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Revelation (Demons Of The Past 01) – Chapter 30
Torline’s Swords, it’s been a long day. I thought. Now I get to rest. I headed wearily for my cabin. My Captain’s cabin. That did manage to bring a faint smile to my lips still.
Other thingsâ€¦ I was still awfully conflicted. The depression at my loss wasn’t going to go any time soon, that was for sure. I wondered if I’d managed to hide that from Taelin. It wasn’t something I could talk about, so I had to hope so. But by the Towers it had been hard to talk so happily about my promotion, my new command and likely career choicesâ€¦ although, I admitted, not nearly as hard as my Elevation to one of the Great Families, sponsored by the Mel’Tasne themselves. Only a few months ago, that would have been a ceremony of such joy that I would have cried. Now it seemed almost a mockery; I had been so much higher than they would ever understand. Like children awarding a real soldier a paper medal.
Well, thank the Seven, it was over. Teraikon was a sweet ship â€“ an actual old Atlantaean hull, though stripped of just about everything else, and now outfitted as a top of the line Imperial research lab for multiple sciences, with a staff of a hundred of the best scientists in the Galaxy. That included Doctor Sooovickalassa, of course, something I couldn’t avoid and wasn’t sure I wanted to. Every time I saw him it reminded me of what I’d lostâ€¦ but he was the only chance I might have to get it back.
Enough of that. We were now well underway â€“ heading to pick up our new Ship’s Monitor. Good old Kerlamin Shagrath, he’d tried to make everything as easy on me as possible; he’d assigned Nissen Frankel to be Teraikon’s Monitor. So a cruise out to Outpost Tangia to pick him up, and then to wander around the Empire as the needs of research dictated. I couldn’t complain that much, I guessed.
The door of my cabin slid open and I stepped inside. For the second time in less than a year, there was someone else waiting for me in my own room.
This, however, was not nearly so welcome a visit. “What in the name of the Seven are you doing in my cabin?” I demanded of Doctor Sooovickalassa, who was sitting quietly at my own desk. “If this is an example of how you’re going to be behaving, I might just â€“”
“You are safe, Commander Sasham Varan,” the R’Thann said, with an exquisitely careful and precise enunciation of words and grammar alien to it. “You are safe.”
A star novaed inside my skull, and I screamed. I remembered. I remembered! The black-squirming corrosive hatred of Shagrath. The terror of discovery. The pact I made with Vickâ€¦
“Itâ€¦ worked. Thank Torline and all the ancient gods, Praise to Niadeea and the Seven, it worked.” I felt, also, the psi abilities starting to reawaken. Thank you, Vick. Thank you. I can’t even begin to thank you enough.
No thanks are needed. It was my duty, once such trust was given and accepted. We are still in much danger.
I thought back over the last few months. As I did so, I suddenly felt the thoughts of that other “me”, the one just very subtly different than the real one, and as I started to grasp what I’d become, I felt utter horror welling up in me, almost surpassing what I’d felt when I sensed Shagrath. No, this was worse, in a way, more repulsive and personal. My gut rebelled against it as I realized how I’d been thinking towards the end, and I barely made it to the toilet before I brought up everything I’d eaten. I sat there, shaking and sweating, with tears of revulsion. “So much â€¦ ughâ€¦ for my old pride. Six and One, I was so sinking sure that I wouldn’t at least compromise that fast!”
His arguments â€“ without knowledge of his true nature â€“ were formidably accurate. And you should also know that he used his own abilities on you to enhance the results. Very artistic, that one. You made most of the choices, yesâ€¦ but we had already decided that this “Sasham Varan” would not be quite as unbending. And he still needed some additional incentive, some behind – the â€“ mind manipulation, to keep you going down the path.
“Yeahâ€¦ but I can feel I was starting â€¦ oh, Torline’s Swordsâ€¦” what little remained came up this time. “â€¦ ick. Starting to really feel that way. That I was something so much better than everyone else. That I had a right to do anything at all, as long as I could justify it.” I shivered, then shook my head. “I guess that’s for the good. I’ll never forget this lesson.”
