Chapter 39: The Eve of Enlightenment
“Zenapharr!? What are you doing?!” Sade shouted.
“So glad to see you, Sade.” Zenapharr replied with a strange look in his eye.
“What do you mean? Who is this woman, and where is Krane?” Sade watched Vera keenly as he ascended the steps leading to the control panel on the second stairs.
As he moved, he thought he heard a voice call his name, and his eyes darted to both his flanks but there was no one there.
”Probably just my nerves.” He thought.
“I’m Vera…such a pleasure to finally meet you, Sade! I’ve learned so much about you.” The beautiful woman smiled, and Sade immediately felt unease. “My husband has met an untimely fate…but that was his own fault.”
“So you’re Krane’s wife. Did you really kill him?”
“Yes, the details are boring but let’s just say that his hatred for Magi extended even to me. He got exactly what he deserved.”
“Oh…” Sade began to sheathe his sword. “So we’re on the same side then?”
His reaction of sheathing his sword didn’t seem right, but for some reason Sade didn’t care. Her voice was so alluring. It felt like he could listen to her talk all day long.
“Oh, yes of course! Come closer, I’d like to get a good look at you.”
“Don’t trust her, Sade! She’s the same woman who stopped Zenapharr before!” The same disembodied voice spoke louder this time, and Sade whipped his head around the room to locate the source.
“Is something the matter?” Vera said serenely, taking a step closer.
“No, I’m just being cautious. Krane was a very devious man, and you were married to him, so…”
As he spoke with her, he saw that his feet were still moving closer to her without him realizing it. He somehow felt drawn to her.
“Perfectly understandable, but I assure you his goals and mine quite different. We did love each other once…he treated me so well, like no other. Until I found out that I was just another person to use. I wasn’t special after all.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. He used a lot of people.”
“Yes, he did. Please do come closer though. See? Look! I don’t even have any weapons on me.” She held out her arms, and pulled back her cloak to reveal that nothing was inside.
“Sade, she’s a witch don’t’ get any closer!”
“Who is this?” thought Sade, unsure of what to do .
“Who else, it’s Alice! I’m hiding behind one of the crates.”
“You’re alright?! Zenapharr will be thrilled to…”
“No, don’t tell him! Look, I’ve had some visions and I know more about what’s going on. If he knows I’m here, there could be major problems.”
“How did you get here?”
”I had someone take me. The only thing you need to know now is Zenapharr is under an enchantment. I don’t know what she’s planning, but she’s not on our side! You need to shoot her!”
Sade reached down to grab his revolver--
“The tall rabbit runs through the grass.”
--and went completely stiff, unable to move Wide eyed, Sade looked to see Vera smiling a devilish grin, more than pleased with herself.
“What can I do for you?” The words spilled out of Sade’s mouth, as if someone was speaking for him.
“Stand next to me, Sade.”
Without thinking, Sade moved forward and stood beside her despite still attempting to grab his gun. He was now an observer, his body a puppet to her will.
“My my my! Despite his shortcomings, I must commend Krane on his work! Brainwashing you ended up coming in handy after all! I strongly recommend you don’t fight it. It’ll only make you more tired.”
“Shall we continue with our plans?” Zenapharr asked eagerly.
“Yes, we shall. You know what must be done.”
“I do. Even though you probably won’t agree, we are to witness something reat! I’m so glad you made it, Sade. Once They are here, there will be no more Sapians. We will cleanse the earth with our flames of anger.. You should feel honored…you get to witness the Second Coming of my kind. ” Zenapharr’s eyes began their transformation into the ominious crimson color, and the look on his face was not the face that Sade knew. It wasn’t the one he saw when he was angry either. It was someone, or something…entirely different.
“Now that we have our sacrifice, we can begin.” Vera stated calmly. “I invoke the rites of the Seraphim. “The color red. Hatred of all else. Eve of enlightenment. Seraphim is all. End of the beginning. Call to arms.
One and many. Never turn back. Deliver from impurity. Cleanse with fire. Oversee the reckoning. Mayhem ensures peace. Insight in dream. Nightfall . Grant me this sacrifice.” She then began chanting unintelligible phrases, her eyes closed in concentration.
“Grant me this sacrifice.” Zenapharr said with a booming voice. He bowed his head for a moment, and soon flames began to erupt all around him.
“Alice! Help!! Do something!” Sade screamed inwardly. His eyes darted frantically, trying with all his might to move but his body would not obey.
“I’m sending help…but I don’t think they’ll make it in time. Just let me think….” Alice’s telepathic voice returned.
Now, Zenapharr began chanting , undoubtedly Elvish speak but sounding much more malevolent. The air began to feel different, like that of a static charge. A smell of ozone permeated all around them, and suddenly the very fabric of space in front of them began to tear. Swirls of purple, gray, black, and white freely moved in the rip ,and it slowly began to expand. Vera’s eyes were now open and focused on the portal, her energy flowing outward heavily.
