Jasmine ran her fingers through her tousled red hair. In an unthinkably distant past, in a place that only existed in her imagination, it was impeccably groomed, clean and shiny, as if still uncontaminated by the horrors that took away her childhood and innocence. Separated by hundreds and hundreds of kilometers, her triplet sisters were doing the exact same thing.
“Camilla! I’m glad you’re with me.”
“And I’m glad you finally let me in. I’ve missed you.”
“You’re a Lusor now.”
“I MIGHT BECOME a Lusor in the future, mastering the art is like a long and hazardous road. And even here, in Eccarius, those who should know better see me as a witch.”
“I need you to use whatever powers of ‘the Lusors’ art’ you currently have access to.”
“That can not be… it doesn’t work through you, from a distance.”
“You just need to feel what I feel… and interpret it. You can do that better than I can.”
“Jasmine, darling, that’s just my femininity, my sensitivity. That’s not ‘art’.”
“Whatever it is, I have a terrible feeling and I need some guidance.”
“Tell me. No, wait… let me. Let me feel you.”
Jasmine sighed and prepared herself for the emotional invasion.
I might never get used to my sisters violating the privary of my mind. Cursed be this special connection of ours!
“You have to accept it. You have to allow him to do as he plans.”
“What?! Turning me into a cold-blooded killer?! He said he would teach me everything, that I’d be like him, only better.”
“Are you sure this was all?”
“Uh… no… he said that I should not embrace it, that way, it would be more like an invisible hand directing me at the hours of need.”
“It is inevitable. It’s not about revenge, it’s about doing what is expected of you by the omniverse, when you stand before a crossroads of destiny, where, under threat of greater darkness, only the lesser dark, not the brighter light can be chosen.”
“Now you sound cryptical! Melissa, what do you think?”
“It’s no use, Camilla, she’s playing hide ‘n seek behind her mental wall again.”
“I’m not hiding behind a wall!”
“Yes Jasmine, I understand your dilemma. You want my blessing, or what?”
“Your logic… you are the more rational of us.”
“Is that meant to mock me?”
“Does it sound that way to you?”
“No. Well… the logical answer is that… that Camilla’s usually right.”
“That does not sound like you! Not at all!”
“OK then! I think that logic does not matter anymore if half your family has been massacred, and the rest’s been tortured, maimed or otherwise damaged! If the world is sick like a rotten tooth, is my logic then the cure that can heal it, like nothing ever happened? No, a real surgeon must do what is necessary to prevent worse. If that means cutting out the rot, then so be it. If our lady Jasmine can be turned into the perfect weapon, mastering the art like no one else before her, that might just be what’s necessary to stop the world from decaying. At least it might give us an edge when the whole world is out to get us again. And…”
“And you have us. We are ONE through our mystical connection. We will make sure that this beautiful, innocent core of yours will not be touched by whatever horrible deeds the invisible hand of fate will make you do.”
“That’s right!” Camilla said to the spiritual image of her triplet sister.
“Together three, together free!”
“TOGETHER THREE, TOGETHER FREE!”
And this time, when she ran her hands through her hair, he had turned on the light next to the mirror. Gradam, veteran and former assassin, was now standing beside her like a caring father. Her hair was not red, but silvery grey and her skin was as dark as the hard black stone which the Zartians always loved to incorporate into their buildings. The transformation was complete. She was now a Zartian, ready for the journey to Zartia. The dye also masked her many scars, just as the fake hair covered her bald, scarred skull, which always made her recall the fire and torture.
He had become a dark North-eastern man too, his height and proportions a bit unusual for the Zartian breed, but otherwise spotless.
His touch was warm and soft, but she trusted him not as she would trust her own father… and even her father had finally proven himself unworthy of her trust.
Gradam collapsed and spit out red saliva. His breathing sounded heavy, like a rattling machine.
She crouched beside him. “Your illness…”
“It’s nothing … we do not have time right now to find a healer.” With difficulty he stood up, but he had to lean with both hands against the wall.
When Jasmine got herself up on her feet, she knew something was wrong. Camilla’s mental apparition inside her head let out a pervasive scream. “HE’s COME! HE WHO BRINGS DESPAIR AND CHAOS!”
When she looked into the mirror, she saw it herself. Having human proportions, this creature was inhuman in every other way. It had an exoskeleton, four small white eyes and a blackish, transparent skin, just like the flying monsters called volosts. The summum of its fearsomeness, like in the case of the volost, was its second, shadowy body that floated just behind, as a kind of failed shadow or lost soul.
“YES HE IS HERE CAMILLA!”
“What do you mean?! I’m talking about the omnigentium, the foul, intelligent, immaterial beast of higher reality, that is seeking access to our world! It has found me here, while the Priests of Virtue would protect me, hide me from it!”
If Camilla does not see the same horrible creature…
She turned around. The creature bowed slightly, the four pupil-less eyes staring at her all the while. When he spoke, his voice sounded like a shrill echo in a hall with distorted acoustics. “I can help, old friend.”
She could not marry the kindness of words with the repulsiveness of voice and appearance. Gradam carefully let go of the wall and turned, staggering on his legs.
“Vion an Chor. You are most unexpected, but all the more welcome. “
“They killed your noble volost.”
“So you already know.”
“We feel it. You would feel, if you’d worn your Phantom of Duritasa. It’s a shame the creature is dead.”
“Its physical embodiment is dead, the shadowbody still floats around, somewhere…”
“Volosts rarely die. The shadowbody of a volost is more powerful than you can imagine. Much more than the shadow body that contributed to your ‘cloak’. But first I must heal you.”
Jasmine had already seen a volost before and could therefore more easily get used to looking at this Orburironese man. “Sorry, I had never…”
“… seen an Orburironese man in all his glory? Don’t worry, little one, you’re one of the few who’ve ever been so lucky. Small wonder the other races all want to either exterminate, or isolate us. Which is why we ultimately did the latter ourselves. Isolating, I mean.”
“They said there will be a war.”
“The ‘war’ has never ended. Not from ‘your’ side, anyways. Your leaders seek only an excuse to do what their hearts most secretly desire.”