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Gabriel Elder book II of the Warlock Series

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Chapter 2: Forgiveness

Zeus was bewildered, shocked, and more than a little pleased. Even with all his experience, he had no idea how he had managed to stay in control after the transformation. Even more perplexing was how he could remember it at all!

He was back at the compound and he was lying on the front steps. He was in his human form once again. His pants were torn to shreds, otherwise he was naked. Zeus could feel the blood oozing down his chest. He had been shot four times by the mercenaries attacking Gabriel and Apollo. He had been in his shifter form and that alone had saved him, temporarily. Even as he lay there he knew there was little chance of his surviving his wounds.

Only the fact his internal organs were in different places while he was a shifter had kept him alive this along. He had lost a lot of blood and there appeared to be no way of stopping the bleeding. He was so tired he couldn’t keep his eyes open. He could smile though. Pierre would have been proud of him. So, would his wife and even his precious daughter, Stazia. Despite his dislike for the wolf, he had saved Apollo, and had helped to protect Gabriel from the attackers.

He was trying to figure out how he had managed it when he felt a pair of powerful arms picking him up. Whoever, or whatever it was, it was huge. It handled him as easy as if he had been a newborn. It was at that moment Zeus lost consciousness. He was sure he would never wake again, at least not on this plane of existence. He had his own personal views on the soul and what happened after life ceased in this dimension.

The next thing he knew, he was awake. Where ever he was, it was dark. The only light was a tiny red glow on the opposite side of the room. At least he thought it was a room. He was laying on something as firm as a rock and he was several feet off the floor. Other than the red glow, he could make out nothing more. He was just about to call out when he heard a familiar voice.

“I am here old friend. I’m sorry it took me so long to get to you, I was…delayed,” Oz said carefully.

Oz! His old friend had somehow managed to survive the blow Gabriel had inflicted on him. Or had he? Which side of the void was Zeus on? Had he passed over as well?

“No Zeus, you are not dead and neither is Oz. I was shocked by the amount of power in the young warlock’s blow and I needed time to try to understand it and to heal. It has been a very long time since I have encountered anything that could make me feel physical pain,” Oz explained.

“But where have you been? Where are we?” Zeus stammered, trying to take it all in.

The last time he had seen the tiny man, he had been hanging lifelessly in the air, deeply embedded in one of the mansion’s titanium window plates. Then he was gone, vanished completely. Now, here he was, acting like everything was fine.

The master warlock took a deep breath. It caused him a great deal of pain.

“You have lost a lot of blood and your lung has been punctured and collapsed. Any deep breathing or movement might well be the end of you. Lay still and breath shallow, the longer we can keep the bleeding stopped, the better chance you have of surviving. As I’m sure you already know, you have no right to be alive,” Oz cautioned.

“I have no ‘right’ to be alive anyway. I failed my wife, my daughter and even Gabriel. I failed you too my old friend. So many failures, so many…one can’t expect to keep surviving such failures. Perhaps it is finally my time and we must both accept it,” Zeus said quietly.

Oz could tell there was a resolve in the old warlock. He was beyond tired and he was beyond caring anymore. He had endured heartache and misery for so long, he was longing for an end to it. Too bad for him though, Oz wasn’t ready to accept the end of the master warlock yet.

While he was recovering, Oz had a lot to think about. He had managed to start putting many of the puzzle pieces together and although he had no proof, he was sure the answers the master warlock needed were very close.

“What if I told you we may soon know who was responsible for the death of your wife and the infecting of Stazia? If I offered you a chance to get your hands on the person responsible for your pain, would you want to remain here a little bit longer?” Oz asked.

Zeus listened and he thought. At first, he wondered if the old man was just teasing him, toying with his emotions. As soon as the thought hit him, he knew he was wrong. Oz would never do anything so cruel. Slowly, the will to live began to creep back into the old warlock’s heart. He was ready and even more than willing to die, if he could do so after he slowly crushed the life out of the one responsible the loss of his wife and daughter.

He had to breath slow and steady and stay in control to keep from leaping off the table and hugging the ancient old man. He knew he was hurt badly and he still might not make it, but now he had a reason to live! Now he was going to make sure he survived. He felt the old man lift his head slightly and begin to pour a foul-tasting liquid down his throat. As soon as the medicine arrived at his stomach he was feeling the effects. He began to drift back into unconsciousness.