Zenapharr unsheathed his katana, methodical in a sort of ceremonious manner. He grabbed Sade by the neck and pushed him to a kneeling stance. Vera stepped closer and placed her hand on Sade’s shoulder on the opposite side, still chanting furiously and wild.
“Alice….” Sade whimpered within his mind.
“I’ve got an idea, Sade. This is not going to be easy but….I need you to relax your mind.”
“What? You want me to relax?!?!”
“Just do it! Like your meditating. I think I can fight this hold the mental conditions has on you so that I can control you. You have to relax your mind completely.”
“I’ll try….just hurry….”
It took a moment, but Sade was able to follow Alice’s commands. He blocked everything around him out—the thickening energy in the air, the strange heat from Zenapharr’s body, the disturbing chanting, the unbelievable dimensional tear in front of him—and soon he felt something entering him.
Within the portal, faces began to appear. They were elvish in appearance, but much more distinguished than any elves Sade had ever seen. All of them wore dark robes, and their piercing red eyes were somehow frightening and inviting all at once. So far, there seemed to be twenty of them, but the larger the dimensional tear was , the more that were revealed.
“Zenapharr…we’ve been waiting for you…or one like you to be more precise.” One spoke up.
“Yes. I had not realized how great of a role I had until recently. You have spoken to me in riddles, but now it is plain to see. Vera has helped me to see that. She is much more knowledgeable of our kind than I am. Of course, I have been kept in the dark intentionally.”
“It would seem you have, brother. We’ve waited long to return to your plane and finish what we began. Now the time of enlightenment has come. The Seraphim line will again be strong, no longer thinned out by breeding with simple human folk. As you are the one to bring us into your world, we will make you our new king.”
“That’s right, Brother Zenapharr. And it is fitting….your lineage puts you as the same one who led us long ago. How ironic that meddling into scientific matters has brought upon a new era of magic! Are you ready to accept this role?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then let’s begin. Only a sacrifice born from the deepest hatred can strengthen you enough to completely open the portal. That is a sacrifice of betrayal. Who is the one you bring to us?”
“Sade Wingard. He is my best friend…the only friend I have now.”
“That will be sufficient. Do you declare your hatred for all else but the Seraphim?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Because it is in my blood to hate. Because humans are the plague of this earth. They are the reason for non-prosperity. They even hate each other. True Seraphim do not betray their own kind. The human race must be extinguished from this world.”
The spokesman then turned to his kin, who all nodded back to him.
“My other brothers are in accord with this. Brother Zenapharr, you may now initiate the sacrifice, and welcome your true family into this world.”
Zenapharr raised his katana high for his swing, with Vera still holding his shoulder on the other side. Sade began to panic, his mind trapped within his body with no control. Just as Zenapharr’s blade was about to make contact, something moved Sade to the side. The clang of Zenapharr’s katana resonated loudly as the moment seemed to mute everything else.
In one movement, Sade rolled to the side, unsheathed his sword, and plunged it through Vera’s midsection and out the other side. Unable to believe it himself, Zenapharr idly watched as the sorceress keeled over when Sade yanked the blade back out. Holding his blade defensively, Sade waited for his friend to move in for the final kill.
“What have you done….?” Zenapharr’s eyes dilated. Rage flashed in Zenapharr’s eyes, and he struck Sade in the chest, sending him sprawling across the grated floor. On impact, Sade felt a surge of pain shoot through him and also the sensation of something leaving him.
“You will die for your treachery!” The half elf leered towards Sade, teeth clenched. “This is why humans must be wiped away from this Earth! You have brought nothing but misery to the Magi!”
“We’re more alike than you think, Zenapharr. I’m your brother.”
“Lies!” Zenapharr gave a swift kick, and Sade felt sure he’d broken one of his ribs.
“N-no, it’s tr-true. Check my bag.”
Barely able to contain himself, Zenapharr pulled a small file from Sade’s satchel. The Seraphim’s keen eyes moved about the pages, and with relief Sade saw them change in surprise.
“You’re—you’re Skye?” The crimson in the elve’s eyes began to dim.
“Yes…that’s how Vera was able to control me like that earlier. She must have found detailed files of the conditioning. Once she had you , she knew I wouldn’t be far behind. Apparently I was the perfect sacrifice for this ritual….I had no idea.”
“Brother? It’s…really you?” Zenapharr gently helped him to his feet. “You were always here….right in front of me. I couldn’t see it….”
“They did things to your memory too. Supressed memories….any knowledge of your powers and the Seraphim. Krane was afraid if you knew any of it…”
“That he couldn’t carry out his plans. And Vera changed all of that…and we walked right into it.”
