Jeffery laughed awkwardly and mildly annoyed, "It isn't something you get used to. Do you think you can get used to being dunked directly into the timestream? No shielding, it screws with your mind. It REALLY screws with your mind." He gave a lopsided grin.
The mood in the infirmary was, if anything, relaxed now that Jefferey was done punching the wall out of frustration at his lack of ability to put his words together so the others could understand him.
A few glances would have registered the two quiet, hooded forms but no one could retain the knowledge of their existence. They walked down the line of beds, arms cross at their front in their sleeves. They chittered to one another, making little hisses and clicks as they spoke to one another. Hadrian, his wolf senses tingling a little, caught their scent. A mix of frankincense and mold. The creatures froze, slowly Hadrian turned to look in direction of the unfamiliar smell. The creatures took a step back and turned towards the morgue where the body of their companion was kept, they must burn the corpse in order to ensure the security of their species. If a human was to retain knowledge of the weaknesses of the Quiet Ones, they would be compromised. But a nurse entered and nearly blundered into them, forcing them to shroud themselves in a chameleon spell. Blending into the background. They hissed and clicked in nervousness, praying to their dark master not to be spotted.
Hadrian bared his teeth and let out a feral growl. "That smell... It's the same smell of that thing that attacked us..."
He followed the scent into morgue, where the smell was practically stinging his nose, as well as nearly bumping into the nurse. "Ma'am, I suggest that you vacate the morgue immediately," He licked his lips. "Unless, of course, you enjoy watching magical creatures having their guts ripped out and fed to them." The nurse, who absolutely did not enjoy such things, complied, fleeing the room as fast as her little legs could take her.
"I can see you," he snarled at the corner of the morgue.
His eyes changed into a bright crimson. He raised an arm, from which black and red tendrils of energy shot out, all of them converging into that one spot.
"Mne do lámpochki chto ty...tvóyo mt'..." Pyotr shook his head, realizing that he was speaking in Russian. "I do not care what it is you are drivelling about, but could you please keep it down?" He swung his feet over the edge of the bed and prepared to stand up. "I need a drink..."
The tendrils didn't make contact with anything, however. The Quiet Ones have dropped their chameleon spell and were already booking it for the door.
"Oh no you DON'T!" Hadrian dashed forward with inhuman speed, and blocked the doorway. His transformation was instant, having turned into a hulking, black, shaggy-haired werewolf. "You two aren't going anywhere!" He roared.
Lurker followed Hadrian into the morgue. Many people would feel uncomfortable around diseased corpses, but Lurker was a necromancer and the Dead were his bread and butter (apart from the eating) and he wasn't worried about that.
What he was woried about was the cloaked figures fighting the now wolf form Hadrian. He brang a few dead back as puppets to grapple with the cloaked figures while he began to pull the life from them, a delicate procedure that he doubted would work, but would at least do until he could think of something better.
Hadrian leapt forward, claws outstretched and ready to tear apart the two invaders. However, the invaders managed to loosen themselves from the floating corpses' grips and retreated back into the morgue. The both of them had drawn jagged swords beneath their cloaks, and hands crackling with magical energy. They let out menacing hisses as they began blasting bolts of fire and ice at Hadrian and Lurker.
Lurker felt a large long metal object rest against his shoulder, and it didn't take a genius to figure out what it was. Jeffery's thought pattern was normally not very coherent was very, VERY evident, especially considering Jeffery's usual tactics of firing the shotgun one handed, and this situation would require vaguely more precision than standard. In short, Lurker's shoulder would be serving as a firing rest for a little while. Jeffery gave a maniacal grin. KRAK! GA-CHUNK! KRAK! GA-CHUNK!
The first shot managed to hit one squarely in the chest, however it was merely stunned and it still stood on its feet. The other avoided the blow and fired off another volley of fire and ice. Hadrian ducked below them, and charged, knocking the stunned one to the floor and knocking the other into the shelving. He tore into the Quiet One, ripping off limbs and biting into it's chest, all while pale yellow blood spurted out staining his fur and spilling all over the floor.
