A Dying God (Book 2)

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Felix-The Anciet Peris

Every so often, a miracle will happen and I will have a moment to myself. It’s nice to be alone. It’s calming and somehow rewarding that after all that’s gone on today, I’m still here.

I yawn big and wide. It’s odd that I’m tired. I haven’t been sleepy in weeks and yet as I think about it, I’d love to go lie down and rest my head on the comfort of my pillow. I shake my head hoping to rid myself of the drowning weariness and blink wide, spreading my hands out on the map laid out on the dining table.

Red thumb tacks press in random places along the rim of the United States. Newly added pins now decorate areas of Great Britain and I wrap a thin string from Newark to Amsterdam. Am I becoming obsessed? I don’t know if that’s exactly what I would call it but slightly preoccupied might be the more appropriate term.

Tracing Alexander and Kyla hasn’t been difficult. Vetalas attacks aren’t common. Since Tymician created the Shrouds, runes, hollows, and diffusers, the Vetalas decided that Sheol was a much safer place to hunt for Light. In the past couple of weeks, they’ve made unsuccessful efforts to capture Alexander.

I’ve had to catch up on my reading, studying these creatures that are following my ward and her guardian. I knew the basics of a Vetalas, the simple rendition that they search for powerful Light. I even knew how to kill them. But I didn’t understand why they were after Kyla until I found a book that answered all of the questions Phil kept avoiding.

Before Fallen came to Earth, they lived in the First Level of Sheol in the city of Mictlan. Though we use it now as a place of reckless abandonment; back then Mictlan was a battle-hardened encampment with high pillared walls to shield from the surrounding dangers. Alu clawed at the bottom embankments. Devils, pishachas, and wekufes banged on the doors, their piteous cries echoing throughout the night and day, a never-ending chorus of shadows, hungry for a Soul. And Vetalas drove from above, snatching up the guardians off the wall without a single warning to their demise.

The Vetalas were far less picky then. Now five thousand years later, Earth is a welcoming feast and there are Elders, Angels and Pure Souls to choose from. Their numbers grow faster than proliferating weeds and when they have the blood of their target, they do not cease until they succeed in its demise.

Every time Alexander accessed the Source, he called out to these monstrous animals to protect Kyla. He used them as a shield. Not only did he place himself in danger, but he’s taken the lives of Angels if only to keep Kyla safe.

Tymician must have known that I could have never gone so far for her. I couldn’t kill. I couldn’t take someone’s eternal life. That’s why he took her from me. That’s why I’m not the proper guardian.

I sit roughly in the chair, holding my head. Alexander claims he doesn’t need help but to hear he is slipping is effecting me more than I care to admit. I don’t know if I’m ready to do more, to get involved in something I don’t know I can handle.

There’s movement in the kitchen and I reach for another map, spreading it out over the other. This one displays every Kio house and the blue dots represent Elders. Australia and Russia are completely blacked out. Joutou and Tiya own those locations and I have no houses in either site.

It’s not typical for a clan to be stretched out as Kio is. A clan usually takes up an expanse of land and stays within its territory but Tymician was never one to follow the usual stream of political venues.

I have houses in over two hundred countries around the world. It’s disconcerting because half of these houses I’ve never been too and I don’t know what to expect but as the months go by, I plan on meeting all of them individually. I will no longer be the invisible Second that no one remembers. Everyone will know my name.

A mug sets down in front me. Whip cream curls on the top and steam rises from it. I look up and find Tessa smiling down at me holding a mug herself. “Hot chocolate.” She whispers. “It will help you sleep.”

Pleased that she’s talking to me again, I latch onto it, “I don’t sleep.”

She frowns. “Oh.” She takes the mug from my fingers. “Then you don’t eat either.”

“Give me that. It’s mine.”

“You ate pretty well at dinner, if I recall correctly.” She relinquishes her hold and I take a quick sip.

“Sometimes I can eat, just like sometimes I can sleep. But those needs are fading, I guess.”

She wears Miley’s pajamas and though I’ve seen them multiple times before they’ve never looked so perfect as they do on her. The shorts seem to stick to her skin like latex, outlining every little curve and ripple. The shirt is too big for her, hanging off her, baring the soft arc of her shoulder and her long collarbone. It reveals the fact that she isn’t wearing a bra and if the light where to hit at just the right angle, I wonder if could make out the exact detail of her breast.