Vick inclined his head. “Learn lessons worse that than could you.” If all idealists could have a vision of how easily they could pass to corruption, I think final corruption would be far less common. Making you even slightly more amenable to such manipulation was necessary.
I nodded. We’d discussed it, that terrible day when I’d agreed to let Vick suppress my real memories, modify the persona that would remain, and guide my progress (and arrange the fading and loss of my powers). Someone like Shagrath â€“ something with a mind that twisted â€“ probably hated people who actually cared about what happened to others, and couldn’t really understand them. Making me able to be bent, even with some effort, in his direction made me comprehensible, made me something he expected and could understand.
And that made it much LESS likely that he would become sufficiently frustrated, or suspicious, to probe ME.
“Which would have been the end of our little game. Yes.” I nodded again. “And I’ve got some insight into the way he thinks and acts.” An echo of loss panged through me. If only Shagrath had been the man he played at being. What a shame. But I couldn’t dwell on that; I had to focus on the fact that what he really was a monster of almost inconceivable power and, to me, incomprehensible malice.
I got up, ran a cleanspray through my mouth and managed to dissipate the worst of that sharp smell. “You were right,” I smiled at him finally. “And it did work. And my psi abilities?”
Unreduced. They may even continue to increase. You will have to practice them, but with great care. In such an enclosed space, with highly sensitive instruments of various sorts and with a Monitor â€“ even one who is your friend â€“ present, it will be a masquerade you cannot pull off without grave danger.
“No worse danger than we just got out of, my friend. So what are your plans?”
He spread his talons and waved his crest in a noncommittal gesture. I have no other destination at this time. And on this vessel I can, with care, replicate my experiments. Especially if the Captain will assist me in certain things so as to ensure no others recognize what I am doing.
“Vick, after what you’ve done for me â€“ and don’t protest, you risked a hell of a lot to save me, when you could have easily saved yourself â€“ I’ll get you whatever you want. But why do you want to assemble all that again? My powers aren’t really gone.”
Idiotic human [talakk’u]! The last word was a vision of a rather stupid prey animal. YOU have your psionic powers, yes. But do you think that I cared one bit for giving your species controllable psionic power? The whole point of this project was to give ME the powers which I should have had by birth!
I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing, and couldn’t stop for several minutes, while Vick radiated considerable outrage that I dare laugh at him. Finally I got my body, and mind, under control enough to reply. “Vick, sinking hells, I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing at the fact that you were quietly scamming the entire EMPIRE into financing your research just for your own personal use!”
Oh. The mind-voice was slightly apologetic. Yes. I can see the amusement. A mental smile â€“ with lots of emphatically sharp teeth. To me, the far more amusing idea is the thought that my foolish people would exile this “cripple” here, and that one day I will return them the favor by defeating one of the Masters of the Light!
There was clearly some rather un-civilized savagery inherent in his species. That did rather fit with the ultra-elitist impressions I’d gotten from him â€“ sort of like the Five Families gone berserk. Still, I also could appreciate his grim amusement. “Then you have my word. I’ll help you build whatever you need. And when the time comes, I’ll run that treatment for you and, I hope, give to you what you gave to me.”
He bowed low and made â€“ as best he could â€“ the Sign of the Towers. Then it is agreed. Time is not unlimited, however.
“No.” My mood darkened somewhat. “Shagrath will come to inspect us every so often. And there’s no way I’d be able to meet him without him realizing how we’ve tricked him. And strong as I am, I think he’d still break me like a stick.”
Concurrence. I have been able to scan him only in limited settings, but he is far stronger than you are at present, and other readings and indications are â€¦ unusual. I still do not know what he is, or what his real capabilities are.
I nodded. “That means that before the next inspection â€“ about a year â€“ we have to either get out of here, or be ready to expose him, somehow.”
A year. A short time. Yet it may be enough.
“It will be enough,” I said. I went and placed my hands on the old vya-shadu â€“ the traditional swords of a Tor master â€“ that rested near my bed. I was making a personal oath. “It will be enough. I promise it to myself, and to you, and Taelin, and to all the Empire. I won’t fail you. I know how I could fail myself now. I will watch for that. And we will find a way to beat Shagrath. Somehow.