The remaining Quiet One chanted something indecipherable, and some of the shadows in the room gathered in front of him, forming a spinning lance-like projectile, which shot forward and buried itself in Hadrian's shoulder. He let out a roar of pain and leapt away from the body of the interloper's fallen comrade.
Kin sighed and sat down, the world around him changing to reflect inner thoughts and the events of which he spoke.
"Even we dont know where we came from. That much is lost to the obscurity. However, some have speculated that we find our roots in Biblical stories. The book of Judges, Chapters 6 and 7. Gideon was rumored to have taken the 300 men he led to victory against the Medianites as his personal army. They were gifted as warriors from that day on because of their faithfulness. So they branded themselves, to never forget their sworn oaths to protect that which is good. Without explanation, the marks began to appear on others, who then proved themselves to be as capable as the 300. They joined in, and the numbers began to swell up. But that's where the story gets fuzzy. Afterwards, no records of them exists except for a journal found in India in 1204. It belonged to a spice trader on his way to Mecca who reported meeting warriors on their way to what was known then as Germania. They were unusually gifted, and the man felt terrified to even see them from a distance. They bore the mark as well."
"The actual organization of the group was in, according to our records, 834 AD. This roughly corresponds with the dates given in the journal. The Rhyle lived in secret, always have. But our implications have been far reaching. William The Conqueror, credited with unifying Britain into a single entity, was trained by us. Both King Richard and Saladin have records of men on their sides refusing to fight the others. And would you like to take a guess at which U.S. Presidents refuse to take any pictures with sleeves rolled up past the fore arm? Ill give you a hint; it starts with an "R" and rhymes with "nose and felt"
Silas shook his head in a mix of admiration, disbelief and shock.
"Incredible, you have been working the system for years..."
Kin grinned. "Do you think the Christian armies, outnumbered two to one, really took Istanbul on their own?"
"But what about the actual inter-workings? How does one become Rhyle?"
"The twenty dollar question indeed."
Kin stood up and began pacing.
"When a mark appears on an individual, both sides are alerted to it. It often becomes a race against time to find them first. We may only know vague locations at first. We have to narrow it down quick, because a fresh mark can be an easy target for the enemy. They would love a chance to bump one of us off early and easy.
After we actually get him in, he is moved to a secure location not even you would be allowed to know. We call it "Epsilon". Think of it like our 'home base' if you will. It means everything to us. Loosing it is unacceptable. And only two non-Rhyle in the history of.... anything.... ever.... have ever been in it. One was the prime minister, and the other a pregnant woman on her passing way who went into labor. We werent going to leave her out in the cold to deliver her child.
There, the new Rhyle is trained for years. Usually two or three. Their abilities are brought out, nurtured and perfected in an ongoing process. They learn to hunt, kill, survive, resist torture, situational awareness, infiltration, espionage etc... the whole nine yards. And it isnt easy training. We breed hard men and women for a hard life. Its considered dull any day without a bloody nose, broken arm, seizure, or vomiting.
At the end they must make the pilgrimage. They are given a year to find two men, the architect, and the engineer. The engineer is the easy one. Its the architect that is tricky. The must find the architect, a blind man who has always been there, even if not the same man as the one in the previous century. As with many things in the Rhyle, fate works its ways, and there has always been an architect and an engineer since as far back as we know. The journey to find these men is long and hard, and tests the Rhyle as they must go alone.
The architect is a blind man, he lives with only one other, his assistant. Together, the assistant writes down everything the Architect says, and the Architect ply's the Rhyle with questions. Everything is taken into account. His occupation, his family, his beliefs, his hobbies, his accomplishments. I have never had a more thorough screening in my life than with that man, it took days and days of questions and discussion. At moments, the architect would pause and begin to speak to the assistant. The language is strangely cryptic, and though it is plain english, only the architect, the assistant, and the engineer know its true meaning.