I sit down at the table, focusing my attention elsewhere.

“Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“You shut off.”

I lean over the table, drinking from the mug, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She scoffs. “Yes you do. You do it with everyone. You have a switch and any time you decide you flip it and you shut it off. They all know it. They talk about it.”

My navy eyes narrow as I look up at her.

“Don’t glare at me. Just because I’m the only one daring enough to say anything.”

It’s humorous how sudden my rage staggers and drops off. I’ve gotten used to my change of emotions. I wonder how Tessa will react as I start chuckling.

She steps back, unsure, peering down at me as I scratch my scalp.

“You aren’t the only one to ever tell me that.” I begin. “Kyla told me that before.”

“Oh.” Tessa plops in a chair, fingering the map.

“She had a different way of going about it though.”

“You guys used to fight?”

“All the time.”

“Why?”

“She was spoiled.” I shrug. “Tymician treated her so differently than any of us. He really…” Disappointment floats in my voice as I make tje realization I don’t think I’m ready to make. “He chooses people for a reason. Everything he did, he did for a purpose even if we couldn’t see it. Leon, Eric, Tristan, Miley, Merly. We are here because he has a purpose for us. Or he had a purpose. But Kyla. He simply loved her. He loved us too but Kyla, he loved more.”

“And you hated her for that?” She looks down, fiddling with her fingertips. “I think Kyla and I would be best friends. We have so much in common.”

I cackle, “The family never accepted Kyla. They love you, Tessa.”

“But you hate me.”

Quickly I latch onto my mug, “I don’t hate you.” I head for the kitchen but I know she follows. I place it in the sink and hold onto the counter, looking out the window. The moon shines how in the late night illuminating the pool. I feel every muscle in my body tense and I wish at this moment something would save me from whatever’s about to happen.

“Tessa. You can’t stay here.”

“Why not?”

“You don’t belong here.”

“I don’t belong anywhere.”

My hands rise on the will of their own and I hold her face in my hands. Her eyes look up and the moon sets them aglow. I hear her breathe between her shining lips and notice the rise and fall of her chest. It’s rapid and brutal with the beating of her heart.

I wonder if she notices how still my chest is.

The doorbell rings and Tessa speeds out of my hands with tears in her eyes dashing up the kitchen steps. At the same time, one of the my wards pounds their way down the front stairs and I rush to the living room to find Eric pull open the front door. He turns around searching for me and only by his eyes do I realize his fear.

“Eric?”

I connect to the Source and feel the aged Soul of a Fallen at my doorstep. They are at least five thousand years of age and though not of Elder status, they have enough power to kill me. Somehow, they managed to get through my security. Only the members of this house have the access code.

Stupidly I glance for a knife, the only form of protection I can manage. “Eric, get away from the door.”

“Umm.” I hear a little girlish voice filter through the screen. It opens and a child’s head pops through, “Hi.” She holds out a hand toward Eric, “I’m a friend of Tymician’s. Is Felix around?”

I stand unmoving.

Tristan comes halfway down the stairs and stalls. His eyes show terror, unbridled and wide.

The child comes in, her gaze darting this way and that, her short, tomboyish haircut flat, shaping her oval face. There is an angelic beauty about her, an indication of future exquisiteness she’ll one day grow into but as she is, she’ll never get that chance.

“Nice place.” She approves, nodding. She removes her tennis shoes at the door and brushes off any dirt or smudges on long knee length shorts. “Not used to such fancy stuff.” She rubs her hands on the edge of her t-shirt.

She steps up close, holding out a scrawny arm and tiny fingers, “Hi, I’m Ema. You have to be Felix. Ty described you perfectly.”

Eric observes her every move with a pained expression outlining the scars of his face. He looks down at his hands, at his arms covered in the grotesque shapes of burns peeled over by years of growth. His fingertips gnawed away and the very veins inside his arms exposed and twisted.

She sighs eventually and takes a seat in a chair that dwarfs her stature. Ema swings her stubby legs, “I’ve been driving for a long time, I could really go for some conversation.”

Tristan chokes, “You drove?”

The girl grins, dimples press into her chubby cheeks, “Not personally. Can’t reach the gas petals but Ox drove. He’s waiting to come in.”

