Ashes of Fate - Season 1
Copyright © 2015, 2016 by Cynus
All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved
Episode 3: Memory
The small room had more comfort built into it than any other place Tristan had stayed in his entire life. There was a comfortable bed, a desk, and even a computer. He doubted the computer was in working order, considering how rare it was to find a city that even had power, but it was interesting to see such a device at all.
There was another door apart from the entrance, and upon opening it he found that it led to a small bathroom, fully supplied with everything from towels to toilet paper. A small standing shower was attached to the room with a sliding glass door. He was stunned. This was the way the rich Wers lived, not rebels, and certainly not humans. Having a bathroom to use at all was something that had only happened to him twice in his sixteen years, and now it seemed like he had one all to his own.
The Icarus Confederacy wouldn't be so bad of place to stay after all, unless of course there was still some nefarious reason they wanted him to stay here. He couldn't be sure of their motives, even though they had rescued him and certainly hadn't done anything to harm him. His days living as a refugee had taught him not to trust anyone except for his brothers. Now that they were gone he felt vulnerable no matter where he was. His entire life he had never been forced to make decisions completely on his own, but now he had no other option.
Everyone here had seemed genuine so far, or at least as far as he could tell. Jacob had risked his life to free him, and then Kurt had stepped between him and the rifleman when they neared the forest edge. Though he wasn't sure he liked Micah, the strange cat was certainly one who had proven that he would risk his life for his friends when he tackled the unsuspecting soldier and allowed them to escape into the woods.
Peter had been very easy to talk to, for a Wer. Tristan still wasn't sure what to think about that, but Peter had helped him with his injuries and had readily answered his questions. Then Hayden and Luke had entered the scene. He still wasn't sure about the two of them, though they had respected his silence as they had led him away from the infirmary and into this room. Neither one had pressed him any further than to show him inside, nor had they even looked at him strangely as he checked the door knob to make sure it locked from the inside and not the other way around.
But then why did he still feel like a prisoner? They hadn't quite said that he couldn't leave, though they were far from pleased with the idea. Maybe it was the way Hayden had become angry when he had asked to be let go in the first place. He didn't like anger, at least not when it was directed his way. Neither Corban nor Zach had ever raised their voices to him, instead doing that only to each other. He had never felt any true hostility from them, and the last few days had been a completely new experience.
And now he was surrounded by freaks. Well, maybe freaks wasn't fair. A Wer, a talking cat, and a kid who thought it was normal to come to his rescue wearing minimal protective clothing and without a weapon. Jacob was something else, and Tristan couldn't put his finger on what it was about him that made him feel unnerved. Jacob was certainly nice enough, but that didn't mean he wasn't a freak.
Of course the strangest one of all so far was the man in the rubber suit. Ethan. Now that had been an experience. He still wasn't completely sure what the man had done to him, but he did know somehow that the memories that had been brought back to him were genuine. His mother, or Corban and Zach's mother, had called him a phoenix. He had read about phoenix in some of his older books, but all of those stories had described them as birds, not people. Last he checked he was no bird, though he did have a fondness for fire.
He had to accept the possibility that Ethan had somehow manipulated the memory as well, regardless of how he felt. The man seemed to have a strange power over Tristan's emotions that he couldn't explain. He had been ready to leave when Ethan had arrived and took control of the situation, and now he was in one of their rooms and contemplating taking a nap. Even as he considered the thought that Ethan might have some form of mind controlling ability the only thing that made him want to leave was the thought that Zach was still out there somewhere.
Unless Faust had been telling the truth and Zach had been killed in the streets of Ashburg. If that were the case then there really wasn't anywhere for him to go, and he might as well stay anyway. The potential reality of that thought did not sit well with him, and for the first time since he had seen Corban's dead body filled with bullet wounds he was filled with the urge to cry.
He tried to hold the tears back but they came anyway, and he finally sat down on the bed and let them come. The bed welcomed him warmly, and he soon found himself being lulled into its comforting embrace. As soon as he was lying down he pulled himself into a tight ball and allowed the tears to flow freely as he thought about the loss he had suffered.
