The First Age

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The women were in various states of decomposition. But they all had the same look. The same build. They all wore the brutal slashes and stabs. Their torsos and inner thighs were covered in blood.

He made an orb od light and used a thread of water to clean the blood away from one leg. No bruising. He examined further. Definite tearing and trauma but little blood.

His eyebrows furrowed. He had what forensic knowledge came from television, movies or whatever books he read. Which was to say quite possibly none. Then again, he could be right. He had an idea of what was going on.

Malik felt a squirm in his stomach. Not nausea. Never that. Surprise. And then surprise at his surprise.

Why should he be surprised at the ways people found to degrade others. It was power, he knew. The power to take a person and turn them into nothing but an extension of your will.

Whether as a little boy locked in a dog cage out in the cold or a man who kept and systematically tortured women, bit by bit, until they depended on and worshipped him because the mind had broken. Or this. It was all the same.

And Darth Malik was the perfect mirror the world had created. He would face these people and reflect bacl on them exactly what they were. As Justice made flesh.

He was ready. The women were the key to this man. Or a single woman, rather. Who was she? What did she mean to him? Should he make him tell where she was and bring her to him, expose him to her as the weakest of men, able to find potency and arousal only after the life had been cut out, after the flesh had cooled? The ultimate humiliation for a man such as this? He wanted this woman to see her would be tormentor for the pathetic man he was.

The idea made his heart leap with joy. The butterflies bounded in earnest, now, at the potential here. He turned, his cloak of shadow billowing about him, threads of Force woven and ready, and went in search of the man and his victim.

Partway through his searh his Force enhanced hearing caught the sounds of breathing and moaning. He paused, listening. Animal noises. He carefully moved forward until he came to a corner. The noises on the otherside were louder. And there were two people. He could hear that much.

He felt confusion. Had he been wrong? He ran his projection of the facts again. There should be only one person.

Carefully, oh so carefully, he peered around the cornor....

...and stood transfixed in horror at what he saw. It wasn't the dead body, the powerful scent of iron thick in the air. It wasn't the sheer act lf sexual collison, bodies so intertwined it was hard to see where one left off and one began. It was not the man in his open dress shirt covered in blood, naked and proudly standing from the waist down. It was not the woman, shirt torn open to reveal breasts, pants unzipped.

None of that horrified him. He'd seen death. He' d seen blood. He'd seen sex.

No. Her face. It was her face. The betrayal overwhelmed him. Rage overwhelmed him as he processed what he saw. There was no woman to rescue. There was no ultimate victim. She was part of it. Somehow. Someway. Acid coursed through his veins and then, somehow, it became liquified iron.

He recognized her. The huntress. The Atharim. Aria.

Darth Malik exploded and he channeled the force in a twist of pure anger made living. Lightning flew from his finger tips even as he roared, the walls shaking, dust filling the air.

Their bodies seemed to blow apart, away from each other, stunned by the blast. Darth Malik strode forward, the cloak of shadow whirling around his boots, death made flesh.
What had been a reunion - maybe not happy but a reunion regardless was torn apart by sound and light. Pain. Her's - Dane's. Swirling darkness. Memories of the explosion flooded through her mind. Debris falling and there was pain, not hers, not Dane's a memory - vivid and strong.

Screaming. A thunk of bone and pulling the sword free. Slicing through the rib as it caught on the edge of her sword. Burning. Never felt such pain but yet the memory hurt worse than the pain she felt now. But now all she felt was pain.

Swirling energy, cloaked. Familiar.

A bright light. Hope. Faith.

Failure. Pain. A voice echoed in her head... "I just wanted to tell you how much I love you. And how proud I am of you. I am so proud of you Aria. I am proud to know you."
His blue eyes burnt a whole in her mind. Sobs echoed in her head, "Aria. I love you. Oh God, oh God, oh God...."

The swirling energy, the vortex hovered nearby appraising the scene. Aria felt every ounce of pain from her body. Bruises and burns and damage, but she'd sustained worse. She'd lived through the Atharim, this godling was nothing. Aria moved quickly (as slowly as her body could muster) and reached for the gun that should be at the small of her back...but it was not there.

