Chapter 34 (Everin)

Everin didn’t hate King Valen the same way he hated McCarthy. The pain McCarthy had inflicted on Everin was personal and profound on a level that Valen’s wasn’t. However, Everin had no love for the king either. He thought of Cora, Ford, Tress, and the thousands of others who were separated from their families and would likely die all because Valen wanted the country of Meronne under his belt. He looked at McCarthy and at King Valen. McCarthy’s aura was nearly nonexistent. Somehow, this made Everin even angrier – the fact that McCarthy wasn’t in pain, wasn’t racked by guilt at the atrocities he’d committed. King Valen’s aura, on the other hand, was a deep blue. Everin couldn’t imagine what a greedy king could have to be sad about.

King Valen was the first to speak.

“Everin, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I put McCarthy in charge of this project nearly a decade ago, and I’m eager to see if he’s finally succeeded.”  His voice was deep and authoritative. Everin realized that the king was younger than he’d expected, perhaps about forty years old.

“What do you mean, you’re eager to see if he succeeded?” Everin snapped. There was no point in holding back his anger, hopefully it would catch the king off guard. “McCarthy killed my parents and made me swim in the pool, just like I’m sure he did to the other angels. Your project worked. I’m an angel.”

King Valen raised a hand. “That’s not entirely correct, Everin,” he said. “I didn’t kill Kyzella’s, Saphine’s, or Ichoron’s parents. Also, you’re not an angel. At least, if what McCarthy has told me is true, then you’re not.”

“What do you mean, my lord?” A voice called out from behind Everin. He turned. It was Kyzella.

“He has powers like ours. Is he not one of us?”

King Valen frowned. “Kyzella, no more interruptions. Everin, answer me this one question: after you emerged from the pool, were you given the sight? Can you see the emotional energy generated by those around you?”

Everin nodded. He’d been planning on wrestling his answers out of McCarthy. Was King Valen going to volunteer it all for free?

“I can see people’s suffering,” he said.

King Valen smiled. For a moment, the intense blue light around his body faded.

“That matches the information that your friend Ford gave us, but I needed to hear it from your own mouth. As to your question, Kyzella, the answer is no. Everin is not one of you. He manipulates the same energies, but they come from a different source.”

“What does that mean?” Everin demanded. “How do you know all this?” He scanned the rooftop, trying to think of ways to escape while keeping the king talking. He was trapped. Even if he could fight off all three angels again, Ichoron stood with a hand on Ford’s shoulder. Everin had no doubt that the angel could throw his friend off the side of the castle or crush his skull like a grape should things get out of hand. They were using Ford as a hostage to keep him from making a move.

“How do I know all this?” King Valen asked. “I think it might be easier if I showed you.”

He raised his hand, and an orb of white light appeared over his palm. Everin’s racing thoughts ground to a halt as a he stared, dumbfounded, at the king. He heard Cora gasp beside him.

Valen let the orb drift out of his hand and guided it down towards Everin. The ball of energy shimmered before gently bursting and fading out of existence.

“You’re…you’re an angel,” Everin said.

King Valen shook his head. “Again, not quite. McCarthy is familiar with the story, and the angels know most of it, but you and your friends could do with a history lesson. Once you understand what role you play in my plans, it’ll make the rest of this conversation so much easier.”

Everin didn’t respond. He was shocked to discover that King Valen had powers like he did, but the mention of McCarthy reminded Everin that the man who’d stolen his life was also present. His hateful glare was drawn to McCarthy. He couldn’t take his eyes off the man. It didn’t feel real. He’d done it. He’d tracked down his parents’ killer, but he’d never imagined their confrontation would play out like this. There was enough negative emotion emanating from the figures assembled on the rooftop for Everin to destroy McCarthy a hundred different ways. But he couldn’t touch the man. Not while Ichoron held Ford. McCarthy smiled smugly at Everin. He knew he was safe. Everin was so angry that he barely heard King Valen when the monarch continued speaking.

“When I was just a boy, I had a very troubled childhood,” King Valen said. “I won’t go into the details, but my situation was hellish enough that I ran away from home when I was around your age. I was in a bad place. I wandered across Allomoria, trying to escape the demons my father gave me, but no matter where I traveled, they followed. After months and months of wandering in the cold, foraging for scraps, even considering ending my own life, I stumbled across an ancient ruin in a secluded little forest.”

Everin struggled to listen to the story while he watched McCarthy. He let a flicker of recognition cross his face at the mention of the ruins, however.

“Yes, you’re familiar with these ruins, Everin.”

King Valen smiled. “I wandered inside and discovered the sacred waters. Unsuspecting of their powers, I climbed in with the intention of cleaning myself. Once submerged, I underwent the mutation. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. There was that blinding light and the feeling of lightning running under your skin.”

Everin nodded. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ichoron and Saphine nodding in agreement as well.

The king continued. “When I pulled myself out of the pool, I realized that I’d been given the sight. I could see others’ emotions. On top of that, I could use the energies generated by those emotions to manipulate the world around me. That’s what makes you different from the angels, Everin. You underwent the full mutation, and it gave you the sight. You can see and wield the emotions of others.”

“You mean the angels can’t see people’s auras?” Everin asked.

