weak spot when she lunged forward, over extending herself. Not by much, but just enough. The next time she struck, Blake moved forward, bringing the sword down on her skull. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head and the blade hit the pavement, instantly evaporating into a dark purple vapor.
Suddenly, without warning, he felt a part of himself dart out and latch onto the simbiont inside of the woman as she fell to the ground. The tendril returned with something. Blake was knocked backward onto his butt. Jared and Rob came rushing over.
Blake suddenly felt sick.
‘Not feeling well?’ Noble asked, pacing around, touching the leaves of his plants. ‘Now you know why you are hated. Why Atavists are exiled to backwater planets far from our home world. Why wars are fought over them. Why entire planets worth of brave souls volunteer to defend and die to protect their locations.’
‘I’m…in exile?’ Blake asked, head swimming.
Noble nodded. ‘As much as I.’
‘I…didn’t know. Khamon…’
‘Could not have known. He is but a child. A babe barely out o the womb. The memories he has are disjointed and hazy, abstract like the memories you no doubt carry from your own childhood.’
::It is true.:: Khamon said.
Noble turned to them.
::AND I ASK, ARE YOU WORTH ALL OF THE BLOOD THAT HAD BEEN SPILT? ARE YOU WORTH THE LIVES OF THE HUMANS THAT READ THIS WORLD? THERE ARE ONES THAT WOULD DESTROY THIS LITTLE ROCK AND EVERYTHING ON IT TO SIMPLY BE RID OF YOU.::
But why? Why me? Just because I am an Atavist?
::There are other reasons.:: Noble’s tone was quiet, as if in thought. Blake waited. Maybe the warrior would tell him something, but instead Noble turned from him and sat down in the chair across the table.
‘Do you still wish to learn the manifestation of the Kobal?’ Noble asked.
‘Is that what it’s called?’ Blake asked.
‘The Kobal is a physical projection of your inner power. It is fueled by many things: anger, sorrow, hope, love, even fear. But these forms are imperfect and can be wounded. The purest manifestation of the Kobal comes from silence and stillness. It is an art, a gift that few have, even back on Zemelon. It is not something that is shared lightly. In the past the Royal family’s Hedda were selected due to their mastery of the Kobal.’
‘I want to learn.’ Blake said. Noble sighed. His shoulder sagged as if he had just lost a battle.
‘Then I will teach you.’
The room was small, and the upper corner leaked water steadily as the rain poured outside. Blake could feel the cool wind through a crack in the window.
Noble stood before him, naked. His eyes were locked on Blake’s and as he watched, with Khamon’s senses fully expanded, pools of golden liquid slipped over Noble’s form like skintight clothes. Soon he was bathed in it. Suddenly it moved. It was as if it jumped and flickered at the same time and Noble was clad in radiant, living armor.
::No normal blade can penetrate this armor. It is a gift from an inner god.:: Noble stepped close, and as he moved the front of the helmet liquefied and retreated, revealing his face.
‘This gift I willingly share with you, Atavist.’ No sooner than the words were spoken then Noble’s lips closed around Blake’s. Blake felt himself move into the background and Khamon was in control. The simbiont moved forward to meet the motions of Noble. The golden liquid flowed from the tall man onto Blake’s skin, turning black and silver where it touched bare flesh.
The kiss deepened as the two embraced. Noble advanced, setting Khamon down on the bed gently. Blake was caught up in a wash of emotions that he knew belonged to Khamon and well as Noble.
The warrior deftly removed his own clothing and soon the two were naked together, sin to skin. Blake felt the arousal of both minds, but Noble’s was twinged with sadness and Khamon’s was so pure and innocent. And there was more. There was something deeper going on. An exchange of power.
As Noble’s form climbed on top of Khamon, Blake was aware of the pain and pleasure. Neither of them had ever experienced sex before, and the feelings Noble was causing were wonderful and frightening.
Blake felt his own fingers exploring the muscles of Noble’s back. His skin was taut and smooth. Soon they both began to sweat. Khamon pulled the tall man closer to him, deeper into Blake’s body as was physically possible, and at the height of their passion, Blake felt the two simbionts intermingle and join. It was the most pure and simple thing he had ever experienced or witnessed. And as quickly as it happened, it was over.
Noble collapsed forward, falling on Blake’s prone body. Khamon, a dizzying tornado of sensation, fell sleeping into the back of Blake’s mind. Blake slowly took over, running his fingers along Noble’s bicep. Sweat fell from the warrior’s damp hair onto Blake’s chest. The sound of their breathing filled the room.
Noble pushed himself up and away from Blake, sitting on the end of the bed, head in hands. Blake could feel uncertainty and regret, as well as a painful loneliness.
‘It’s done.’ Noble said. ‘Leave. Now.’
Blake was unable to respond, lying in a stupor. Noble turned suddenly. His anger was like a spike in Blake’s head.
‘I SAID GET OUT!’
Blake moved as fast as possible, pulling on pants before heading out the door. By the time he reached the street he was pulling his shirt on.
On the way home his heart was awash with emotions. He felt an attachment to Noble. Something deep. Or did Khamon feel it? He wasn’t sure. He knew that Noble hurt deeply, and for that Blake felt pity and sympathy.
It had been his first time. He was no longer a virgin. Well, technically it had been Khamon’s first time, but it was his body, so was he a still a virgin and his body wasn’t? The more he thought about it, the more confused Blake became.
I hope I’m back before Clava. She’ll ask way too many questions, and I don’t think I could lie right now. Blake thought to himself. Khamon was still dormant.
Blake knew something was wrong as he walked up the street and police cars and ambulances whizzed by. The dancing of orange and red told him there was a fire.
Oh God! No!
He ran as fast as he could. There were four fire trucks on the scene, all spraying water at the huge fire. Black cinders were all that were left of Clava’s home. Blake hoped she wasn’t home, and that she was resourceful enough to evade a simple fire.
Blake scrambled for the cell phone Clava had given him. He dialed Jared’s number first.
‘We’re sorry. This number is no longer in service.’ He hung up on the recording before dialing Rob’s number.
‘This number has been disconnected.’ Blake began to panic when Clava’s cell gave the same answer. As quickly as possible he made his way to Jared’s and Rob’s. Both the dorm room and the house were completely empty. The front desk at the university was no help; they obviously knew nothing of what was going on.
Peor. Peor! It was to be Peor! Blake ranted in his head. What could he do? Where should he go?
Suddenly the wave of emotions subsided as Khamon woke. Everything became clear.
He would have to go to the Grau and take back his friends, even if it cost him his life.
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