Tristan didn't know how long he lay there, thinking about what had occurred, but eventually he found himself drifting off to sleep. Despite his cautiousness about being in new surroundings, he allowed himself to be drawn off to receive the rest that his body craved. It wasn't long before he was dreaming, and his dreams were filled with memories of times past with his brothers, and strangely even times before.
He dreamed of his mother, and how diligently she had sacrificed for him and his brothers. He dreamed of how she would always be the last one to bed and the first one to rise in the morning, keeping a vigilant watch over them as they slept. He had never truly realized how protective of her children she had been, but now it was starting to come back to him, as if Ethan's memory enhancement was still continuing to unlock the truth hidden deep within his mind.
But then things started to change. His dreams became darker, first filled with images of running from town to town, being pursued by something, or someone. First it was soldiers that chased them, and then there were Wers among them as well. He was being held in someone's arms, being carried as they ran. He looked up into the face of a man whom he did not recognize. A man who looked nothing like Corban or Zach, but had the same fiery eyes that Tristan saw whenever he looked in a mirror or otherwise saw his own reflection. Tristan was crying as the man carried him out to the tree line until Tristan was suddenly flying through the air away from the man. Tristan was picked up and slung over someone else's shoulder, and as he was once again carried away he could see the first man being torn apart by a pair of wolves.
More wolves were coming and they were quickly gaining on Tristan and the person carrying him. Suddenly a form darted out of the woods between them and the wolves, and the wolves pulled back in apparent fear. It was Jacob, dressed exactly the same as he had been when he had freed Tristan. For some reason the wolves were afraid of the boy, who did nothing except stand in their way. Tristan was carried even further away from the boy and the wolves, and soon Jacob disappeared out of sight.
A moment later he was passed off to a woman, who in the fleeting glimpse he caught of her face appeared to be his mother. He was slung over her shoulder which allowed him a view of the man who had been carrying him before. The man looked strangely like Kurt, though with considerably darker hair, as if he were many years younger. Kurt drew a knife from his belt and rushed back toward Jacob, and that was the last he saw of the man.
The dream switched to the day on the streets of Ashburg where Zach was arrested and then Corban was shot, and Tristan was forced to run away. He relived it in vivid detail up to the last moment where things suddenly changed. When he reached the end of the alleyway where he had been shot, instead he found no potential escape, and saw Corban laying out on a cot, bullet wounds in his chest. He turned around at the sound of a chuckle to see Faust sneering at him, his eyes filled with a hunger that Tristan could not define. Faust stepped toward him, and Tristan backed away fearfully until his back hit the wall much sooner than he had anticipated. Faust closed in with his hands outstretched. Tristan was so paralyzed he couldn't even scream as the man's hands wrapped around his throat.
Tristan sat up quickly, panting heavily as the nightmare began to fade slowly. He was still in the small room with the bed and the desk, but he had somehow pushed himself up against the wall next to the bed. He quickly surveyed the room, searching for any sign that anything was amiss, but he quickly discovered that everything was as he had remembered it before passing out.
With a sigh he jumped off of the bed and turned toward the door and thought about going out to take a walk to clear his head when a voice spoke up from behind him that said, "How did you sleep?"
He turned around, startled, but relaxed a little as soon as he saw that it was Jacob who was speaking to him, though the fact that he hadn't noticed him before kept him suspicious. "How did you get in here?" Tristan demanded.
Jacob sighed and sat down on the desk chair, then indicated with his hand that Tristan should take the spot on the bed. Tristan crossed his arms over his chest and remained silent, and with another sigh Jacob answered, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. I promise that I'll explain everything if you just calm down." Tristan took a deep breath and unfolded his arms before placating Jacob by returning to the bed and then gesturing for the boy to continue.
"I understand that you had a run in with Ethan today?" Jacob asked with a smile once Tristan was settled.
