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A Chilly Abode
Michael hated the cold.

Even under all of the layers of thick clothing, topped with his massive coat of black - he didn't even know what it was, only that it was supposed to be warm - the chill of Moscow was ever present.

Captain Zokoskev had kept him back late, wanting to go over his plans once more before he started the job. Michael did not like how some of the soldiers hired themselves to the highest bidder, but he endured.

"Get in here and sit down," Tony called from the window. Michael had saved up enough to purchase a house a few blocks from the Moscow river in the Zamoskvoreche. Tony was wary, but Michael insisted on repaying his debt.

He had spent almost a year living on the outskirts of Moscow in near poverty. Tony had hidden himself away after awakening to his talent - chased out of home by authorities hunting for those with the "Sickness" and Michael had only been a burden. He owed the man his life.

"Did you actually do anything today?"
Michael asked as he entered, refusing to take his coat off. Tony sat watching the news - something about a robbery or murder, probably both - with a bottle of cheap vodka in his hand.

He shook his golden curls, his red face sheepish, "I vanished a long time ago, Michael. People like us don't belong here - anywhere."

Michael was sick of hearing that. It was likely fear of the unknown. He knew he was afraid.

"Fine. Teach me then. Tell me how to do something about this damn cold."

Tony laughed, "I'm drunk, man. I might burn down your pretty house."

"You're not drunk, you're lazy. Besides, there's nothing much to burn."
Michael knew the man and his solid bulk could take far more than it had.

Tony scowled. "Bah! You are nearly as strong as I am and you're only a pup."

"Stop making excuses. Whatever strength I might have, I can barely do anything with it,"
he replied.

The older man sighed and sat up straight. "All right then, seize the power, and I'll try and show you a thing or two."

Michael did as he was commanded. He calmed his mind and focused, just like the Aboriginals taught him. The power came rushing through him like a waterfall of ice and fire. He wanted to draw more, he should have been able to, but needles of fiery pain prevent him.

"Easy now, Michael. Don't overdo it, it is dangerous." Tony warned, not for the first time. He seized his own power, Michael could feel it, but it did not seem like he was straining himself. He sat calm and composed.

Tony did something with threads of Fire and Air and the room suddenly became warm."This," he said, threading the pattern deliberately again, "is how you would warm the house. The trick is to temper the Fire with Air. You must make the error of believing that Fire is the key to warmth. You only need a trickle, the Air will circulate the heat."

Michael made to copy him, but Tony swatted him with a thread of Air.

"No! You will burn the house down. For now, you must learn control. Go down to the basement, I have some snow there for you."

"Just what I wanted."

"Melt the snow, turn it to water. Do not allow yourself to use enough heat to evaporate it. When you have mastered that, we will continue."

As Michael made his way towards the basement, the chill returned. "Damn it, Tony. Can't you give me a bit of heat, it is freezing!"

He just laughed. "Only to you, my friend." He shook his head. "Perhaps the threat of freezing will teach you better than I can."

When Michael finally crept into bed, he felt the stark cold more than he had since he had come to this forsaken city.

Edited by Michael Vellas, Jul 25 2013, 07:16 AM.
"She saw a flaring halo around his head, radiant in gold and blue. It shouted of glory and power to come"
"No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."
Continued from Memories

"The Hard Way"

Michael could smell the blood before he entered the room. He seized what power he could and prepared for the worst.

Tony sat on the plain grey couch in front of the TV as he usually did, but the seat was now stained red. Tony had taken off his shirt and wrapped it around the wound just below his heart. His eyes were closed tight against the pain, but his breathing was still steady.

"Tony, I'm back. Have you called an ambulance? You need to get to the hospital."

Tony opened his eyes with some effort. He looked exhausted. "No. I can't go to a hospital. The CCD will be sniffing around."

Michael closed his phone reluctantly, kneeling beside the golden haired man. "Damn it, Tony."
It felt like he was saying that a lot lately. "Why?"
His voice sounded hollow and distant, but he needed the trance-like calm the meditative state gave him.

Tony smiled, his mouth blessedly clear of blood. "Would you like to explain how that fellow's blood froze?" He nodded towards the basement.

"You - What? You froze his blood! How the hell did you do that!? That's crazy, even for you!"

It seemed his calm wasn't as perfect as he thought. But now was not the time, questions could come later.

Taking a deep breath, Michael went on. "Forget that. Tell me how you expect to survive with a hole in your chest. I assume you want me to do something?"

