Time of the Gospel Chapter 7
Are the three together?
Good. Be sure that they grow fond of each other.
But there are three. Things do not work that way.
That is none of your concern.
Forgive me lord Petra. The one animus is strong willed. He is ready for the conflict.
We know. We are prepared.
Yes, lord Aries. When they leave, what should I do with them?
Give the two our mark. The anima and animus are already ours, but still wavers. Be sure to send him to us, we will consume him. Let the anima go with the other. He is the threat.
Very good my lords. Bal faded out of existence.
It is time let us take our strength.
It shall not be enough.
What do you mean?
Our last form was far stronger, and it was killed.
They had many. But do not forget, we brought down three in that round.
The one did not count, he was not real.
Maybe not, but we took the second. He had been around far too long. Now he is ours.
This form has already died.
This time it shall be inhabited with our power. And do not forget our chosen. He shall do a fine job of drawing away the reinforcements.
Come, let us go.
How are they?
The ninja was captured we couldnt save her. The soldier girl is fine, the visions got to her, but shes not damaged. Your brother though
Solus stood on a snowy plain atop a mountain. He spoke with an old man, a resident of the village that surrounded them May I see him?
Of course. The elder led Solus into a small room. There were two beds, one on each side of a burning fire. Taran lay on one, Elly the other. She was sleeping, he was in a deeper state of unconsciousness. Weve done what we can but he was hit hard.
Solus knelt before his brother and placed his hands together. A glow between them could not be contained and shone brightly through his fingers. It grew in intensity and he released it. The aura settled on Tarans wound. Instantly it began to heal itself. Hell be alright. Now He took a few steps toward Elly and put his warm hand on her forehead.
She took a deep breath. Divad no, Saul! Lacan! Taran! Solus She took one last breath and sighed. As Solus hand channeled his energy, Elly began to luminess. She was calmed and slowly awakened. Emm Solus? With a restful smile she blindly reached up her hand and he held it. Youre alive.
We all are.
Thats good Solus She was in a lulled state, and finally her mind caught up with her body. She reached across and pulled away a sheet then set her feet down. Solus. We have to get to Tiber.
No, we dont.
What do you mean? Elly stood.
Tiber is not the place for me or you.
Not my place? Its my home. Where else would you have me go?
Come with me.
Elly stared at him, startled, confused, hurt. Why dont you come with me to Tiber?
What would I do at Tiber?
You could join Phalanx, and then youd wed
You know I cant just do that.
She sighed. I know. Hurt, but understanding.
Ill get you to Tiber but youll have to go alone.
Alright She knelt by Tarans bed and kissed him. Goodbye Lt. Rashell turned to the old man who had rescued and tended to them. Goodbye, thank you.
Solus walked her outside into the snow. A dark Gear was kneeling beside the building, its form molded into the powder. Take Gabe, hell get you to Tiber.
Solus, thank you. But you know Ive had no real experience flying a Gear.
Thats alright. Gabe can do it for you.
She stepped forward and embraced him, kissed him. It was perhaps a gesture, as it had been with Taran, but it was a far more sensual one. If you come with me, we could
Someone told him to hold her there, to go with her, to Ill see you later, Elly. She slowly climbed into the cockpit. They stared at each other as when they met. New snow fell, covering Solus. A tear joined it. The cockpit sealed shut. Solus spoke a few orders. Gabe, take her to Tiber.
Yes sir. The Gears engines fired up and melted the snow beneath it. A sound wave rippled outward from its point of takeoff as it flew towards Kislev.
Are you prepared?
Solus turned around, it was the old man. Yes.
I am Bal. I shall send you to the wilderness. A black aura formed around his hand. Bal drew a circle in the air, leaving a black trail. A floating portal formed, on the opposite side was an ocean and a desert, colliding with each other. Solus stepped through.
Waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, Jinn quickly got to her feet and grabbed her katana. Guard barracks. She went with the elite to Bledavik and had slept in one of their military barracks, with a Guard posted outside. Things had been safe, and so she slept. Putting down her sword she patted Stealths head (who had joined them the previous night on their voyage to the Aveh capital.) Catching her reflection in a mirror she was intrigued and studied it. Black lines had formed under her eyes. Has it been a week since Ive truly slept? She guessed so. Even that night, in the center of Guard Headquarters, she had not stripped out of her black gi or consciously dropped her blade. Swearing the next would be different, that she would rest her strength, she pulled her mask over her face, a little higher than yesterday to hide rising bags of paranoia.
Her lygir raised. Stealth, stay. Ill bring you food later. With a ninjas blade hanging from her back, a pistol at her hip, and a dagger concealed by her calf, she opened a door and stepped next to a tall man in a Guards uniform, tightly holding a rifle. Mornin Karen. Guard has requested your presence at the meeting hall, and has assigned me to be your escort, and bodyguard. Please follow me. They walked down a long hall, entered an elevator, and exited to a large room. The walls enclosed a long table, around which were several dozen Guard officers, including Xolis, Allys, and Lance. The man went with her to a seat between two Guard elite then stood behind her.
A highly decorated man, the Guard Captain, rose to his feet. Welcome Karen. It is to my understanding that you were, for a time, traveling with Guard Elite Taran En Voy and his brother. Karen leaned back a stiff chair, propped her feet on the table, folded her hands behind her hooded head, and nodded. Such disrespect annoyed the Captain, but he did not allow it to come between capturing Kyrins killer. Good. Then do you know where he is?
I was with him early yesterday morning.
And where was that. His temper was rising with her slow answers.
Somewhere between Aveh and Kislev. He was shot down.
Is he dead? Xolis asked from next to her.
Karen shrugged her shoulders. Our Gear was shot down. He was on it when it crashed.
Lance slammed his fist on the table. No! Hes not dead! If anyones gonna kill him, its me!
Lance! The man straitened up. That is no behavior for a Guard Elite. Now, Karen, what was that about a Gear? Do you think our organization is so ignorant not to realize that Gears are no longer operational?
I know it sounds strange. Dont ask me how. We were riding a working Gear. Solus was piloting.
Solus? Is that En Voys brother? She nodded. Fine. Would you be able to find him?
My lygir could, if he ever picked up the scent.
About tracking him Allys put in, I had this device she placed a big, junky, round object that looked like a large pocket watch or compass on the table. It receives a signal from a beacon, which Taran should have. But instead, she flipped on its screen with a blinking dot, its pointing to you. We only found you because we thought you were Taran.
The ninja blushed under her mask. Grasping a handful from her cloak she laid it on the table next to the tracker. Several odds and ends fell: some gold coins, a few necklaces, and a small, metal insect. I stole some things from them. One or two soldiers at the far end of the table let out a laugh, but were quickly silenced by a glare from the Captain.
Do you realize all the trouble youve caused us by your thievery!?
Hey, Im not in your little army. Im a free lancer and can do anything I want.
You owe us something for saving you from Judgement.
Actually, it was me who saved you from the Pointiff. I dont owe you ~.
Taran staggered to his feet. The old man was watching him. Where am I?
You took a heavy beating in your fight with that Ethos, young man. Youve been recovering in my village, up here, in the mountains.
Only two days about. Your brother was the one that really helped you.
Where is he? Wheres Elly! And Jinn?
The ninja was taken to Judgement. The other two left.
No. She went to Tiber, He went he went on.
Taran wandered around the cabin until he came to a window. He gazed out at the snow and everything else so far away. How am I supposed to get out of here?
There is one way Follow me. The two stepped out into the cold and trudged through the village and came to a small wooden shed protruding from a white covered rock. The man leading Taran unlocked and opened a door. Inside it was still cold, and dark. Fire. Upon Bals command, a fire came to life at the bottom of a chimney hollowed out of a stone wall, lighting and warming the room. The old man slowly bent down, groaned, then pulled on something. A trap door in the middle of the floor opened. Bal held a stick into the fire, creating a torch, then descended a stairwell uncovered by the floor panel. Taran followed. Reaching the bottom, they came to a short hall. Beyond it was an open chamber radiating light that bombarded them. Before stepping through, Take it where you will. I tell you now that Bledavik is where you should go.