"Yes. What is his deal anyway?" Tristan replied with a shake of his head as he thought about Ethan again. "And what exactly did he do to me? I've been having strange dreams all night."
"Ethan has this ability… you could call it magical in a way though he could probably make the attempt to explain it to you scientifically. I don't have a prayer of understanding it so I've never tried," Jacob explained with a weak smile. "Anyway," He continued, "he has this ability to affect memories in people. It's not the only thing he can do, he can cause a great deal of harm to someone actually, but it is one of his more useful abilities."
"So then that's what he did to me?" Tristan replied, scratching his head as he tried to wrap his mind around the concept. ""When you say he can 'affect' memories, does that mean he can fabricate them?"
"No, he can only return them to people or delete them," Jacob replied with a shake of his head. "As far as I know, fabricating memories is not in his repertoire."
"That doesn't quite make sense to me…" Tristan muttered.
"Why not? Are you saying that you don't believe the memories are legitimate?" Jacob questioned in surprise. "I assure you that they are. Kurt once suffered a major blow to the head and forgot who I was, and Ethan was the one who gave those memories back to him."
"So even the memories of you and Kurt rescuing me as a baby?" Tristan countered incredulously.
"Yes," Jacob answered with a sigh, "Even those."
"But how is that possible?" Tristan asked in wonder, "You don't look any different than you did in my memory. For fuck's sake you look like you're younger than me! How could you have possibly been there?"
Tristan was starting to get riled up again. He could feel his anger at the holes in Jacob's logic starting to get to him. He wanted answers, and he was sick of waiting for them. Jacob raised his hand to stop him, and Tristan managed to calm down just a bit as Jacob said, "I'll tell you everything you want to know. That's why I came here," he explained with a smile, "It's time you understood what this is all about."
"Then please, whenever you're ready," Tristan gestured impatiently. "I'm sick of waiting."
"First of all, the reason that I haven't changed in sixty-seven years is because I'm a ghost," Jacob explained, and received a snort in response.
"Bullshit. I don't have time for this," Tristan replied, and then he stood up and walked to the door. He pulled it open to walk into the hallway and came face to face with Jacob on the other side, stopping him in his tracks in shock. "Wha… How did you do that?"
"I told you. I'm a ghost," Jacob explained with a grin.
"That's impossible," Tristan replied as he felt the hairs on the back of his neck raise along with his terror. "Ghosts aren't real."
"Close the door and find out," Jacob challenged.
Despite his fears, Tristan complied and shut the door. He instinctively took a step back from the door and was glad that he did when Jacob stepped directly through the wood as if the door had never been closed. Tristan backed away at the sight until his back hit the wall of the small room and tried to push himself beyond that. "What the hell?" He asked with a look of terror.
Jacob raised his hands in peace and said, "I'm not going to do anything to you. I'm not the malevolent type. Kurt saved me from ever becoming one of those a long time ago."
Even though Tristan had yet to experience anything even close to malevolence from Jacob, he was still afraid as he stared back at the young boy. As he thought about it, he realized that there had been clues as to the boy's true identity all along. Jacob had somehow materialized in his tent while he was a prisoner. He was always wearing the same clothing, though there didn't appear to be any noticeable signs of wear or body odor, as if the wardrobe was somehow without need of cleaning. And then there had been that moment when the rifleman had shot at him.
"That night in the camp… You knew that the rifleman would shoot at you expecting to hit you," Tristan accused with his eyes wide in sudden understanding, "You got Faust shot didn't you?"
Jacob nodded and Tristan visibly relaxed. "I suppose I owe you then," Tristan said with a weak smile. "Anyone who is against that bastard is someone that can't be all that bad."
"I really didn't mean to scare you. It is unfortunately a side-effect of being who I am," Jacob said with a helpless shrug.
"It's alright," Tristan replied with more strength in his smile. "I think I can get used to it, even though this is definitely something I've never had experience with."
"I'm not a bad guy, I promise," Jacob replied with a smile of his own. "Anyway, if you'll take a seat again, I'll keep explaining to you what's going on."