From there the Rhyle is given scrolls, many of them, in a sturdy wooden cylindrical container. Now the young Rhyle must find the engineer. This man, this blacksmith uses some unique fire, and his forge is unlike anything known to the outside world. He will spend two to three months deciphering the cryptic scrolls, and crafting from their words, a set of armor unique and perfect for that Rhyle. It will be unlike anything else made ever again. Though they all follow similar aesthetic to a degree (you have no doubt noticed the pattern of white steel and gold and yellow trim) they are all wholesomely unique. During these months, the Rhyle must spend his days in silence, contemplating the fire and the forge and the stroke of the hammer and living outside in the cold bitter wilderness at night. When it is finished, the armor fits perfectly, and is light as a feather on him or her. However it may feel on another, it will never be quite as good on them. As suitable a replacement Rueben might be, the suit will never serve him like it did me.
From then on, the Rhyle never wear the training armor he used to, the old set is sent back to the armory for a new trainee to dawn. He returns to Epsilon a true Rhyle, adorned with the robes of his office. You see, the armor is something special to Rhyle, it becomes a part of them." He held up a copy of his mask, the one he currently inhabited. "This was part of the armor, it took me a while to truly understand everything the architect and engineer wanted me to know. No eye holes, no mouth slot for breath, nothing. I realized quickly that i had to project my Imperiomancy through it to use it, and that has become a great advantage to me, giving me eyes in the back of my head and other such useful applications.... but there is still more... much more hidden underneath practical application....."
In Kins mind, a copy of his armor appeared. Upon closer inspection, Silas found that the shape, weight, type etc were not the only things making it unique. Looking closely enough, writing could be found. Many languages, from English, French and Arabic and Japanese to deep speech, demonic languages, ancient tongues, dead languages, all in text no bigger than a marble. Symbols and murals also began to show them selves in small text.
"The marks and writing appear over time with the life of the Rhyle. Some of it makes perfect sense, but some of it is but more mystery."
He sighed, reminiscing for a moment.
"We may not know everything, but we know we have purpose. That is all that really matters...."
Silas nodded and said "Now let me regale you with a tale of my own. It reaches into the shadows of time, from whence all things come."
Silas did not show images, like Kin had done, but his words painted images nonetheless as Kin imagined it.
"Long ago; there were Priests and Knights who followed the teaching of the Light. They were taught by Archemorus Somataaw, the first Archon and leader of the Light's church. On Arath they protected order in the kingdoms and meted out the law of the Light. But when the Destroyer woke up and was filled with wrath, they did their solemn duty to defend their people. So many died, others fled their posts and were shamed. When the people of Arath were led through the great darkness, when they stood around their first fire on Thassaria, six stone were spat from the fire. Warm and glowing they bore marks, each one given a name. Glissa the Keeper, Ravnica the Taker, Malachi the Destroyer, Zjar'q the Protector, Sareleous the Beginner and Moloch the Ender. They became the Prime Six, the most powerful servants of the Light. They are the six prime Angels; Glissa is the Keeper of the Keys to paradise, Ravnica is the Taker of Souls, Malachi is the Destroyer of the Wicked, Zjar'q is the Protector of the Weak, Sareleous is the Light of Dawn, Moloch is the Light of the Moon and the Stars. You may know them by other names, of course...but that does not matter. When Thassaria was threatened by darkness these Six mortals with their spirits one with the greatest Angels fought the Destroyer and, in their battle, destroyed Thassaria but also defeated the Destroyer. For he who carried Moloch's stone invoked his power and ended Thassaria. The stones, their masters defeated, were cast to Earth with the Humans who escaped destruction. They hated the Light for not protecting them and they shattered the stones and broke the old ways. But after thousands of years the legends of the stones remained and marks of the divine are not easily destroyed. Manifesting again as these blazing marks I now see, the six spread their power and something incredible happened. A Human was born with Angelic blood...you name him Gideon. He ushered in something never before seen, an organization like the Knights of old who guarded the good path and fought evil at every turn."
As Silas began to fade away, he said "Nicolaus, the reason you lived is because you are half-Angel. You were born with the pure soul of an Angel and you became like an Illrian, bound to another silent power who would live inside you. Your Angelic half never showed itself, but it was there. If you search within yourself, you will find it again. I now know the connection between the past and the present. I go to seek your people, Kin. I will speak to you again when I have found them...farewell."