Oz had managed to save the master warlock, but not for long. He knew of no way to prevent Zeus from reacting to the call of the moon. He had managed to remove the bullets but they had done a lot of damage. Shifters could take a lot of damage, but they could still be killed by non-silver bullets if they were hit with enough of them. Especially when they were such a large caliber. These had been fifty caliber slugs and they had mushroomed after their initial entry, causing major internal damage. The shift had healed some of the organs and stopped some of the internal bleeding, but the external wounds were massive and not even the shift could close these.

If Zeus went through a shift this evening, it would kill him and there was nothing the ancient man knew to do about it. He had many strange and wonderful abilities, but stopping the moon from rising was beyond even his power. He tried to ignore the problem for now as there was nothing he could do about it anyway. When the time came, he would see to it the master warlock he had served for so many years was comfortable and pain free. He owed him at least that much.

Where was the boy and the wolf? Who had shot Zeus in his shifted state?

There was no indication he had been injured here at the compound so he must have gone somewhere else after he shifted. They were in Oz’s sleeping quarters and the old man knew Zeus would be out for several hours and he would be safe here. He decided to investigate further.

Oz went to the cell built into Zeus’s bedroom. When he got there, he was stunned. The door to Zeus’s cell was ripped off its frame and lying in the center of the room. The door had been specially constructed to withstand the force of three male shifters. Yet, here it was, destroyed! From the look of the inside of the door, a single blow had bent it almost in two and ripped the hinges from the frame.

OZ had been one of the few to have ever seen Zeus transform and he was far from an ordinary shifter. When in his shifted form, the master warlock was huge and even more powerful than you would expect of such a large werewolf. Somehow, the combination of his already immense strength, and the cocktail of steroids he had self-administered for years, had combined with the shifter virus to create one the most powerful creatures Oz had ever seen. The ancient man had always thought he might have to one day put the shifted Zeus down, but he had worked hard to keep that from happening.

No matter how powerful Zeus was, he was still no match for Oz. The ancient man was forced to follow a strict code of conduct and any infraction would lead to his immediate removal from this dimension. The others of his kind had indulged him in his many years of deception and his studies of the human and the shifter dilemma. They would never allow him to stay if he used his powers to kill another creature. It wouldn’t matter how many lives he saved in doing so, he would still be sanctioned.

Oz had already decided he could live with that. It would hurt him to leave all he had been a part of for so long, but his kind lived an enormously long time and he would easily outlive even the young Gabriel. Sooner or later, it would be time for him to fade away. He had decided years ago that he would not let the master warlock hurt any innocent humans in his shifted form. He loved the warlock too much to let him become the thing he had spent a lifetime fighting against.

Oz saw the message Zeus had been listening too when he shifted. He replayed it and recognized Pierre’s voice and understood the implications. Interesting, very interesting. Now, more than ever, he was sure he understood what had been going on and some of those responsible for it. It all fit together very neatly. Would Zeus believe him?

Oz went to the control room and checked the compounds automatic defenses. They were still on and yet, Zeus had managed to get around them, even though he was badly wounded. That shouldn’t have been possible. He would have to ask the old warlock how he did it. Oz could have done it, but he didn’t think anyone else could. It seemed there were still some surprises left in the master warlock after all.

Oz turned the defense system off, but kept the alarms on. He didn’t want Gabriel or Apollo getting attacked when or if they returned. Oz was worried about the young warlocks. So much had happened so fast and they were right in the middle of it. In fact, it seemed they were the reason for most of it happening. Oz wasn’t blaming the two of them, it was just a fact, everything seemed to have something to do with them.

Oz needed to figure out what Gabriel was. He had felt for some time that the young warlock was much more than a normal human. He knew the boy had the shifter virus within him, he sensed it when he first met him, but he also knew it was unlike any version of the virus he had ever encountered. Oz knew all too well Gabriel shouldn’t exist. No, there was something else going on inside the young warlock, but what was it?

Oz had lived countless centuries and had come to know every creature on the planet. He was even aware of the Scythians and their little clans spread around the globe. He always stayed far away from their kind. They had amassed way too much knowledge over the millennia and they might just be able to guess at what Oz really was. It was a revelation he would like to avoid as it too could cause him to be removed by the others of his kind. The secrecy of who, and what, his race was, could not be jeopardized for any reason.

Was it possible Gabriel was part Scythian? Were the shifters somehow related to the Scythians? That might be it. It was the only way Oz could have sensed Gabriel was a shifter, but not really a shifter. The realization did little to comfort the ancient one. How would the young warlock live out his life if he was destined to never be a part of anything?

