I fear I have failed my brother.
The start of my inability to protect him was a slow fall from grace before I plummeted into the endless pit of despair.
The day they fell under his reincarnation spell, I should have known something wasn’t right with Hotan. He had carried a distant look in his deep green eyes; kept secrets from me. Ignoring it was a dire mistake that would endanger all of us, even the innocent people of the world. I was their watcher, protector. I don’t know exactly what created this chaos which surrounds us now. So much has been destroyed for our sins it makes me sick with guilt.
Decades ago I decided I could no longer allow myself to watch without intervening. My dreams are forever haunted by the faces of my fellow Levites; seeing them reborn only to die again. My memories are filled with centuries of disasters and horrific wars. Many of these I have seen and experienced firsthand in my efforts to track the others as promised. It took centuries for me to realize that idly watching their lives was not enough. This was my mistake.
I am troubled by my brother’s hidden sins. It’s time I set things right, atone for my own failures by doing what my brother could not. But, life was complicated in the beginning. I trusted Hotan, but at some point along the way he lost trust in himself. Am I not remembering some important clues from so long ago? So many gaps in my mind where memories should be… have I lived too long? Is this the cost for remaining awake during the passing of time unlike the rest?
With a gasp, Talib snapped out of his darkening thoughts. A wave of power echoed through his soul with an icy sensation stinging and pulling at him. He had associated this power with his brother in the past, but with the old Hotan dead, it meant this was another entity. One which sought out his brother and now the new Hotan. The power tugged at him to look north toward the unseen beacon. Silence fell over him from where he stood sheltered within the cathedral. A cold sweat slithered across his temple, his jaw tightening; this power easily matched his own, no, it was stronger.
Swallowing back the choking sensation of fear, he whispered, “The power that haunted my brother has returned.”
“What has returned? What are you talking about?” Lucius turned away from the candles by the holy water fountain to the paling gentlemen behind him. “Talib, what on earth is going on?”
“There’s no time to explain.” He began running down the aisle way between the rows of pews, jerking off his white suit jacket in hopes of freeing himself of any physical restrictions. “It is coming for Hotan!”
With amazing agility he slid across the black hood of an Audi A8, his silver hair flashing in the sunlight. He rolled himself upright and jerked the driver door open. There was no time to worry about the consequences of what he was about to do. The tires screamed as he floored the gas pedal. He needed to reach the source of the terrible power before it found its target. Gripping the steering wheel tighter, his palms were clammy and his jaw ached as he clenched his teeth. Every muscle in his body was growing tighter under the pressure of the battle he knew would be unavoidable.
The power being released shared a presence similar to Rebirth, but took on a more negative tone. Instead of an exertion of power and life, this one consumed it; a black hole void of compassion. He could safely concur this was the element of Death. A coldness struck deep into his core, the grip of it making breathing painful and rattled his nerves. There was no other explanation, this was an immortal who became the embodiment of a terrible element, the one element none of them truly possessed. Whether Death realized Hotan was not the same entity it had chased in the past was unknown.
The Audi raced down busy roadways, disregarding street signs, traffic lights, even the pedestrians crossing his path. Talib let his power free, allowing it to stretch ahead like a tidal wave. This was something he had not done in hundreds of years and unlike the others, it did not exhaust him to unleash his element to this magnitude. People were baffled as they stopped their cars at green lights, pulled their vehicles off to the side, or found themselves sitting down on the sidewalk for no apparent reason. Being able to control the element of Judgment had its advantages as his power made the route clear.
Hotan’s apartment building was drawing closer and he could feel the presence of other Levites. He felt Hotan, Jacob, and several others there under the cold presence looming above them. The demon sat on the rooftop like a vulture waiting patiently for the perfect moment to swoop down to its meal. The weight of the immortal’s presence sent chills across his skin as he caught a glimpse of the shadowy figure.
Fae, the element of Intelligence, had concluded something had been chasing his brother all these centuries. The clues left behind in books and records left a pathway of mass destruction devouring an unfathomable amount of lives. Entire cities, nations, and cultures had been wiped out in its wake. He hadn’t revealed to anyone he had known about the destruction, but for her to be able see it within the history books was horrifying. She pinpointed both huge and small events with similar characteristics, but the entity that was responsible for all of it was still a mystery. Disappearing colonies, unexplained wars, and natural disasters all happening within isolated areas were linked to this phenomenon. It started shortly after they left the island of paradise they had called home at one point, and sadly, escalated at an alarming rate.
What did my brother do to create something so evil? Why did I fail to notice this was a separate entity? I was there to help him, all he would have needed to do was ask. Was he too ashamed of what he had done to even tell me? And now this child bearing Hotan’s legacy has to face the sins of my brother before he can master his powers. Lord, this cannot be the way you want this to end. A child against a monster is never a fair fight.
He slammed on the brakes. The tires squealed from in response, but was failing to stop fast enough. Yanking the emergency brake lever up, he sent the car into a slide. It turned ninety degrees before skidding to a complete stop. The air filled with the pungent smell of burnt rubber as he stepped out of the car; the streets were too congested here to move all of them out of the way. Even with the aid of his powers, the bumper-to-bumper traffic left no room to move all the cars without risking harming someone.
Bursting into a full run, he left the car far behind. Stepping up and over car after car was proving too slow. Sprinting off to the right, he took an inhuman leap to the top of the nearest building; centuries of physical conditioning and the advantage of immortality allowed the impossible to be achievable. He ran with urgency towards the power source, leaping effortless from roof to roof drawing closer with amazing speed. Landing onto the apartment building, he skid to a stop, spraying pea gravel across the rooftop. Panting, he quickly caught his breath, quelling the stinging in his lung.