"Yes, I thought it would be good for your training." Tony tried to laugh, but the pain stopped him.

Serves you right, you reckless bastard.

Michael didn't trust himself to speak. Whatever the man said, his eyes were deadly serious.

"I would ask you to heal me with the power - it didn't work when I tried it myself - but you are shit at that." A pause.

The bastard was fishing for a reaction!

Michael didn't oblige.

"There is something you can do though. The blade didn't hit any important parts, blood loss is what's killing me. I need you to cauterize the wound."

Michael wasn't amused. "Are you mad? I'm not going to set you on fire."

Tony's face turned sober. "I am many things; mad is not one of them. If you do not learn, you will die - I will die. I will not leave you as helpless as I have been!"

Michael was taken aback. He had never seen the man so passionate. He let none of it show on his face. He needed control, now more than ever.

Ready, he unwound the makeshift bandage and glanced up at Tony's face. "This will likely hurt."
The man nodded, and Michael bound the man with Air, careful not to smother him.

Gritting his teeth, Michael wove a thread of Fire, delicate, balanced. With infinite care, he inched it towards the wound. He strained to keep the thread razor thin. It flared and dimmed, but it grew tighter each time he forced it back into line.

As he touched the thread to flesh, it sizzled, disturbingly similar to meat on a barbecue. Michael had no time for more than a fragment of a thought, intent on his goal. He could feel Tony straining against his bonds, but resisted the urge to work faster.

With agonizing precision, he cauterized the wound, leaving no room for infection to grow. When he finished, he released the bonds and Tony sagged against the couch in exhausted sleep.

Michael tried to rise and found himself off balance, swaying on his feet. He did not know exactly how much time had passed, but it must have been hours, the sun dimming outside the window.

Michael's muscles ached, and the chill bore into his skin and bones.

He knew it was a stupid idea, but he was too tired to care. He wove wavering threads of Air and Fire with extra care.

The room was suddenly hit with a wave of warmth, and Michael felt a surge of pleasure.

No fires. Not even a small one.

It was not enough to cheer his troubled thoughts. He still had the dead assassin to deal with and he had not forgotten the price of his victory. He knew he had learned the hard way.

"She saw a flaring halo around his head, radiant in gold and blue. It shouted of glory and power to come"
"No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."
It was midday when Michael finally opened his eyes. The events of the day before came back in a flood of unpleasant detail.

Climbing out of bed, he covered himself with his thick coat which hung on the bed-frame at the bottom of the bed.

The room was almost as bare as it had been when he had first moved in. He hadn't found the time to purchase anything other than the bare essentials. He would like to buy a few books soon. Perhaps he could find something in a dusty tome. Moscow was an old city, it was bound to have some useful information.

Careful not to wake Tony, he made his way downstairs. He need not have bothered. The man had propped himself up on the couch and apparently used his powers to remove the blood. That was vaguely disturbing. Should he have noticed while he slept? He would have to ask another time.

"Are you well?"
he asked, glancing at the TV. Another day of death. He was just thankful his house was not the feature.

"I'm fine. You did well," Tony replied. His eyes were alert but Michael could hear the exhaustion in his voice. "Now, would you tell me about our friend in the basement?"

"Can you walk?"

"I'll make do."

"Very well."
Michael nodded, turning to the basement at the back of the living room - or whatever they called it here. The gust of cold air was unpleasant as he opened the door, but he didn't find anything particularly pleasant about the situation, so it felt right in a strange way.

Tony's footsteps were sluggish as he followed. Michael suspected he was using some kind of trick, another thing he would have to ask about later.

He did not recognise the dead man, nor did he have any pity for him. His skin had turned an alarming shade of blue where his veins ran.

Michael knelt beside the body and examined the arms.


"I take it you know the corpse?" Tony said.

Michael shook his head, rising. "No, I don't know this one, but I know that he was sent to find me."
He pointed to the tattoo on the dead man's arm - a snake devouring its own tail. "The Ouroboros, 'tail devourer'. An ancient symbol of eternity. The people who hunt me worship it. I don't know why, but they want to kill me."

Tony looked troubled, but he shook his head and all he said was, "very strange indeed."

"Strange? I suppose it is."
He had never really given it much thought. He assumed they were afraid of him, afraid of what he could do, but perhaps it was something more than that. Perhaps...

It could have been many things. He would find out, of that he was certain, but for now he needed to master his strange powers. If they were trying to kill him, he wanted to be able to defend himself.

"What shall we do with the body, then?" Tony asked quietly.