Why was he here? Had he followed her to Dane? Aria tried to speak but she found that her voice was gone with each gasping breath. Aria fumbled for her wallet and pressed the emergency call button. A beacon would go off and Nox would come... if he were still speaking to her.
Finally! The object of his desire was in his arms. He devoured Aria. Every curve of her body was his. Every breath drawn from her lungs was to breathe life into him. He was in utter ecstasy. Exhileration coursed his blood like fire. He wanted to howl with joy, and scream with delight. Aria was here. In his arms. She was finally his. Finally.

He kissed her shoulders. He held the back of her neck. He trailed fingernails down her the muscle of her belly, picturing the puckering hole that could skewer it as he had all the others. He imagined her cold and lifeless before him as he had so many times before. Those eyes that captured him could be frozen forever. She could be preserved like the others, and always remain his - his bride. His love. His everything.

The barest warning was all he had. He lifted his face a heartbeat before the strike. The fire in his veins turned to lightning across his skin. He howled for real that time as his body fell far away. Ripped from his love, from her arms, he would strangle the usurper of his conquest. He tried to move. But he groaned instead. Weakness turned his limbs to lead, but fury was the stronger brother. He pushed to his hands and knees. Crates clattered into debris that fell aside as he took to his feet. Stings of cuts, or worse, burned bright across one leg. His heart beat wild with the jolt of electricity, and he clutched his chest as he stumbled forward.

"Aria! Where are you!?"
he called to her, fearing her demise. The only thing worse than the loss of her life would be that it was taken by someone other than him. The possibility fueled his anger and gave life to his control of the power where fear may have once reigned.

He retaliated, pouring all his hatred, all his malice into the flows, directing them at the shadowy demon. His head spun, but the flows held... for now.

Darth Malik was death made flesh. His rage and fury coursed through his veins, pure plasma, igniting every part of his body. He roared as he drew on the Force, more power than he had ever before channeled. He felt his skin near to bursting, as when his muscles were so engorged and tight, he very nearly fekt his skin split open, unable to contain it.

Betrayal burned across his mind. What he'd seen was perversion of the greatest kind, a complete upending of all that was right and ordered, even in this dark world.

The man stumbled to his feet and Malik saw the flows coming at him. He sneered. Andre and he had played this game. Once Marcus found his brother could use the Force, he knew he would meet others. He needed to be ready. He'd not sparred since coming to Moscow- Pyotr couldn't even control himself- but the reflex was there.

More importantly, part of him was always immediately categorizing weaves. He didn't always know what they'd, but he saw their form. The man was stronger than Pyotr and his weaves carried a punch. Still, he held an ocean next to this lake. Malik threw up a pointed barricade that split and funnelled the weave off to each side of him into the walls and the building shook.

Before the man could act again, lightning shot from his fingers, this time tinged with earth and fire so it glowed blue, a pure expression of his wrath. Drunk with power and the image as he saw it, Darth Malik wanted to laugh in sheer pleasure.

Pride, he knew. He spotted the woman and her wallet. A sweep of air slammed it into the wall, crushing it, even as flows of air grabbed and bound her, dragged her through the air to him like a rag doll.

The man was the more dangerous. And he had questions to ask. So many questions. He was torn. Kill the man and focus on her? Or injure the man enough to stop him from channeling. There had to be a better way to subdue channelers. Later though.

For now, the lightning played and the girl hung in the air. He squeezed for a moment, hoping to hear her screams, her sweet singing screams, full bodied, ripped from her throat. The threat to the man plain.
His flows were overpowered. They cut, arched and snapped back into him. A punch followed. He was flung backward and all went dark.

Moments later, he gasped for air. His chest felt caved inward, and every breath was agony. His ears rang. His eyes watered. There was no last stand for Dane. He could not overpower their foe. The devil came, and Dane wished for death to take away the pain.

But then he remembered Aria. His love. His bride. Bloodied lips whispered her name.