Tristan hesitated, but a moment later he found himself on the edge of the bed, once again facing Jacob as the boy returned to the desk chair. "So, is Kurt a ghost too?" Tristan asked with a grin.
"No, Kurt's one of the humans in our little group," Jacob replied with a shake of his head. "Actually, humans outnumber those of us that aren't, especially if you still count me as human. The only difference between me and you is that I died almost seven decades ago."
"Kurt is human, and he's the oldest. Ethan is still technically human, and he's the second oldest…" Jacob began, but was cut off by Tristan.
"What do you mean, 'technically'?"
Jacob smiled at the question and answered, "He's been changed. He was a bit of a mad scientist once upon a time. Something happened to him to make him different, an experiment gone wrong or something." He went on with a chuckle, "Like I said before, I'm not a scientist, and I've never really tried to understand what it was that happened."
"Alright. I suppose I'll ask someone else then?" Tristan asked hopefully.
"That would probably be best," Jacob confirmed with a nod. "I think Kurt may know the truth, but I can't tell you for certain. We've never really discussed it. At any rate, are you ready for me to go on?"
Tristan nodded and Jacob continued, "Hayden and Luke are both entirely human, though they have their own quirkiness in their past. Luke has a guardian angel of some sort. I've only witnessed the fellow once, but he's a real nasty spirit if you're trying to cause harm to Luke. Talk about malevolence…" Jacob stopped and shuddered, while Tristan just watched him with confusion. Jacob shrugged and explained, "Just don't ever try to harm Luke. It isn't in your best interest, if you catch my drift."
"Got it," Tristan agreed with a nod. "Now, what about the others? Peter and Micah?"
"The only time you'll find those two together is in a sentence like that…" Jacob said with a smile that seemed to be annoyed as much as it was jovial. "Those two hate each other… passionately. It's actually quite ironic, really. Let me explain Peter first. Peter, or his birth name Petra, is the child of a union between a German werewolf and a Korean weretiger. The weretiger won the beast battle, and that's how Petra was conceived. She…"
"Why do you call him a 'she'?" Tristan interrupted. "I mean, it's obvious that he prefers to pass as male."
"Sorry, I switch pronouns throughout the story," Jacob replied with an apologetic shrug. "I've known Peter for a long time, and I first met him as a Wer, in which case there is no doubt about what gender she… er, he was born with. It's a bad habit and I try to break it, but spending time around Micah has rubbed off on me I think."
"Anyway," Jacob went on when he saw that Tristan wasn't going to contest his explanation, "Peter studied medicine at Yonsei University in Korea. It's a fairly prestigious school, and his rich Wer parents were able to give him whatever he wanted. The only problem is that Peter couldn't stand how the Wers treated the humans and defected."
"Ah, so that's how a Wer ended up in the rebellion…" Tristan said, nodding slowly. "So what's his deal with Micah then?"
"Well, other than the fact that he resents Micah for being able to change his gender at a whim, Micah's really the one with a problem," Jacob explained. "Micah spent most of his life orphaned after his parents were killed during the war. He grew up without learning proper social graces, and he's really only improved a little bit over the past few years that he's been with us. He likes to tease Peter, a lot. He's always taunting him about how Peter will never be able to escape his gender. Micah's kind of a jack ass."
Jacob shrugged and let the explanation hang in the air while Tristan mulled over the revelation. While Tristan didn't understand why Micah would act that way toward others, he did know a thing or two about being an orphan. There were some times that he wondered what life would be like if he hadn't lost his own parents so early, and if he would be a different person altogether.
Thoughts of losing his parents brought him back to his situation, and he decided to press Jacob for answers to the other piece weighing heavily on his mind. "So what is a phoenix? I always thought that they were some fiery bird or something. I fail to see how I could be one of those."
"Have you ever met someone with eyes like yours, Tristan?" Jacob replied. Tristan didn't see how this was an answer, but he decided to play along anyway.