Afraid to move, our eyes peer through the screen door but it’s pitch black outside and we can’t see anything.

“Okay. You’re kind of freaked.” She hops off the chair to circle the dining table. Her fingers dance along the china cabinet, opening the glass door to straighten a lopsided plate. “I take it you’ve never met a Peris.”

Tristan plops on the last step, holding onto the banister.

In my Newborn days, a little poem resurfaces to memory and I recite it in a whisper, “Little girls, little boys, run away, run away, God can’t keep you and the Devil won’t let you stay.”

Ema turns the lock on the cabinet, “And Mother wants you dead, so run little babies, run.” She turns her green eyes on us, “I made that part up myself.”

Tristan looks toward me. “What’s Peris?”

Eric begins to back up toward the door. “Cherub Angels that Fell. Lucius was horrified at the thought of children in Sheol and so he denied them.”

She looks at him, “It’s not the worst fate, I suppose.”

Eric shoves out the door and the screen slams shut behind him. Tristan darts after him but I stop him. I can’t imagine what it’s like to meet someone in a worse shell than his own. His burns suddenly seem second rate compared to an immortal child.

“How come I’ve never met one before?” Tristan wonders daring to come closer.

Ema takes the invitation, closing the gap, allowing him to observe her like a piece of art. It seems like she relishes it, the attention it gives her. She stands proudly, with a head held high. “We stay hidden. Many factions hunt Peris because of rumors. They believe our Souls can make them immortal or we can give them outrageous power. There aren’t many of us left. And on top of being hunted, we don’t live very long.”

Folding my arms, I keep my distance. She’s showing herself to me for a reason and I don’t know if I should trust her yet. “Why are you here?”

Ema giggles. “I’m going to be your War Commander.”

A smile breaks out over my lips and I latch onto Tristan pulling him away. She’s strong and only in that essence am I weary but I won’t play any game with her. “I think you should go.”

“I’m over nine thousand years old.” She boldly claims, stalling my leave. “I’ve seen just about as many wars, mostly human but some not so. I’ve wounded Mother Nature. I’m friends with her daughter. I have six Titans on my side. And at one point, I sat beside Ariel and Dane Monte in the Light of Heaven. You do not want to turn me away, Felix. Tymician would be upset with you if you did.”

How do I respond? How can I respond to such a declaration? I cannot fathom her knowledge, her power, her greatness.

Yet, all I see before me is a child.

Tristan stutters, “Nine thousand years old? You’re. You’re an Erelim?”

“No.” She sadly murmurs. “As Peris age, we do not get stronger. If it weren’t for the many people that sacrificed their Light for me I’d have been dead a long time ago.”

I lick my lips, “The Ancient Peris.” I scoff, “You want us to believe, you are the first? The first one to ever Fall?”

“I said my name was Ema, didn’t I?”

Tristan breathlessly admits, “She’s telling the truth, Felix. She wants us to trust her.”

“Oh great.” Ema dramatically exhales, slapping her forehead with a tiny hand. “You’re a special. A truth reader, huh? Look, I lie a ton. Don’t take it personal but there’s a bunch of crap you don’t need to know.”

“Don’t take this personal, but I don’t need your help. I got this under control.”

“Kid, whenever there is war, I come into the picture. I have resources you ain’t ever seen. And Guess what, whether you want to deal with it or not, there’s WAR! I’m going to set up here because this house holds the best protection available to my family. You can move out. That would actually be very helpful. Sorry to burst your oblivious bubble buddy but I’m your new roommate.”

Miley and Meryl peek down the stairs, “Felix it’s nearly three in the morning, what’s going on?”

The front door opens up and one by one children of all shapes and sizes filter through the door. Each one carries boxes, maps, laptops, sleeping bags and other supplies as they look around the house with wide doe eyes. ‘Ooohs’ and ‘Ahhs’ breach their tiny lips as they drop their items carelessly shifting through the house with reckless adventure, hopping on the couch, flipping over the recliner and chasing each other across the dining room and going straight to my refrigerator.

“Do you have the internet?”

“Look! There’s a pool!”

“How much does this cost?”

“XBOX, awesome!”

Ema brightly beams at me, “Sure you don’t want to move out?”

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