How would you know?
Boy, Ive lived in this world nearly a century before you were born. I know things that you wont even think about until youre too old to do much else. My experience knows that you belong at Bledavik right now.
Taran was reluctant. But what about Elly?
Youll find her again soon enough. When love is strong nothing can stop it. Here, take this. He pulled out a ring from his robes and dropped it in Tarans hand. He slipped it on his finger. This will let you go to Tiber, when the time is right. Now, go. Taran stepped into the next room and ran out of breath. Towering before him was an activated Gear.
Solus stepped onto sand. Looking around he saw sand, and more sand. Trying his best to recover a sense of direction he turned to what he thought was west; Sand stretched before him, raised into dunes, then fell off into the ocean. East, the grains soon fell like a waterfall, only crashing into a sea of more sand. From there, the desert was lower, but continued to stretch until it hit the ocean. Just a skip across the waters and the desert continued again with the continent of Ignas. Taking out a map from his new, hundred-years-old Aveh army uniform, he began a trek over an invisible path. Everything was sand, but this time he had no Gear to cross it for him. Sun beat down on his skin as he trudged on. At least he knew where he was going. Keeping his shadow behind him, he made his way to a rock formation that seemed to rise out of the sand.
As it came over the horizon, suddenly he was in the center of an oasis. Before him was a thin, circular pool. The water was a beautiful turquoise blue, but only a meter deep, the floor of a cracked stone lining quite clear. Around the pool were scattered several dark brown rocks breaching the sands surface in unusual formations such as steps, arches, and short towers. It was as if they had been cut into random shapes, but were far too rough and natural to have been man made. Attached to the higher reaching were bamboo poles regularly alien to the isle, supporting thick, beige sheets laying a treasured black shade below them. In that shade were dozens of people. All of them were in dirty, tattered clothes, lying flat in the cool, save for one man, nearly naked, happily sprawled out in the sapphire water.
At first, no one seemed to notice him, but then from behind each of the rocks stepped a man armed with a gun. They surrounded him. Hey, Solus defended, Im with you guys. I came to join the Aether. The soldier all bellowed a laugh, then pressed in further with their weapons still aimed at him. Shuffling again in his uniform, Solus pulled out a piece of paper. This is for Vangard.
One of the men, slightly older than the others, stepped forward. His clothes, as all others, were like rags: ripped down the middle exposing a strong tanned chest, horizontal tears spread throughout, and dirty. Bare feet were dark as well, bits of dirt under toenails, and fingers that clutched a gun now to his side. His face was still in its younger years, but bore marks of experience and hardship. His lips were dry, his cheeks appeared shaved with a dull knife, and his hair: it was a picture a child drew of the sun, with his head placed before it to lead the way. Oily, coral-looking locks were pulled back, slightly reaching outward, in several thick spines the color of the brown rocks. Eyes were white, no iris, no pupil, white, and blind. I am Vangard what does it say?
We, Melchior, Gaspar, and Belthazar, send this boy to you, Vangard. He is your cousin who was in our care when you left for the wilderness. He has grown since you last saw him, and we assume you have too. It is our wish that he be included in your war against the world. May God bless you and your guiding. The man took a step back, planting a foot in loose sand.
Vangard approached him and put his hands on the sides of his face. Solus...? The last time I was with you you were a small boy, not quite talking. Heh, and I was not much older Moving his hands down, Vangard embraced him. Welcome to Aether.
Realizing he was a friend, most of the poorly equipped but well trained and organized sentries returned to their hidden posts. A few however, had stayed and now nudged the blind man. Vangard, what about, you know the custom?
Silencing a chuckle, Vangard rebuked him. There is no need for that. This one here would force you to find a new level.
Their leader sighed and gave in. Very well. Turning again to Solus he explained. Several of the men heard tales of life from Nortunes prison area, and they started a tradition that each new addition to our force go through a special battle to determine at what rank he is to begin. Lowering his voice to a whisper, one hand cupping his mouth a sharl away from the intended Solus ear, he continued. Having the ability to sense strength and power myself, I find it unimportant, but they need to satisfy their physical knowledge. We can talk later, So go on ahead, if youre sure you want to do this.