He looked wearily into the back of a black trench coat flapping in the wind. The man’s black hair gave way to the wind as he stood unflinching at Talib’s arrival. They stood there with nothing more than the slapping of the coat filling their ears. His chest ached from the frightening sensation urging him to flee. Inside his mind flashed a lifetime’s worth of glimpses reflecting those same broad shoulders.
Why do I feel like I know him? I have seen this man many times at different times and centuries, but…
The full scale of those memories and where they came from were beyond him, far out of reach The nostalgic chaos of emotions inside his soul told him he had found the source involving his brother’s sins, but it was a threat he had lost memory of somewhere during his lifetime. This was the man in black which plagued the deepest reaches of his own mind and the nightmares Hotan suffered.
“Stop!” The determination in his voice was startling even to him; standing tall, he was prepared to do anything necessary to stop the element of Death. “He is not who you think he is!”
“Who are you?” Standing motionless, the deep calm voice mused, “I’ve never had anyone find me. Let alone brave enough to speak to me in that tone.”
“I am Talib. I was the brother of Hotan.” As his lips hit the last word there was a change in the man’s power.
He is targeting him.
“Brother of Hotan?” The man shifted to peer over his shoulder, revealing the dark pools of black which glowered back at Talib. “My, my, you definitely must be. No one carries the genetic coding for silver hair in today’s time. I guess I can call you Uncle then.”
“Uncle?” It all made perfect sense; he had been so blind.
My brother attempted to bring her back, but that’s not what came to him. There’s no time to be shocked or question what was revealed in this instant, I can only take the information and run with it…
“I am so sorry. My brother, your father, is gone. I cannot undo what crimes have been committed to you, but please understand, this boy is not who you think he is. The person within this building is someone who looks like him and holds his powers; Hotan’s soul is gone. The boy knows nothing of my brother’s wrong doings. If you wish, we could finish that business here between the two of us.”
“Then a look alike will suffice.” Sneering, he turned around to face him, his wild smile sending chills across Talib’s entire being. “And will you attempt to stop me?”
“Yes.” His body tensed. He would have to attempt to use the small revolver tucked in his back holster where the handle of the gun nudged for him to shoot. “You have no right to take innocent lives. So many have been killed by your hand and had nothing to do with your endeavors to kill my brother. It has to end, I will not allow this slaughter to continue further.”
“Sorry, I guess I have a nasty habit of losing my temper.” The nonchalant shrug was followed by a step forward, “Do you even realize who or what you are facing, Uncle?”
He is trying to play mind games with me, it will not work.
“I do not care what or who you are.” He pulled the gun, black flames leapt off the man’s skin in response crawling outward like snakes. “You will be stopped here. I am his protector and I owe that child my life for what my own brother has done to him.”
“So be it, Uncle. Know that Iapetos, harbinger of Death itself, was the one who ended your life. Reborn from the cold womb of the dead and rejected by its own father.” The black irises became glassy as he continued his growling speech; another step closer sent Talib’s heart racing. “I will not be satisfied until I sucked the life from the soul that once was my father’s and devour it with my own. It will be mine.”
“It pains me to know such evil was created by my own flesh and blood.” He stifled back a step, his fear growing; the power resonated through him like bony fingers of ice scratching at his soul.
You can’t take Hotan away from me!
An eerie calm washed over him.
He had squeezed the trigger.
The kickback from the revolver shook his arm, his aim impeccable, and ears left ringing. Gunpowder stung at his nostrils as he sighed. He landed the shot front and center; a single hole in Iapetos’ forehead. His head had fallen back, still wearing the maddening grin. Laughter started rising out from Iapetos. Tilting his head forward again, Iapetos’ stared him in the eyes again. He responded with emptying the revolver into the demon before him. There was no more chances for negotiations or patience to entertain mind games. Hitting the heart and neck, anywhere deemed a vital and assured kill shot, praying it would do damage, or at least slow him. The laughter grew hysterical as the small black holes lacked any signs of blood.
How does one kill Death itself?
His resolution to stop Iapetos stood firm, throwing the empty gun to the ground in frustration. Fearless, he ran towards his opponent. Pulling a hidden dagger from his shirt sleeve, he plunged the silver blade deep into the neck of the soul-eating beast. It was then he felt something demonic in nature. He had only succeeded in entertaining the Harbinger of Death. Before he could withdraw from his dire mistake, a firm hand had grasped his neck. Cold, like no other he had ever felt, snaked its way into his body and soul. His power had no sway here and he could feel his life seeping into Iapetos’ fingers.
I have failed again.
Is this the coldness everyone feels when they begin to die? What a terrible comfortless sensation this is. So many times have I felt sorrow, but never the heartlessness of the cold such as this.
How horrible to die with no chance of aiding the others, not even a warning can be made with his power pulling my soul so far from me. My powers are yanked from me. Dear God, the others do not have a chance against this immortal named Iapetos.
He could do nothing. The sensation of being flung away from his killer like a wet rag rattled his body. As he hit the ground, the last thing he saw was the rooftop door opening, giving way to Hotan’s shocked face. His eyes rolled back, the darkness of death pulling him away from the present, muffling the shouts and numbing the grip of those rushing to his body.
Why did he have to be so much like my brother in appearance? Run away. A demon is here to devour your soul, child. Can you not see he has killed me?
Ah, I hear music now.
Yes, that song Hotan sung. Jacob said it was ‘Die Trying’ by Art of Dying. What an appropriate song for me to hear as I fade away into the next life.
Oh, my dear Saphellia! I finally got you back and here I go leaving you behind. I am so sorry, my dove. Please understand what my intentions were. You were so much better at understanding me than myself.
I wonder if it’s true that one’s life flashes before them before arriving at Heaven’s Gate…