Kin was speechless as Silas faded. "Remember that you are more than just a man, Nicolaus Kin. Remember who you once were..." said Silas as he faded.
The lance was still drilling into his shoulder. Hadrian growled in pain as he tore it out, preventing any further damage. The Quiet One advanced closer to him, brandishing it's sword. Hadrian knocked the sword out of his grip and jammed the still-spinning lance into the creature's skull. The Quiet One clutched at the lance in a vain attempt to remove it, but eventually, it fell on it's back, dead and the lance faded away in wisps of black smoke.
Hadrian clutched at it's wound and whimpered, resisting the urge to scratch. The wound was already healing, with bones reconnecting and flesh beginning to knit back together.
Bastian was asleep and dreaming about flying on the back of a giant owl over the tall mountains before he was awoken by the hulk of black fur that was Hadrian. He'd seen Lycanthropes before, one of his closest friends in the Guardians was a Werebear, but this was odd. Bastian asked, tired "Whats wrong?" as Hadrian's form reverted to human shape, his clothes partly sundered.
Bastian was tired for no reason, and he struggled to stay awake.
"Quiet Ones have infiltrated the ship." Hadrian answered, still speaking in a beastly voice. He cleared his throat and spoke again, this time, sounding like his usual self. "The Quiet Ones managed to get in the morgue, but I incapacitated them.," He flexed a hand. "Permanently."
Hadrian shuddered, and wiped at his mouth, the taste of blood still fresh on his tongue. "And they tasted terrible."
Jeffery eyed Hadrian curiously, "Hey... Hadrian? Do you think you can soak a grenade in wolf form?" He raised an eyebrow questioningly, like it was the most innocent thing in the world. However his intent was clear, he was curious about whether or not he could throw grenades into rooms when he was in there. Considering it was Jeffery, however whether he really would listen is a big question.
"My wolf form can take a lot of punishment, so it's probable," Hadrian said as he scratched at the now completely healed wound. "If you must do that, don't throw it so close to me. It would hurt as much for a regular person as it would for me. Only difference is that I would survive."
Bastian fought sleep as the airship blew two, strong whistles. The tinny noise of the loudpseakers brought Bastian's attention to the here and now again. "We are crossing the Mediterranean Sea now...we will touch down in Cairo tomorrow morning." said the Captain, his voice happy. Bastian felt as though his whole body had been pushed to the limit and, in a sense, it was.
Within his sanctum, hundreds of miles away now and on the other side of the Monolith, Silas Grey was preparing to leave his home. I am the Illrian Shadow, I toe the line between humanity and the Light, He thought and he was right, but things were becoming different. Will I bear dragon scales and become Daggerspell next? Will my eyes go silver and turn me into a member of the Gray Order? he thought, his mind racing. Malachi's voice was there, but it was weak "Silas, there is not much time..." and he steeled himself, collecting his blade, his favored walking cane, a small pack and descended his tower. The candles still flickered, as if waving him back.
Outside he mounted his steed, Revelation. He was a white stallion with golden eyes, tamed in Spain and brought to him as a gift from an old, old Fae friend. He seemed to fade as he rode away, appearing on Earth and riding suddenly towards the barrier which neatly lifted around him. He rode for the Rhyle and with all speed.
The Temple of the Red Moon
The airship hung low in the mid-morning sky, coming down to dock on the high sandstone tower where two other airships were docked. Ropes cinching them to the tower itself while dockworkers swarmed over them, top to tail. Cleaning, inspecting and repairing the airships, preparing them for journeys elsewhere. The Wind and Sail IV docked gently, ropes thrown to waiting dockmen who tied them off and hauled the hulk of metal and canvas closer so it would not knock against the sides of the dock itself. The Guardians within disembarked, walking through the throng of folk down the long spiraling sandstone staircase and out into the dusty streets below.
Bastian had his coat over his shoulder, tinted glasses to block the sun on his face. The streets were full of people hurrying to the morning market, Bastian took a deep breath.