He lifted his head. The lantern had been knocked over and cast a spotlight upon the demon. His bride was confiscated. Held before him like a sacrificial lamb about to be gutted. "Nooo,"
he cried. "Don't take her from me."
His voice trembled, but he could not move. He was powerless to stop it.

For the first time in his long years as a channeler, he was afraid. Why? Why was this happening.

Aria hated the power of the gods. Hated that it was more powerful than any Atharim. She hated the Atharim that they killed them instead of used them. They used Furia. They controlled their lives with the threat of death. Furia weren't dangerous. Just different. But death was as much a threat for anyone. Nox was useful. He'd saved her time and time again. And she him.

Her wallet flung from her hands and smashed against the wall but the beacon had been sent. Nox would come to the location. He was faithful. He was loyal to a fault.

And then the power scooped her up and she was at the things mercy. Like the Butcher had been. Aria felt the squeezing pain. But it was nothing compared to the weight she always bore. She wouldn't scream. The pain was nothing. And death would only be a mercy. Aria had long since passed the moment of carrying whether she lived or died. She was living on borrowed time. If only he'd come closer...
Aria stared at him defiantly, refused to make a sound. Her green eyes bore into his unapologetically, even though he knew she couldn't see his face.

The man, though, howled, a child having lost a toy, pleaded for it not to be taken. Strangely, the sounds brought no pleasure to Malik's ears.

This was wrong. It was all wrong. It didn't add up. He let up on his pressure of the woman. The man still received his jolts but with less frenzy. A prime calculation needed data. He paused, allowed himself to adjust- Malik seemed on standby. It was the oddest sensation.

Immediately information began to flow. The hunting of the butcher. He had followed her. Her path had been random, almost lost, and then gradually honed in on the house. She had beem captured and would have been his next plaything. The girl he'd released to her had looked nothing like her. Projection. She had not known the butcher. She'd somehow tracked him.

Corollary. Could she be a Force user? Perhaps. Further questions grew out of that. Was there a way to track killers with the Force? Possible. Unknowable at this point.

The man kept screaming and whining.

Data. She was a double agent in the Atharim and worked for the Ascendancy. If she was a force user, she would have to keep it secret from them. But....if so, why did she tell Marcus how to kill the creature? Why not do it herself? If a channeler, why not have killed the Atharim leader herself? Marcus would have done it.

Inconclusive. The man's screams grew irritating.

The biggest puzzle was this man. A butcher, a killer, for certain. The freezer was full. The women looked like her. And he viewed her as a possession.

So what had he seen? Was it them working together? Or was she there to stop him? Could he have been right? She was the source of obsession and the other women surrogates.

The man was making it hard to think.

Had this been an attempted rape and murder? He had been so angry his memory seemed warped.

And still the man kept on.

Finally, frustrated, without thinking, Marcus lassoed the man's neck with air and yanked. He'd meant to just hold him up so he stopped screaming. Apparantly, though, he was irritated- or more confused?- than he thought.

The man's head ripped from his body with a noisy wet tearing sound. Reactively, Marcus pushed the man and his now gushing neck back. No need for a mess.

He cursed himself. There had been no release. No judgement. It had been quashing a bug. Sloppy. So very sloppy.

He still held the woman but he lowered her to the ground, studying her reaction. He had made a decision. She would live. She could go free. And Marcus would reach out to her. Natural enough. His Consulate was going to touch on the responsibilities Ascendancy wanted to give her.

He would get his answers. Then he would know what to do.

His voice modulated in range as he spoke.
"You keep dangerous company. This is twice now. I cannot keep saving you."

Perhaps unnecessary, admitting he had been there the first time. But then again, perhaps not.

"I apologize for the needless pain. I misunderstood what I saw."
Let her take that as she would.

Yes, Marcus needed to get to know this women. He owed her a debt, after all. Malik was angry. But he would hunt again. He knew it.

Edited by Marcus DuBois, Dec 28 2017, 05:11 PM.
He floated.

Did Declan cry and beg for mercy at the moment of his death? Probably. His older brother was always pitiful.