Michael seized the power, filling himself to the brim. He wove threads of Fire, unrestrained and volatile. "Burn it."
"She saw a flaring halo around his head, radiant in gold and blue. It shouted of glory and power to come"
"No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."
A few days after"A Window to the Past"

The Custody of Defence was in a frenzy as the Ascendancy had flown to the US. Michael wasn't concerned. The man hadn't become ruler over half of the world by being a fool. He could handle himself.

They wanted to double security in the Kremlin and inner Moscow - they actually asked him to draw up plans for a couple of battalions stationed along the river!

It was pointless, but they didn't seem to understand. The Ascendancy was the CCD, not Moscow, not the Kremlin. He would be the target. If the enemy of the CCD weren't total incompetents they would strike at the man, and him alone.

If they attacked a city full of innocents, the Ascendancy would rouse the people's fury and would be fully justified in unleashing the might of the CCD. If they killed him, on the other hand, the snake would be left headless, to thrash about until it finally died.

Of course, even if they did kill Nikolai Brandon the CCD would likely survive long enough to take it's revenge. Nobody with sufficient power was fool enough to risk it, and the US would never allow him to die on their soil.

Both Moscow and the Ascendancy were the safest they had been in years; but the river would be secure nonetheless.

He repressed a sigh as he opened the door to his home, the scent of the river lingering in the air.

The first thing that alerted him to something strange was that Tony did not have a bottle of vodka in his hand.

He looked miserable - well, he always looked miserable, but more than usual.

"Tony? Was there another attack?"
Michael seized the power, ready to kill.

Tony looked up, his eyes bloodshot, "Ah, Michael..."

He was distressed, he started speaking in Russian.

Michael said in a dangerously quiet voice. Tony complied immediately. "What's wrong? In English, please, or I won't be able to help."

Tony regained some of his composure. "Thank you, Michael. It is terrible...Katalina has gone missing! They say she was kidnapped by a group of men in the middle of the night!"

the name sounded familiar, but he couldn't place it.

"In the Undercity... my niece. You didn't know her, my brother and his wife died before you came and Katalina was raised by her maternal grandparents."

"I'm sorry..."
he could not think of anything to say.

Tony gave him a sharp-eyed look that made Michael wary, it was not the look of a distraught man.

"I have something to ask of you." Ah. "There are...stories...going around the Undercity. You must have heard them. Men who eat the flesh of others, who lurk in the depths. Raping or killing - or both."

Michael held up a hand. "I don't care about rumours. Tell me what you want me to do, I would help your family as if they were my own."

"Don't be so rash, boy. I am not trying to scare you. I am warning you. If you can find Katalina, I will be in your debt."

"Of course I will do the best I can, but what about you? Why haven't you been looking?"
Michael asked.

Tony seemed embarrassed. "I...can't. The wound, it hasn't healed. I- I can barely walk 100 meters without a rest. I would be of no use."

"I see -"

"Don't do anything stupid, Michael." Tony had anticipated his reaction.

Michael didn't plan on doing anything stupid, but he would find the bastards who did this, and they would pay. Dearly.

Continues in The Hunt

Edited by Michael Vellas, Aug 11 2013, 07:16 PM.
"She saw a flaring halo around his head, radiant in gold and blue. It shouted of glory and power to come"
"No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."
Tony desperately wanted to drown in a sea of alcoholic oblivion, but he retained enough of his old dignity for the last of his kin.

He snatched at the power that shone like a raging river, ever present, haunting his every waking moment.

It eluded his grasp as his eyes blurred and his stomach heaved, but it would pass in time. It had to pass, it was the only thing he had left. That, and the fool of a boy that had strode out of the house, filled to the brim with his own power.

It chilled him every time he thought of the lad's sheer volatility. The way he thought to use his power - unconsciously, Tony was sure - was madness, but perhaps he could be saved. Perhaps.

Tony groaned as he shifted himself on the couch, his chest a flare of pain. He had made sure to check for infection and burn it away before it could take hold, but the inability to heal himself was taking its toll - and he wouldn't trust Michael to heal a bruise.

He was tired, but he would endure a little longer. He could not remember much and tried to forget the things he could but he would not let it be for nothing. He still had a little more he could give.

He was not sure how long it would take for him to recover, it took a little longer each time he eluded death, but for once in the longest time he felt himself relax.

The boy HAD given him something back, even if he was a horrible student. He was Tony's student.

Aware that he was rambling inside his own head, he let himself doze off, a small smile on his face despite the pain.


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