He was part shifter and yet not a shifter. He was, or at least appeared to be, part human, but he would never fit in there either. If somehow, Gabriel was part Scythian, Oz felt certain no clan would ever believe or accept a being that was only part Scythian. What little Oz knew about the Scythians made him believe they were very intent on keeping their species pure. Outsiders were never allowed in their villages. Scythians who left the villages were given strict guidelines of how to behave. Punishment was severe for anyone who failed to do so.

Oz loved Gabriel and Apollo and he didn’t see anywhere the two of them could possibly fit in. Would they be doomed to loneliness? There was some measure of comfort in the fact they would always have each other. Unfortunately, the wolf would die of old age long before Gabriel. What would the warlock do then?

A little electric shock went up Oz’s back. Someone was in the compound.

Blip, Blip, Blip! Now the alarm was sounding.

The sound confirmed what Oz already knew; someone had entered the compound grounds. Oz wasn’t worried. If it was the mercenaries who had visited the compound when he was gone, they would be in for a rude awakening. Perhaps it was the ones who had shot Zeus, they may have trailed him here. In which case, he would be happy for a chance to get acquainted with them. He was restricted from killing anyone, but he wasn’t restricted from hurting those which meant him harm. And hurt them he would!

The front door was opening as Oz was rounding the corner. He stopped, anxious to see who was bold enough to come in without knocking. He was hoping to see Gabriel, but prepared for the worst. It was neither the young warlocks or intruders. Instead, he was looking at a very shocked and confused Dr. Connors.

The doctor just stared when he saw Oz. The sight of the little man should not have caused any kind of reaction from Dr. Connors, but it did. It definitely did. Why was the doctor so surprised to see Oz? Did he somehow know Oz had been away or did he believe the little man was no longer alive?

Oz found either possibility very intriguing. He was sure Zeus would never have told anyone if he thought the little man was dead, not without a body. This was not the first-time Oz had disappeared and returned later. No, if doctor Connors thought Oz was gone, he had gotten the information from some other source.

“Can I help you doctor?” Oz asked quietly.

“No…I mean, yes, yes you can Oz. I was looking for Zeus. He, uh, um, he called me to tell me he was hurt and needed medical treatment. I came as quickly as I could,” Dr. Connors stammered.

“That is very unusual indeed. Are you sure it was Zeus who contacted you? He just left not fifteen minutes ago, and he seemed to be in quite good shape. You say he phoned you? Was it from his cell or from the compound’s landline?” Oz asked.

“Um, it was, well, I’m not sure, I didn’t look to see where the call originated from. Are you sure he isn’t hurt?” Dr. Connors asked as he looked all around.

“Oh, I’m quite sure he is fine. He will not be needing your services today,” Oz responded, this time deepening his voice on the last sentence.

Dr. Connors was worried, he wasn’t sure how, but somehow, the little man knew or at least suspected. He needed to get out of the mansion as fast as possible. He didn’t know how the little man had survived the blow from Gabriel, but he obviously had.

Oz was sure the doctor was up to no good. He was also sure Zeus had not called anyone. How then, did the good doctor know Zeus was hurt and where to find him? The doctor also seemed quite surprised Oz was here, something which shouldn’t surprise anyone…unless someone already thought Oz was dead or gone. The only logical way the doctor could know Zeus was hurt and something had happened to Oz was if he had been here when it happened.

That wasn’t a possibility. Oz knew for certain the doctor was nowhere near the compound when Gabriel had struck him. Nor was he in the compound when Zeus returned. In either case, Oz would have sensed him. Oz, and the others of his kind, always knew when there were other living creatures around. Not one of his kind had ever been surprised by a human yet.

But if Dr. Connors knew about Zeus and the blow from Gabriel, and yet he hadn’t been here to witness it, then how had he…The computers! He had been using the compounds surveillance system to watch what was going on inside. It wasn’t supposed to be possible, but it was the only reasonable explanation. But how was he doing it?

Dr. Connors stood very still, watching the ancient little man for any sign he had figured it out, but the old man’s face never changed. He had never understood why Zeus kept the little man around. He didn’t seem to have an actual job; he was just always around. No matter, Dr. Connors just needed to make sure Oz didn’t mess everything up. He had worked too long and too hard to get where he was in his investigation.

“I’m sorry to have bothered you,” Dr. Connors said as he turned to leave.

“I haven’t dismissed you yet,” Oz started, “How did you manage to unlock the door, it is certainly not keyed to your DNA?”

