Remnants of Gods [Book 1 of the Remnants Trilogy]

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Chapter 4

Her feet buckled, giving him only a moment to catch her before she dropped to the floor. He lifted her in his arms, muffling a moan when a sharp pain pierced his abdomen where the wound used to be.

When he woke up that morning, he was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. He didn’t even dare to dream that he would run into somebody who could heal him to that extent. He had hoped she’d be able to stop the bleeding, maybe put some bandages to keep him alive through the night, and then he’d find somebody he trusted to patch him up. But to wake up and find barely any trace of the wound — that really was quite something.

William propped his knee on the bed, laying her down gently. There was barely any color left on her face, but her breathing was even and he could sense a strong pulse. His hands still tingled from transferring his energy, but he didn’t regret it. With potential like hers, she might turn into a precious asset, especially in the days to come.

He sat next to her in the bed, studying her relaxed face as if something in those delicate features would tell him what to do with her. He couldn’t let her tell anybody about what had happened, but bringing her in on the plan was way too risky at this stage.

Getting up from the bed, he glanced at the food scattered on the floor. He motioned with his fingers and the remains of the omelet rose in a swirl from the floor, flying into the trash bin by the door.

He glanced at the sleeping girl again.

Why did he even ask for her? He knew she would get sick after draining her energy and probably die if she couldn’t cope with it, but so what? He had let many others die. He was about to let even more give their lives up. Her life was nothing in comparison with the success of his mission. And even though it was just for a short while, because of her, he was now vulnerable in this weakened state.

And yet he saved her.

William turned around and headed towards the door. There was nobody in the corridor, but when he passed one of the rooms on his way, he heard a series of muffled moans. Be it out of pleasure or pain, he cared little so long as they didn’t disturb his guest’s rest.

He moved forward, passing by a few Order members and a lot of unfamiliar faces. He had been so busy with plans and missions outside the Compound that he barely knew anyone here. They, on the other side, gave him curious glances and then quickly, as if realizing who he was, either moved out of his way or started whispering to each other.

He didn’t quite get what the whole fuss was about — Damien was the face of the Order, their so-called leader, although William doubted most of the people, even the ones directly under him, knew what was going on in his head. Blindly following a man was a human flaw, or at least it should have been.

Damien was strong and charismatic, but his methods were foolish, ineffective, and extremely violent. There was no reason behind most of his actions, no regard for the consequences, and no planning in advance, especially as of late.

He was wild, inspiring, and daring, but he was bound to fail.

His feet finally brought William to his destination, and he stepped into the small, stuffy room without knocking, taking in the sight of Marcus and the pair of tall, lanky boys that were fussing in front of one of the walls. As if sensing his presence, all three looked at him.

William took in the whole mess — from the piles of papers and books scattered on the desk to the walls, randomly covered with posters, timetables, and memos. He stopped himself from laughing at the complete chaos Marcus always tended to surround himself with, then turned towards the boys. Both looked in their early twenties, just like the girl in his room, but with their mouths gaping and their eyes goggling, they could pass for ten-year-olds and nobody would question it.

“Leave,” he ordered, and they immediately scurried out of the room. William looked back at Marcus. “So they’ve turned you into a secretary.” He laughed and the other man grimaced. “This place is obviously falling apart.”

“Don’t get me started,” Marcus sighed. “After that incident two years ago, I’ve been exiled to this craphole, dealing with stupid kids that would do anything to become members of something they are already part of. Go figure!” William nodded, suppressing his smile. Marcus’s bulky figure looked ridiculously bent behind the desk, and the glasses he had tilted on the edge of his nose made him look like a clerk. It didn’t suit him at all. “What’s new?”

William paused in front of the wall where the list of current recruits hung — some of them were highlighted in colors, others were scratched so viciously he couldn’t read the names. His eyes skimmed through them while he took his time.

“Things are going to change pretty soon. A lot is about to happen, maybe you will even get the chance to leave this desk of yours,” William finally said, glancing at him before stepping towards the window. It was raining again, thick dark gray clouds covering the sun and throwing a depressing shadow over the surrounding forest.

“Well, I sure hope so,” Marcus murmured. “So, what can I do for you, Will? It’s not every day that you come to the Compound and almost never that you come down here.” William turned, only to find Marcus frowning at him. His friend rose from his chair, leaning on his desk and crossing his arms, which made him look even larger. Intimidating, some may say, but not William. Marcus had been one of the few who he could call friends, and besides, he was a more-barking-less-biting kind of guy. He hated violence unless it was absolutely necessary.

“I need a favor,” William said, turning to face his friend. “One that must stay between us.”

“When have you ever asked for any other kinds of favors?” Marcus scoffed, shaking his head. “I knew trouble was coming the moment I saw you walking through that door. I wonder how come Damien has not assigned people tailing you. He hates that he can’t predict your moves.”

“He did send a few men to tail me,” William smiled, “despite my polite suggestion to stop. Now he can’t seem to find them. I wonder what happened to them.”

Marcus burst out laughing, slapping his desk in exasperation. It took him a minute to compose himself and when he did, he took his seat in the chair, leaning on its hind legs.

“So, what can I do for you?”

“I need everything you can find me on Annabel Parker,” William replied casually, but even though he wasn’t looking at his friend, he could feel Marcus’s gaze burning a hole through him.