Solus closed his eyes and lowered his head. No one moved. Yes.
Great! Stepping around him were four eager soldiers. Youll fight each of us, one at a time, to determine where you stand. Come on, well go to the arena. Leading him away from the circle of stones they soon stood on a low rising mesa (perhaps a foot above the sand.) Your first opponent will be Celer. A short man stepped into the center of the ring and bowed to Solus, who was pushed forward by the other three. The midget ran circles around Solus, adding in a kick or punch every rotation, but they did not do much. Fight! Fight! The other three were cheering him on to do something, so he shot his fist at Celer, but missed. The man next came in full speed, jumping at Solus torso and tackling him. That got him loosened up, now able to move without stiffness from uncertainty, without hesitation. Knees bent, elbows sunk lower, arms held up, when Celer tried another jump Solus nailed his entire gut with an open palm punch. Out of breath, the man was made even shorter by hunching over. Giving a quick sweep over the rock, Solus finished the battle.
Very good. Now youll fight Fray. A shirtless, bald, muscle rippling giant stepped into the fight. One slug and Solus was on the ground. Trying to set his jaw back with his hand, he rolled away from a downward slam, and realized it was Frays fist that made several small craters in the rock. Running forward, Solus dodged another punch, gave one of his own, and brought his hand back in pain, just missing a second swing. It was shortly followed by another thrust of Frays arm, which he grabbed, then flipped over along with the rest of the hulk. Back on his feet, Fray, not having much room for a brain, lunged forward again, and was carried by his locomotive momentum over Solus and down onto hard rock.
Wow, its been a while since anyones hurt Fray. Well, next is Alchem. The third battle was a quick one. His challenged was an average sized man, but did not use strength or agility to fight. Instead, he managed to shoot out small bursts of energy. These however, had no affect on Solus who simply walked through them and knocked out the source.
What on earth!? That certainly was depressing. But you wont escape so easy now. I, Leon, am your final challenge. Leon used small energy orbs as well, blasting off one to stun Solus for almost a moment, allowing him to sprint like Celer around to his side and plant a mighty fist, again dropping Solus to the rock. This time, he had not the time Fray provided, and Leon was on him instantly, pounding his now bloody face. Grabbing a quick encroaching fist, Solus stretched his leg and flung Leon back, but the man landed on his feet and continued the initiation, holding him to the rock, under the hot sun. It was torture just to be prone to its rays, much worse to be battered and bruised as well. Solus, having come accustom to it during the battle, recalled his burning skin and sweaty brow. Forced to gaze at the sun, it soon turned white. It grew larger, closer, until it touched him. Flowing with a white radiance Solus was lifted into the air. A steam of lightning poured into Celer, Fray, Alchem, and Leon, spreading them across the desert. Spitting out a mouthful of sand, Leon propped himself up. That was impressive Sparkles of energy that had yet to dissipate swarmed towards Leon and dove into him like hawks. He went into a seizure then again joined the others face down in the sand.
Vangard, gazing off at nothing, heard the sound of victory and smiled. I told them, but would they would not listen Congratulations Solus. Your ceremony is complete. I see you have maintained those gifts. I remember when you nearly ruined Belthazars lab. He he.
Solus moved infront of the speaker (not that it mattered to Vangard.) Yeah, Melchior, Gaspar, and Belthazar made sure I keep up with my powers. I dont really like to use them, but if the need arises. So this is Aether.
After I left, I wandered the world for most of my years, then came here, starting the fight against zin and the shadows. Until the hero arrives anyway. What took you so long?
You are clear to dock. The Royal Aveh Council is waiting for you. Please hurry. After slowing a sand transport into a subterranean land harbor, three corporate representatives walked across a long bridge and to an elevator that raised them up to Guard headquarters. Stepping out into a room with a long, full table down the center, the black suited men took a formal stand before the committee. King Fatima was at the opposite side of the room. To his left, the queen, to his right, the Guard Captain. Other men of high position in the Aveh government cluttered the sides of the table. A Guard introduced the visitors. Ambassadors from Ase Incorporated have a proposition to arrange with us, sir. The King gestured for the man to begin.