“Dismissed me yet?” Dr. Connors seethed, “What makes you think you have the right to dismiss me, let alone ask me any questions? I answer only to the Warlock Council of Canada, not to the hired help.”

Without another word, Dr. Connors stormed out of the main hall and into the compound courtyard where a car was waiting for him. He was shaking. He wasn’t cut out to be a spy or an agent or even a hero. He was a thinker, not a doer. He took deep, steady breaths trying to calm himself. It had taken every bit of courage he had to get him this far, could he really see this through? Deep down in his soul, he knew he must. He owed them that much.

As the car pulled quickly away from the compound, he couldn’t help but feel this was far from the last time he’d be seeing Oz. He couldn’t worry about that now. He needed to think about what Oz had said. Why would the little man try to keep him from helping Zeus? He knew the master warlock was badly injured so why was Oz being so secretive about it?

He needed to get back to the lab to check the video footage again. He knew what he had seen and he wanted to know why the little man was lying. He saw Zeus laying on the front steps, bleeding profusely. Somehow, the body had disappeared. One second it was there on the screen, then suddenly it was gone. He also saw the little man knocked across the room and hanging lifelessly, embedded in the wall, and yet he was back and looking the same as always.

Where was the master warlock, or where was his body? Did the little man think if he hid the body, he could just keep on living in the compound and no one would care? Why else would he lie about all of it? None of this made any sense!

Dr. Connors wasn’t ready to explain why he was spying on the compound, but it was necessary. The good doctor had gotten used to doing some unsavory, even illegal things, to advance his investigation. He had become a master of computers, DNA, biology and medicine to find his answers. He wasn’t going to let anyone get in his way of finding out the truth.

The problem was, what would he do when he got the answers he’d spent a lifetime looking for? Could he be a stone-cold killer? An executioner? Dr. Connors looked out the window of the sedan as he was driving back to Vancouver. He was tired and needed rest. Hopefully things would be much clearer after a good meal and a good night’s rest. He hadn’t had either in several weeks.

Oz watched as the car quickly sped away from the compound. He would take care of the external cameras later, right now it was the interior cameras he was most concerned with. There were a series of cameras throughout the mansion. They were tied into the main defense systems. From the control room, you could see every hallway on every floor. You could also see all the feed from the external cameras located on the mansion and on the outer wall. It was the only way Dr. Connors could have seen what happened earlier and the return of Zeus, bloody and passed out on the front steps.

The system was supposed to be on a closed loop with no access to any outer networks at all. No one should be able to hack the system and see any of the images being captured by the compound’s cameras, but somehow, Dr. Connors had managed to do it. If he could do so, then so could others. Oz was going to make sure there would be no more images leaving the compound.

Moving at incredible speed, the little man ripped each one of the cameras out of the walls. They were small and discrete, but he knew where each one was and he didn’t have time to be neat. He drove his fingers straight into the walls and neatly plucked each camera out of its base. In a matter of minutes, he had a small pile of the tiny, very expensive cameras. He didn’t think Zeus would mind.

Oz never worried about being seen in his natural form. His kind emitted a natural radiation when they were in their true forms. They had discovered the radiation blocked all the modern recording device’s digital signals. There had been a few photos taken in the ‘old’ days by people who managed to spot one of his fellow visitors from afar, but they were always discounted as being hoaxes or some naturally occurring animal. Thankfully, the modern technology meant his kind had little to worry about pictures or recordings.

With the cameras out of action, Oz turned his attention to Zeus. He had to find a way to stop the master warlock from shifting. It was midday and in a few short hours the sun would go down and the moon would rise. In his current state, Zeus would die from the transformation. He had very little blood left, just enough to keep him alive, and the shift would rip all the wounds open again and there would be no way to save the master warlock. With the virus inside him, a transfusion was out of the question.

Even if he were unconscious, he’d still shift, but at least he wouldn’t suffer. If he could find no other way, Oz would make sure his old friend was comfortable and died with dignity. Oz refused to even think about what he would do then. He had been a part of the master warlock’s life and family longer than anywhere he had ever visited.

He had been visiting the monastery for much longer, but he never stayed there very long. It was just a place to relax and reflect on what he had seen and learned from the humans on this planet. It was a quiet place and it was easy to think there. Not unlike how the compound had become since the death of Zeus’s wife and the disappearance of his daughter.

He had no idea how he was going to get the master warlock through this one, but he wasn’t giving up just yet. Somehow, there had to be a way to stop him from shifting.

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