“Annabel Parker? You mean the girl that I sent to you today?” Marcus asked. “What was that about? Ever since I know you, you’ve never needed anyone snooping around, let alone a girl who you know nothing about. I thought it was weird when I received your note, but hey, you may have been starved for some pretty company.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Alright,” Marcus shrugged, although the burning curiosity that was gleaming in his eyes didn’t quite disappear. “I’ll see what I can do. When do you want it?”

“Today,” William replied, glancing at the door.

Marcus nodded just as the door to his office burst open and a young, dark-skinned man stepped in with a huge smile. A blonde girl followed him, her eyes wide with disbelief. Their conversation died away the moment they noticed William. The girl let out a low, surprised squeak while the man stepped closer without hesitation, extending a hand.

“You’re William Larson. My name is Jordan Morganson. It is a pleasure to finally meet you!”

William gave him a blank stare before turning to Marcus and sending him a meaningful look. Then, without any more delay, he stepped past Jordan and left the office, distantly hearing his name being mentioned.

It didn’t take him long to get back to his room. He was so lost in thought that if it wasn’t the last room in the wing, he might have walked right past it. He turned the handle, still not paying full attention to what he was doing, when the door slammed into something with a thud loud enough to pull him back into the present.

He stuck his head inside, looking around until his eyes fell on the girl who was lying on the floor and rubbing her forehead with a sour expression. The color had returned to her face and the dull look in her eyes was now replaced with a sharpness that cut through him as he stepped into the room and closed the door.

“Were you just trying to leave?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No, I was checking how hard the damn door was!” she retorted. “Of course, I was trying to leave! Why did you put a ward to keep me here?”

She staggered to her feet, putting some distance between them. The small red spot where the door had hit her stood in stark contrast with her fair skin.

“I didn’t expect you to wake up so soon,” Willian replied, looking her over. She should have been out for hours if not the entire day, so to see her already up and about was baffling. How strong was this girl exactly? “You were unconscious. The ward was to keep people out, not to stop you from leaving.”

“Oh,” she mumbled. She tried to keep her scowl in place, but little by little her anger seemed to settle. She didn’t seem as scared as before, either. “What did you do to me?”

“Sit down. You should conserve your strength.”

“I feel fine.”

“You were drained,” Willian said, moving past her and towards one of the couches. He didn’t want to show it in front of her, but he felt weak after transferring so much of his energy. “Don’t you know what happens when you overexert your energy?”

“I know you can die,” she said hesitantly. “But I’ve never actually done it, so…”

“Every Ascendant has a set maximum capacity from birth, which can be cultivated with time and hard work. The energy that your powers use is not the same as your life energy, but they can serve as substitutes for each other on rare occasions. Once you use up your maximum capacity, and especially if you do it fast, your body starts feeding on its own life energy. If you do nothing and your body consumes all of your life energy…”

“...you die,” she finished with a mortified expression.

“That’s rightm” William nodded.

“So, what did you do to me?”

“I gave you some of my own energy until yours replenishes.” Her eyes widened in surprise after she failed to control her expression. It was refreshing how bad she was at hiding her thoughts. It had been a while since he could read somebody so easily.

“Well, thank you for that,” she mumbled at the end. “Although it’s only fair since I saved your life first.”

William fought a smile.

“Are you sure you don’t want to sit? You look like you may fall down again,” he asked, but she stubbornly shook her head even though he could see her shifting her weight from one leg to another. The occasional shaking of her knees and the paleness of her face suggested she was trying really hard to keep up her stoic stance. “As you wish.”

“So what now?” she asked, crossing her arms.

“Now nothing. We’re even.”

“Even?”

“You saved my life, I saved yours. I would say that makes us even.”

“Aren’t you afraid I will tell somebody… about what happened last night? You obviously don’t want people to know or you wouldn’t have gone through all the trouble of cleaning it up.”

“If you wanted to, you would have done it already,” he said calmly. “Now you should go back to your room and have a good rest or all the trouble I went through for you would have been in vain. You have permission to skip afternoon training as well.”

“And that’s it?” she raised an eyebrow.

“I trust you know what is best for you. You want to become a member of this Order and I’m your ticket in. Play your cards right and…”

“I will not be your pawn in whatever game you’re playing, and I most definitely will not be sleeping with you, if that’s what you’re insinuating!” she said through her teeth, her defensive stance suggesting she was ready to put up a fight behind those words. William blinked in surprise, covering his mouth to stop himself from laughing. Her glare suggested she found nothing funny about it.

“My god! To think that would be the first thing that comes to your mind...” he said, scratching his temple. He licked his lips, trying to find the right words. This was so ridiculous that it was indeed funny. “Rest assured, that thought didn’t even cross my mind,” he said, trying even harder not to laugh while the girl gave him a mistrustful glance. He sighed, rubbing his head tiredly. “You should go now.”

She kept on staring at him for a bit longer, then she headed towards the door at a swift pace. At the threshold, she gave him another look over her shoulder before disappearing into the corridor.

William leaned his head back onto the sofa, closing his eyes.

Everything was ready. He just needed a few more pieces to be moved. But could he use this girl as well? Her powers were strong, and she seemed bright enough, but what could be her role? Another sacrifice? Or another follower to fill the ranks? It was too early to tell.

One thing was for sure, though.

This fortress, the heart of the Order, it had to fall. And he was going to destroy it and everybody who stood in his path. The road they had chosen was a long and difficult one, filled with sacrifices and unforgivable deeds, but somebody had to take it.

And Damien Blackwell was not that person.

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