"No. Well…" Tristan paused as he thought back to before Jacob had entered his room. "There was someone in my dream who had eyes like mine. Was that my father?"
"Was it the night that we were chased by wolves?"
"In that case, yes, that was your father," Jacob confirmed with a grim nod. "As far as we are aware he died that night, I'm sorry."
"It's alright. It's not like I knew him or anything." Tristan shrugged and then failed to stifle a laugh ate the expression of shock that Jacob gave him in return.
"Well, he certainly knew you," Jacob said with a smile. "A lot of people know who you are, though I'm sure it's been kept fairly quiet."
"Why? What's so important about being a Phoenix?"
"That comes down to your first question about what they are. A phoenix is a race, just like werewolves or shape shifters. They are a deviation on the human genome, or perhaps humans are a deviation from Phoenixes…" Jacob explained, shaking his head helplessly. "I'm afraid I don't have the answer to that one."
"So I'm not human?" Tristan replied with a start. He hadn't considered that implication before.
"You are, you're just not mundane," Jacob clarified. "Phoenixes are born with elemental fire in their blood. You probably never thought much about it, especially considering your brothers knew your true nature and kept it from you, but how are you with heat? Or fire? Does it ever burn you?"
The questions sent Tristan back into his memories, and he found that the ones he could recall before Ethan touched him were now sharper than they had been. It wasn't long before he could recall the answers to Jacob's questions and know the truth behind them. "No. It never has. Now that you mention it I remember getting a few odd looks whenever we'd be around larger groups of people and I'd do something like reach into a flame to retrieve something, but I've never been confronted about it." Tristan grinned sheepishly as he added, "Of course over the last few years we've pretty much stayed away from everyone else so I kind of forgot about that."
"That's probably because Corban was keeping you away from them once the questions started flying his way. He was really good at keeping you safe, good enough to keep us from finding you at any rate," Jacob replied with a smirk. "We had hoped that we would be able to reach you before Faust and his men caught up to you."
"So you've been searching for me for a long time…" Tristan intoned. "Why?"
"Well that comes down to one of the other bits that makes phoenixes different from everyone else," Jacob answered, choosing his words carefully. "A phoenix is effectively immortal, or at least their spirits are."
"Immortal?" Tristan started again at the claim. "Are you saying that I can't die?"
"No, that's not it at all," Jacob clarified immediately. "That's why I made the distinction of saying it was the spirit which was immortal. You see, reincarnation is a part of many different cultures around the world, but rarely do you come across any lore about people remembering their past lives, at least not fully. Phoenixes are different in that regard. When they die they are able to remember everything from their previous existences, always able to learn and grow and progress from where they left off."
"But I don't remember anything," Tristan replied. "Hell, I can hardly remember what happened to me in this life!" He added with a mirthless chuckle. "As we went over, Ethan had to bring a lot of that back to me."
"That's why you're so important, Tristan. You're on your first life. You parents were both phoenixes. Do you understand how rare that is, Tristan?" Jacob asked in a tone of awe. "Phoenixes rarely manage to find each other in life, and for two of them to mate together… It hasn't happened in hundreds of years by anyone's best guess."
"Alright, so I'm rare," Tristan conceded with a shrug. "Are they trying to collect me? Am I the missing piece in a set?"
"No, that's not it at all. You see, when a phoenix is on their first life they have a bit more power than their subsequent lives," Jacob explained. "Some say that a phoenix on his first life will never die of old age, though obviously that has never been proven to anyone's recollection. There is a rumor of a ritual that allows someone to steal that power from a phoenix, but it has to be one like you." He met Tristan's eyes again to drive the point home. "It has to be one on their first life."
"So they want to steal my immortality?" Tristan asked incredulously. "Do you realize how crazy all of this sounds?"
"Do you realize that you're the one talking to an eighty year old ghost?" Jacob replied dryly.
"Point taken," Tristan conceded with a nod. "Alright, so what's this ritual all about?"
"Well, obviously they'll kill you…" Jacob began.