“Seraphim Brother! Have you forgotten your cause?!” The Elder Seraphim called out, and Zenapharr came back to the portal. “Do you have no desire to be with your real brothers and sisters again?”
“No…not if it means killing innocent people…my friends…” He looked over at Sade. “My real family.”
“He is your blood brother, but that is not the same as us. Do you realize the potential you have with us? All the knowledge of the world at your fingertips. Many mysteries of the universes that you’ve yet to unlock….we have for you.”
“I don’t want it.”
“Please….at least have a little taste.”
The Elder Seraphim’s eyes began to shine their deep red, and suddenly a flash of memories and knowledge assaulted Zenapharr’s mind. Many of it he didn’t understand at first, but many things he hadn’t thought about--never even knew existed--began to walk among the precipice of his mind.
“Do you feel it? The knowledge, and the power that this knowledge would bring? You would not only be a king here in Nostromus…you would be a king of this entire world. We could rule it forever together. You have only one chance.”
Sade knew his friend would come through, but for a moment his heart sank. The look on Zenapharr’s face, it was one of pure revelation. No one could fathom the secrets that became unlocked in his Seraphim mind in that moment. Zenapharr thought about it…seriously thought about it. The temptation to do whatever he desired lingered…and it seemed to last an eternity. Contemplating and recontemplating the inevitable fate of the world.
“That’s right, Zenapharr. This world is doomed anyway. Why not do it in a way that you would see fit?”
For a moment—the briefest moment—Sade really thought Zenapharr was going to doit. The half elf’s eyes looked down, rethinking it again, then looked back up in finality.
Zenapharr echoed the words that Sade had once told him.
“You always have a choice.”
And so he made it.
“You may rule other worlds Elder, but not this one. I denounce you and your kind. This world is not yours for the taking, and I’ll have no part in it.”
“So be it then, brother. Just remember…you were brought back by our power and thus, you owe us your life. We will find a way to make you repay the debt, one way or another. You can’t always save the ones you love the most…you can only save yourself.”
With that, the portal began to collapse, and Zenapharr ran towards it in panic.
“Wait…what does that mean? What does—“
But the tear was gone before he could get his answer. His boots clanged loudly as he stood in silence, deciding what to do next.
“Hey!” A girl’s voice called, and Zenapharr turned in complete shock to see Alice running towards him. Any slight resemblance of anger became nonexistent, replaced by a pure joy as he snatched up the young girl and squeezed her tightly.
“Alice….I didn’t think you would make it.” Zenapharr beamed, on the verge of tears.. Sade and him exchanged a meaningful glance.
“You did it…all by yourself.” Alice beamed.
“You fought off the Seraphim. They had control over you, and with your will alone you drove them out. You have complete control.”
“Yes, it would seem so.”
They looked upon the bleeding heap of Vera’s body and Sade muttered, “good riddance.” For a moment, they reflected in silence on all the events that had taken place up to this point. Only one more task was ahead of them. They descended the stairs to survey the Rune-Tech Armor.
Now at the bottom of the stairs, they shuddered to think what would happen if they were to be unleashed on the world.
“Just glad we came in time to stop this whole thing from…”
Just as they begun to move, they heard a clang and hum of machinery. They tried to determine where it was coming from, but soon found it was all around them. Within moments, they were completely surrounded by at least twenty of the armored suits.
“Well, then…shall we?” Zenapharr commented, his fierceness returning to him.
“Zen, I know you’re fast but….we’re really outnumbered here.” Sade sputtered. “And I can barely move with this cracked rib…”
“Halt, and they will not fire.” A voice from behind them revealed Vera, whose clothes were soaked in blood but was walking as if she’d never been injured.
“How… ?” Alice stated, and felt the icy gaze of the witch soon upon her.
“You, little miss…have caused far too much trouble.”
Alice’s eyes narrowed in concentration, and Vera responded by snapping her fingers. Zenapharr jumped in front of Alice, expecting some enchantment. To his horror, a beam of light shot out from behind him and blasted into Alice’s side. In what seemed to happen in slow motion, the direct hit sent the girl sprawling with gray smoke pluming from her body.
“No!” Zenapharr yelled, and reached out for her.
“That was only a warning shot to keep her out of our heads. Don’t resist us….or I’ll do it again. She won’t live through the next one, I ’ll assure that.”
Zenapharr clenched his fists, eyes wildly darting around for a safe exit.
“Bring her to me so she can die first.’
“Save the speech. Since you are not a part of my cause, you are against it. And it will be my pleasure to see the great Zenapharr die at my hand! Extracting your magical energy will increase our power ten-fold! I’ll have to find some other way to bring the Seraphim back to this world. Now, bring her to me.”
All Zenapharr could do was obey, but surely there was a way to resist without endangering his friends. His heart hurt to see Alice writhe in pain as he scooped her up and slowly carried her to the wretched sorcereress as the Rune-Tech Armor closed in further on them.