Path of Illusion Installment XVIII
  

Path of Illusion Installment XVIII

A world away, the Lord Inquisitor of the World Church kneels before the only individual he pays heed to, the Holy Advisor.

 “Failure upon failure Lord Gideon, you come here, begging for leniency. Is not the fact one such as yourself continues to live proof enough my forgiveness knows no bounds?”

In no way has Gideon ever enjoyed answering to those who on any level are beneath him. It was not ego that guided the Lord Inquisitor’s ability to gauge the degree at which an individual stands in contrast to himself. Instead an acute awareness, born of experiencing the difference between those who stood courageously in the face of life, and those who cower from the cold clutch of adversity. His observations of the Holy Advisor harvested many facts those of lesser insight would be oblivious to. The foremost being, when his master lies he grits teeth and taps his right index finger on the lion headed armrest of the white marble throne. Three times had this happened. Better than most Disciples trained in the shadow arts, Gideon could read minds with ease. The Holy Advisor’s mind was protected from attack, which begged the question, what was there to hide within. 

“My will is yours to command Advisor. We have acquired an individual who has been up close and personal with Simon these last few weeks. The information gathered from her shall prove invaluable in retrieving him.”

The Advisor closes his eye lids speaking condescendingly. 

“Many pieces are in play to execute the fallen Disciple. Your usefulness in delivering him to Final Judgment has waned. I shall command your Second in any further matters.”

“For what purpose?!”

The Advisor bolts Gideon a glare that could peel skin from flesh.

“Question my wisdom to your folly? This happens once. State your concerns to my open ears.”

“Advisor, I question your judgment, your very sanity at pulling me away from completing my mission. Simon has been under my care since he was very young. I am the only man capable of understanding how he works. Layla is tempestuous at best. She lacks the ability to bring Simon underfoot a thousand-fold. Simon will crush her and any other of the thousand faceless soldiers you throw at him. He can only be beaten by someone who is superior to him.”

The Advisor smiles at Gideon’s ignorance. 

“We already have such a person.”

8

“The Phalanx was constructed to withstand the force of a twenty-megaton bomb. This measure was put into place in the event the growing chaos of war were to reach our front door. Within these walls are the most dangerous men and women on the planet. Every one of them brought to complete subservience by rehabilitation and reprogramming. You are the only person in history who remains immune to torture, hypnosis or mind alterations. What exactly did the World Church do to you that makes this seem like a walk in the park?”

Simon lay on the concrete beaten and bloody. Warden Landers walks circles around him while speaking. 

“The consequences for every incident that has taken place since you left with the Specialists in the Bureau fall solely on your head.”

Landers crouches down over his broken prisoner.

“Including the kidnapping of my sister.”

Rising to his feet, the Warden gestures the nearest Phalanx Guards to pick Simon up off the floor. Blood oozes from the side of his mouth into the puddle below. 

“They haven’t contacted yet to make a request of trade for your sorry hide yet Inmate Moore. Believe when it happens I will hand you over to them with a smile on my face.”

“You two are nothing alike.”

Landers stops his tirade, turning in interest at Simon’s words. 

“Your sister..is compassionate where you are cold. Strong where you are weak.”

“You do not speak unless spoken to Simon, you know the rules.”

Simon understood well before he met these clowns that every word he spoke counted against him, beneficial, harmful, neither mattered. Only utmost silence was his ally.

Landers chuckles, raising an eyebrow.

“You really do think you’re more intelligent than everyone, don’t you? Complete silence will gain you nothing. I assure you it will be much easier to play the quiet game with your tongue cut out.” 

Landers lowers his right hand, opening it before Simon’s face. A nearby guard places a knife in the awaiting palm. 

“Restrain him.”

A gloved hand wraps around Simon’s forehead, another pries his jaw open. Fighting against the onslaught proves futile. The point of the blade presses under his tongue. 

“Speak now or forever hold your tongue.”

“Hmph hmm!”

Landers pauses, sliding the blade off Simon’s upper lip to place the point near his eye. 

“I couldn’t hear, what did you say.”

 The hand clenching his jaw lets loose.

“You think a deal can be struck with Kilbourne--or the World Church--you’re dead wrong.”

The guard moves to catch Simon’s jaw again but Landers halts him. 

“Stand down; I want to hear the feeble attempts to save his skin.”

“Tell me Simon, what steps do I take to insure the safe return of my sister?”

“Release me.”

Landers scoffs.

“How do you expect me to do anything with my hands tied behind my back?”

“The problem remains, I’m fully aware what you are capable of when your hands are free.”