"Obviously," Tristan interrupted with a roll of his eyes.
"And then they'll take your blood and drink it, and hope to gain immortality," Jacob continued with a shrug.
"Right…" Tristan said with a shudder. "How do we not have that happen?"
"That's why we rescued you," Jacob explained with a grin. "You're father wanted to keep you safe, and he entrusted that safety to us. Faust betrayed us on that night that you remember us being chased by wolves."
"Faust was once one of you?" Tristan asked in surprise.
"Yes. He and Kurt were..." Jacob's eyes grew cloudy for a moment but he quickly forced a smile back to his lips as he continued, "they were friends once, almost brothers actually. Faust killed your mother but your father escaped with you, Kurt, and myself; as well as another woman, Abigail Langster."
"Zach and Corban's mother," Tristan affirmed with a slight nod. "Well, until she died at any rate."
"Alright, so what happens now? Am I supposed to stay here, confined inside until they stop searching for me?" He asked as he gestured around the small room. "For some reason I don't anticipate that it is going to be that simple."
"If that's how you want this handled, then yes, we could do it that way," Jacob confirmed with a nod. "We could protect you for a very long time, especially if we simply withdrew from the war. It would be far worse for the world if we allowed them to have you. Could you imagine the leader of Skinwalker being unafraid of death?" Jacob shuddered at the thought and Tristan was not far behind him in repeating the action.
"That certainly doesn't sound very appealing…" Tristan agreed. "But no, that isn't what I want. I've spent my entire life in the freedom of the open air, and I'm already starting to get antsy about staying here," he explained with a grimace, "Especially since I know that Zach is still out there."
"We are trying to locate him…" Jacob began but noticed the nervous twitching in Tristan's leg and said with a half-smile, "but I see that isn't the more important part. You want freedom. Well, I can only see one alternative then." The grin was broader and his voice was firm as he declared, "You're going to have to learn how to use your powers to your own advantage so that you can defend yourself."
"And who exactly is going to teach me?" Tristan asked, crossing his arms over his chest to display his disbelief in that plan.
"Ethan," Jacob replied with much more certainty than he displayed in his expression.
"Now how is he going to do that?" Tristan asked with a smirk. "He's not a phoenix. You said he was human."
"Ah, but Ethan is sort of a man made phoenix…" Jacob explained, though Tristan could easily tell that Jacob was making this up on the fly. Either way, it seemed as if Jacob was going to try to sell the idea as best as he could when he said with conviction, "If anyone here can train you, it's going to be him."
"What do you mean, 'man made phoenix'?" Tristan asked, his eyes narrowing suspiciously.
"It's hard to explain," Jacob replied noncommittally. "I think I'll have to leave that up to him."
"What do I do then?" Tristan asked, letting the subject of 'Ethan' go. "Are you going to just let me walk out of here once I know enough to keep myself alive?"
"I was thinking something else entirely, actually," Jacob said with a grin. "It's dangerous, and it will put you in the open, but I think once we get you trained it will be the perfect way to utilize you."
"What are you talking about?" Tristan asked warily.
"I was thinking that we could make you a full-fledged member of the confederacy," Jacob explained with enthusiasm. "Give the North Wer Alliance a real reason to call you rebel."
"I'm no soldier," Tristan replied with a shake of his head.
"Not yet," Jacob said, grinning broadly.
"Ask yourself one thing, Tristan," Jacob continued when Tristan didn't immediately respond. "Isn't it at least worth spending the time finding out what your parents died for?"
"Alright," Tristan said with a firm nod. "I'm in."
Thanks for reading Ashes of Fate. I'd love to hear your thoughts, good or bad, on this chapter or any of the future. A writer cannot improve without feedback, and I hope to one day become a master of the craft. Please, share your thoughts, and I promise I'll give them the respect and consideration they deserve. You can email me at Samuel.D.Roe@gmail.com, or you can visit my author page on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Samuel.D.Roe.Cynus/?ref=bookmarks.
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