Where is the one who assigned to meet us? Bastian wondered.
Harper had been sitting in the Cafe for quite some time, watching the masterful way in which the airship was brought into the dock. EVentually he rose, paid and left: setting off towards the exit of the docking area. After a few seconds he reached an alcove just next to the exits, Shortly afterwards, the party of Guardians arrived at street level. Joseph stepped out, moving quickly betwene two of them to get to Bastian:
"Hello, looking for me?"
Bastian waved but the suddenness of Joseph's approach seemed to scare Jeffrey who brought his shotgun up and pointed it at Joseph. Bastian grabbed the muzzle of the gun and pointed it down and, in the heat of the moment, it seemed Jeffrey was spooked by Bastian grabbing his gun and pulled the trigger, promptly blasting Bastian in the right foot.
Bastian stood there, gritting his teeth, a tear running down his face. Jeffrey stared at what he had done, confused. Bastian would not scream, or he tried not to. The strain showed on his face.
"Jeff, you've got ten seconds to wind time back and un-shoot my foot before I shoot one of yours." said Bastian through gritted teeth.
Hadrian, who was now wearing a brigandine cuirass underneath his jacket, a pair of steel pauldrons and leather vambraces, wasn't startled by Harper's appearance, having noticed him before the others did. He snickered at Bastian's plight, acting as if he merely slipped and fell on his bottom.
"You know, you could've just aimed it to the air. Would've spared your foot from getting riddled with holes."
Harper just stood there, with a stunned expression, before beginning to smile.
"Are you serious, I'm definately not going in front of him when we start fighting! Having that madde ready in the middle of a public place; And yes, you should've pointed it up."
"Don't mock me..." said Bastian, going red in the face.
Some thin threads of orange energy wound out and hung over his foot, inching into the wounds and plucking the pieces of buckshot out of his foot and letting them tinkle into the sand.
"That's a little better...and Bastian attempted to move but immediately fell over when he tried to put weight on his foot.
"I'll concede to going to a medic if one of you helps me walk..."
"I'm not mocking you, I'm just giving some constructive critiscism as to how you can remain mobile without needing a wheel-chair." Harper stopepd gigling and stepped forwards, offering Bastian a hand up.
Bastian stood up and they started to hobble towards what Bastian hoped was a medical center, as Harper was leading them.
"Had a good time in Egypt?" asked Bastian as they walked.
Once Pyotr heard the shotgun discharge and saw Bastian's shot foot, he only grumbled in disapproval something in Russian as he lowered his face into his palm and shook his head in disbelief. He raised his head again and gave Jeffery a look of disdain before raising the bottle of vodka that was in his other hand and taking a rather large gulp. "Do not be such a baby," Pyotr said as he looked to Bastian. He walked up to him and observed the wounded foot for a moment. "You do not need a doctor for something as minor as this. At least not if the madman with a shotgun decided to go against using tainted buckshot."
Harper grunted, "Okay ish. The tea here's horrible and the heat is horrendous, but you get used to the latter after a while. The former's inexcusable."
Bastian nodded, "Have you done any research about this temple we're going to? Do you know who where it is or how to get there?"
Jeffery, moody from being startled gave Pyotr the finger, and repumped his shotgun "Why would I need tainted buckshot. If I'm gonna kill someone I'm gonna use fricken grenades!" He pulled open a side of the first trench coat revealing around a dozen or so grenades.
In the shadows, they waited. There were three of them. Necromancers sworn to the service of the Temple of the Red Moon, the most sacred reliquary of all. Deep within lay relics of dark magic guarded for millenia, and their most sacred holy relic of all. Astarael, the Death Bell. The final toll that calls the spirit to Ou'Rus. If these foreigners were to brave its sanctums they would need their guidance but not yet. For now, they only watched and waited for the proper time to reveal themselves.
Harper sighed: "Ah, well, I know roughly where it si, like-wise for the journey. It wont be easy though - it is unbelievably hard to get anyone to give you information withouta a bribe, and my official allowance only went so far. My personal money for the trip is practicaly gone too..."