“I assure you, Kilbourne will want me in one piece.”

“Too bad for you we’re not dealing with Kilbourne.”

Simon crunches his brow in surprise.

“Who are they sending in his stead?”

“You don’t get the privilege of being informed.”

Landers leans to address a guard; despite his whispering Simon overhears every word.

“Moore may not be bluffing, put him in the Pit until the W.C. officials arrive. I don’t want to jeopardize Renee’s safe return.”

Landers exits without a look back to Simon, who was smart enough to follow the directions of the guard to the letter. Three more join them, leading Simon from behind. The Pit was the Phalanx version of solitary confinement. One cell, six feet by four feet. No bed, only a drain on the floor for a bathroom. No light, no sound could get in. It was very much an isolation chamber. As desolate a spot as this was, it would afford Simon time to plan the next move. A journey down many corridors and flights of steps ended at the bottom of the whole infrastructure. Two levels of locked doors to reach the final-destination. Simon kneels so a guard can unlock his wrist shackles. Simon moves his wrists behind his back. Another guard places ankle shackles that connect to handcuffs, connecting to a neck collar. Simon winces in pain at the flesh of his neck being pinched in the rusted metal. Another guard kicks the center of his spine sending him into the darkness. The final door closes, sealing him away from the world. There was once a time when he would have preferred being alone with the troubles of this world and its’ people far away. That was before the ghosts of the past had become bothersome within him. Now, trapped in a place as this he was forced to confront them. But he had to focus on the enigmas at hand. Who was the Angel of Wrath’s true master? How could he retrieve Renee and Samantha alive and unharmed? Could he get to one without risking the life of the other? Who was the World Church sending to replace Gideon? Were all these conspiracies the work of one individual? Yes, that had to be the answer. One person, or entity driving everyone away from the center, so they could enact their foul plan in secret. Who had the foresight to plan something on this level? Was it someone already on the field? Or an unseen, unknown adversary? The connections were more difficult to make given the human waste hadn’t been cleaned since the last prisoner was released.

Simon’s head and back pounded in pain. Meditation would clear his mind. Lying curled up on the wet floor, gravity pulling at his flesh and bones, was not conducive to completing the task at hand. Rolling to his side, pushing against the need to sink into dark sleep, he rises. Given Simon was twisted in chains it was best to lean sideways against the eroded wall to find inner silence. One would think the duration of his original sentence would supply him ample means to charge his inner world. Constant beatings, endless interrogations, these things stole away any free time he may have been able to use. Silence was key, the pitch black could be turned into an ally as well. It was necessary to clear away his own thoughts. Difficult at first, with practice however they could be muted. The next order was to visualize his allies. Remote viewing was a form of advanced meditation which took ultimate focus. The slightest distraction would mean having to start from zero again. Traveling through a purple and black haze it seemed he would wander endlessly, until feeling the pull of Samantha calling to him. Her presence surrounded him on all sides. From the black a hand touches his shoulder.

“Simon...help us.”

“I can’t find you. Samantha, I need you to project your location into my mind.”

“Impossible, Simon..there is a terrible entity surrounding us.”

“I can break through, give me something.”

The gentle hand gripping his shoulder morphs into blood colored fingers. They puncture his flesh injecting the red inside.

“Wait, you’re not--”

“Your words are true, I am not. But soon will be.”

Panic attempts to overthrow Simon’s reason.

“Push down the fear.”

The red nearly fills him. The danger mounts uncontrollable. 

“This is not the end.”

“I am the end Simon, submit unto me.”

“Not today, not ever.”

Simon nearly rejoins his body. The presence snatches hold, entangling him between the spaces. 

“You always knew I would come. Hidden behind those forbidden nightmares. Waiting for you to begin your final descent.” 

Simon struggles to gain control. Lack of focus disables his will. The presence wrenches his spirit. Simon’s physical body chokes with the shock. 

“I am the emissary of Wrath. If once I had a name it would be Zarathael. There are many who will follow my lead into the world of vengeance. Could you be one of them?”

The chill of the final words sink deep within Simon’s nerves. The dread pulls him fully inside himself once more. The choking is ended by a deep gasp for air. Simon crumples over in the darkness of the pit. Reflecting to himself it was much better being there than trapped with this new enemy in the shadow void. 

Blue light shines through the cracks in the cell door. Simon rises slowly. The door edges open to reveal a smirking Gideon standing tall over his former student. 

“There remain no walls or doors that can bar my passing, rise Disciple, there remains one last heretic for us to burn to ashes.”