And pain slipped from his body like blood pouring from his veins.

The greatest thrill two humans could share was the moment of death passed between them.

Aloft, painless, and fearless, his vision cleared and time slowed to a crawl. He saw the channeler cloaked in darkness, but didn't care to study him more. It was Aria to whom he looked. She was choking. Her eyes bulged. Her hands fought. She didn't scream, though. He smiled at that. He always knew she wouldn't scream.

Then, an infinite moment of pressure, and it was over.

Gasps of air. Dane's voice echoing in her mind. And then there was silence...

That moment when death takes you. The moment when someone Aria had been tracking fell away from her jarred her to the core. It was jarring when it was a mark, but she stared in disbelief at the remains of the man she had come to understand - to love.

The power left her on the ground. Words came from the swirling vortex. But Aria didn't hear a word. She was focused on the silence. She stared at the blood spurting from where Dane's head once was attached. He was gone...

Her calm in the storm was gone. That was twice someone had taken someone from her. Twice someone had killed men she loved. Twice that monsters took love from her. The fury inside her rose. Aria rose to her feet with that fury powering her legs but when she turned to the vortex there was nothing. He'd gone and Aria hadn't even noticed.

She turned back to the body, the blood had long since stopped and was not congealing in a pool around Dane's body. It was a short few steps to his body but they felt like miles. Each one harder than the last - her calm was gone. A god had killed him.

Aria felt to her knees despite the blood that surrounded the body and she laid her head on his cold lifeless chest. Aria closed her eyes and let the fury and the rage boil inside... A new vow taking hold. She'd kill every god, every sentient, every special person out there... They would take no more from her.

A minuscule thought invaded her fury - the Atharim would help her but they were part of the problem - taking what they wanted. Killing those like Dane for no known reason - they deserved death. They would take from no one again.

A hand on her shoulder made her jump and her sword was drawn as she leapt away from Dane's lifeless body.
Nox found Aria in an abandoned grocery store. It was rather creepy feeling. She hadn't been taken from her last known location which made Nox wonder what was going on. He had embraced his power and walked through the fallen shelves and broken bits of building and found Aria lying on top of a headless body.

The head lay staring in pain - eyes long clouded over. It resembled a man he had once known. And from the way Aria knelt in a pool of blood over the body it could only be Dane. There was a stab of pain, and then regret and one of distaste as he walked closer to Aria and touched her shoulder. Her reaction was immediate and violent. Nox held up his hands in surrender but Aria didn't charge just stared at him in confusion, and then in a moment she was attacking him.

Nox sighed and wrapped Aria in bonds of air and then looked around. There was another body on the block and Nox wanted to hurl. "What have you gotten into Aria?"

The look in her eyes said she was pissed at him. He didn't care. She growled in his direction and Nox set fire to the girl, and then to Dane's body.

Aria howled. "No."
Aria struggled against the bonds and Nox let her go until she ran towards to flames that had once been Dane. He was cleaning up murder of the foulest degree all because his partner was wrapped up in it. Nox threw a wall of air around Dane's body and left Aria to her own devices as he set the rest of the dry dilapidated building on fire.

The air around them grew hotter. Aria pounded on the wall of air. "Come on Aria we have to go. Dane's dead. There is nothing you can do about it."
Nox picked up the tiny woman around the waist and hefted her over his shoulder with ease. She was covered in blood and now his jacket would need to be trashed, but Aria at least couldn't go down with the ship.

Once outside and across the street Nox set Aria down and turned to the building and watched as it burned. Aria ripped from his grasp and started to run. Nox couldn't leave the burning building. He had to stay and watch, he wouldn't cause harm to another building even here in the red light district where it probably didn't matter. He watched Aria run away from him. And when she vanished from sight Nox turned his sights back on the burning building. It was an inferno and he would let it burn until the building was gone, nothing but ash. There were no sirens - no one cared about this building. No one cared enough to rush to the scene. Nox sat and watched as Dane Gregory's body burned with a nameless girls. He wanted to chase after Aria but covering this up was more important.
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