Your Highness, Ase and Aveh have always held perfect relations, and it is our interest to arrange with you the purchase of several Gears.
Gears? He raised an eyebrow, suspicious, wondering what these scientists could be planning with old Gears.
Yes. Two behind me would like to first take an inventory of what you have kept intact over the centuries, and then settle on a price. Spotting a ninja, who did poorly to fit in with Guard and the Aveh Royalty, at the opposite end of the room, one of the ambassadors with his back brushing a wall tapped the man speaking. Actually, could we go arrange something now with Guard? If your excellency would not mind.
Certainly. Though I dont see why you would want a Gear. You are excused, Captain. Up from his seat, the Captain and two other Guard followed the men into a hall.
These two will show you our Gear hanger, the Guard Captain told the three. Well arrange a price.
The head negotiator nodded. The four men walked away. Actually, there was something else I could hope to arrange with you. Who was that girl in their, the ninja?
I do not feel at liberty to discuss classified information with a business executive.
Ill have you know that I am Javen, the Prime Engineer of the entire Ase corporation. Is that the woman that you were asked to apprehend two nights ago, the one who raided the Ethos monastery?
How did you know that?
If you grant Ase custody of the girl, along with any other one prisoner, I will activate any five of your Gears.
How can you possibly propose to do that? There is no way you can
Do not tell me what I cannot do captain. Choose the Gears and it shall be done.
Ferdan and Bryn (the Ase scientist) accompanied two Guard soldiers on a tour of their Gears. When a large door opened an odor swelled out, hinting that the chamber had not been regularly visited in a long while. There were no clouds of dust or large cobwebs, but enough to assume it was not scheduled for regular cleaning. Although dirty, the Gears were impressive. First they passed a long line of bulking Gears, not very sleek or pleasing to the eye, obviously excavated with limited ability. Clearly Aveh Gears. At these Bryn shook his head. Next they came to what they were searching for: the Gebler class titans. These took on a more slender appearance and it seemed their metal bodies were once liquid hot and hand shaped in increasingly humanoid form rather than molded in a blatant geometric machine. They were slightly smaller, quicker, and agile, but Ferdan knew that their skin was stronger and they held more power within than the more massive desert models.
He walked by a pair of tall gray Gears, each heavily armored. Having nodded to Bryn and agreeing on the set, one of the Guards read its statistics. These are Alloy Imperial DK1200s: 16.8 sharls, 18.4 kahnns, very durable, flight capable, each have a Solaris spear gun.
Well take them. Javen declared as he entered the room with the Guard Captain. A Guard officer marked something down on a pad.
As they continued their scavenge, a voice broke over speakers spread around the hanger. Uhm we have a Gear requesting permission to land so were gonna let him in. It was clear the man did not have much experience announcing such a phenomenon. A large door slowly lurked from its seal, steadily rising, but jerking where its hydraulics were dirty. A curtain of dim light approached them until they gazed at a vast yellow field of desert, constantly being transformed by wind.
A Gear softly set down, rested on a platform, affirmed it no longer worked to transport Gears, then walked towards a pair of empty docks. It was complimented by a giant shadow. Its skin was black, reflecting off light. Where have I seen that Gear before? Although he could not recall when, Javen sensed familiarity about the black titan.
A man jumped from his cockpit. He was dressed in simple white robes that glided over the floor, a hood pulled close around his face. As they walked, the man seemed confined by his cloak, yet to learn how to shorten his steps and act as his clothes would portray him. The two Guard approached them, pulling out weapons. Who are you?
When the man raised his hand to speak, his sleeve fell lower on his wrist. Javen caught a glimpse of a golden ring with three rows of tiny symbols engraved on it. Though it was only a flash inspection, Javen was certain of his findings. Looking at an exact match on his own finger, he was reassured and stopped the man from speaking. Hes with us.
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