“The angels are all failed attempts at recreating my powers – incomplete mutations,” King Valen said. “First of all, their abilities are limited. Kyzella can only manipulate energy into shapes she can touch. Saphine can release the energy, but only as destructive beams with no control. Ichoron can channel the energy into his bones and muscles to fortify them, but he can’t actively manipulate the energy at all. Second, they can access the pure energies of their emotions, but they don’t have the sight. They can’t see others’ emotions, so they’re limited to only drawing from their own emotional states. That’s why the angels grow weaker as they fight you, Everin. When you drain the energy from their emotions, you’re draining their only source of energy for their powers.”

This appeared to be news to the angels.

“You mean…” Saphine began to say.

“Hush,” King Valen snapped at her. “Yes, the angels can feel the energy. They know their power comes from somewhere, but they don’t question it. On the other hand, your eyes have been opened. You can see that source of our abilities. You can see what’s driven all of humanity for as long as we’ve existed. You can see emotions.”

“I can’t see all emotions, though,” Everin insisted. “Only the ones associated with suffering.”

King Valen was unperturbed. “Yes, that’s an interesting development, but it fits with the theory I’ve developed about the waters of the old gods.”

“Which is what? That you kill someone’s family and throw them in the water and they get powers?” Cora snapped as she broke her silence.

“It’s a bit more nuanced than that. First of all, the mutation only occurs to people who are around Everin’s age. I guess teenagers just feel the sting of emotions a bit more than the rest of us. As to your point, it is true that the individual needs to be in an intense emotional state for a mutation to occur,” King Valen said. “But the same mutation doesn’t occur every time. The emotional state of the individual when they enter the water changes the course of their mutation. In your case, it seems that McCarthy was able to instill just the right blend of sadness, regret, and self-hatred to trigger the full mutation – much more efficient than picking up damaged kids off the street and plunging them in the water with hopes for a mutation, as was the case for the angels. I think seeing the abilities you received when you came out of the water has helped me understand why the waters gave us the powers it did.

King Valen raised his hands and a disk of white light appeared beneath his feet. The small platform he’d conjured rose into the air, carrying the king forward, before it descended to the rooftop. He landed just ten feet from Everin and lowered his arms, banishing the disk. Everin finally tore his gaze away from McCarthy to look Valen in the eyes.

“You see, my theory is that the waters give us what we want.”

King Valen had a wild grin on his face. “The angels didn’t have a strong enough emotional state to unlock the full mutation, but we both did, Everin. Despite that, we both received the ability to see and manipulate extremely different types of emotions. We both went into that pool as damaged individuals. However, when I entered the water, I was looking for an escape. When I emerged, that’s what I’d received. You on the other hand, wanted to understand. McCarthy left you hurt and confused and without any answers. And so, the ability to understand your pain was exactly what you received.”

“What do you mean when you say, ‘the waters gave you an escape?’” Everin asked. “Are you saying that you don’t feel people’s suffering?”

“I don’t feel others’ suffering. I can’t see it, either,” King Valen said. “That’s where our powers are different. The emotions that you can manipulate are those involved with suffering.”

“So what emotions can you see?” Everin asked.

The king’s grin grew even wider. “Happiness,” he said.

Before Everin could respond, he continued. “That’s what makes me so powerful, Everin. I can deplete the willpower of enemy soldiers on the battlefield, I can drain the happiness from my angels if they displease me, I can read the intentions of assassins before they draw their weapons, and I can steal the joy from my enemies, even to the point of suicide.”

“That’s terrible!” Cora shouted.

King Valen eyed her. “I’d appreciate it if your friend didn’t interrupt us anymore.” He turned his attention back to Everin, “An interesting thing about humans though, is that it’s really hard for us to be happy. As soon as I start to drain the happiness from someone, their emotional stability shatters. You, on the other hand, don’t have that problem. Humans are miserable creatures. As I’m sure you’ve discovered, nearly every person you encounter has energy for you to use.”

King Valen licked his lips. “Imagine what you could do, Everin. I can show you how to use your abilities as skillfully as me, and you wouldn’t be limited by a fickle source of energy. It’s tantalizing to even think about being able to wield all that power.”

“But why?” Everin asked. “Why would you turn me into this in the first place?”

“My abilities are great, but as an individual, I can only achieve so much. That is why I had McCarthy undertake what he calls, ‘the angel project.’ However, the goal was never to create angels. The goal was to create someone else like me. Someone who’d been gifted the same abilities as me from the remnants of the old gods’ power.”

The king had an insane gleam in his eye. “You see, Everin, conquering Meronne is only a short-term goal. It’s a small part of my plan that began as soon as I’d realized what I’d become. I used my abilities to arrange affairs back home so that the throne of Allomoria fell to me. I’ve had McCarthy extensively research the ruins. Conquering Meronne is just the first step that has to occur before I begin to execute my plan in full, which is where you’ll come into play.”

Everin felt his throat tighten with fear at what the king might say next. “How?” He managed to choke out.

King Valen laughed. “The old gods are long dead. They were powerful, but they lacked the ability to understand each other. They looked to science and technology for solutions to their problems, but never looked within themselves. In the end, it was mistrust and fear that launched them into their final battle. Now, however, with the power they left behind, I can create something better, something greater, than they ever did. I’ve found a way to guide their power with something as potent as our own human emotions. You were never meant to be an angel, Everin. You were meant to be a god, crafted in my own image. Now, you’re ready to join me as the first of the new gods. Together, we’ll usher in a new era. We will unite Meronne and Allomoria, then the rest of the world. There will be no more wars, no more empty religions, no more cruel fathers, and no more broken children. We’ll bring gods back to Allomoria and to the world.”

Next chapter:

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