War of Siege
To say that one and the same route from the fourth tier to the third one and back had long since got me browned off with was to say nothing. This was the fourth time in a row I had to walk it and for this once I could not even do that at my preferred pace, for there was the cohort of vampire hunters accompanying me that were all barely trailing behind and thus greatly hampering my progress. I was trying hard not to display my irritation by this because I knew they were holding their own as best as they could after all the excruciation they had endured in this pandemonium. And, furthermore, it was they who could have had any notion of how to operate the mechanism that started up the organs, so for now their role in this journey was just as important as mine, if not more important.
However, about halfway to our destination point the mortals discovered to me that there was another hidden tunnel on this path leading to the third level that I did not yet know about, which managed to diversify our monotonous travel a bit. At first I grew wary why they had not told me that earlier but then I realized that the location was too specific to be searched out without precise knowledge of its whereabouts.
So we entered the tunnel that according to Bolgor's words 'was a short cut to the lower tier and could help us avoid excessive collisions with our foes', which so far had not yet got in our way even once. But this circumstance was rather disturbing than soothing me, for it seemed more likely that our enemies were only milking the moment of their attack by preparing another trap for us. No way could that worshipper that had escaped from me have failed to alert his brethren or his vampire masters about our activities here, so the seeming absence of danger now for sure had to be just another breath before the plunge.
The wounded hunter Ansek that I was carrying all the way on my shoulder had not attempted to speak a word ever since we departed the chamber. Once or twice his silence made me drop a hint of doubt if he was still alive, but from time to time the injured warrior kept on showing some signs of life by making subtle moans and grunts of pain. His injury was not fatal, but it still needed bandaging urgently, otherwise there was a risk of getting it infected. Unfortunately there was no proper piece of cloth at hand to use as a tourniquet and even though the bleeding from the wound was relatively slack as long as it remained open the warrior's condition would worsen evermore.
Eventually the tunnel reached its end and brought us to the unencrypted area of the cathedral. I had to admit that the use of this passage had truly succeeded in accelerating our pace, for even despite the hunters' poor travel speed I still had a very distinct feeling that we had reached the right tier much sooner than it would have taken us via ordinary itinerary.
As we walked into the corridor I at once recognized its entourage by the indicative trail of caked blood stretching all the way across the floor. This was the very trace left by the maimed worshipper that had stolen away from me earlier before, which meant that the immured passage had taken us to the one and only part of the edifice we needed.
Gladdened by this realization I turned my head to Bolgor and Zolyn toddling abaft of me and declared to them, "We're nearly there!"
Again none of the jaded hunters made any reply to my statement and both simply continued to mutely wobble their way out of the passage without even turning their gazes to me. Such irreverent behavior on their part was already beginning to anger me, but I couldn't really blame them for that, since they both looked to be barely refraining from ultimately flaking out with fatigue. So instead of showing my resentment I merely proceeded to walk up the path to the intended location, letting the two dehematized mortals move along in the way and manner that was convenient for them.
At some time we reached the part of the corridor where I had earlier found the trapped and wounded vampire hunter Moldgar, who, as it emerged later, happened to be the member of the same squadron Bolgor was in command of. The fatally injured mortal whom I at first saved from becoming a meal for the Zephonim was then murdered by a couple of vampire worshippers that cunningly sidetracked me during my interrogation of him and used my distraction to assassinate the warrior when he was about to disclose to me the information as to the location of the mechanism. But now on the spot where his corpse used to lie were left only the lustrous shreds of the webbing hasp I had disentangled him from, without which I probably would not have even recognized this particular area.
Though I was glad that the hunters accompanying me would not have to find their brother's dead body here now this circumstance also gave me some reasons to grow even more circumspect. Of course, I had expected from the outset that the arachnid ghouls would not be fastidious to act like scavengers and would still feast on the blood from the man's soulless dead body once they discovered it, but I did not expect that they would discover it here so soon. This confirmed my concerns that our adversaries had already inspected this place after I had left it pursuing the human zealots and now they could be easily lying in wait for us at the end of this trek.
In a few minutes we finally got to the hall-like area of the tier from where my exploration of this part of the edifice had initially begun. As soon as I stepped out of the passage leading there my eyes met slabs of shattered fragments of glass-like material lying all over the two-sided uplifting floor. The sight of the hall was now a chaotic mess, but it pleased my vision to see it in such a state, for it was the irresistible proof that our unlikely venture with the ringing of the bells had actually worked and now they way to the mechanism that activated the cathedral's pipes was free at last.
"The walls are down!" I shouted to Bolgor and Zolyn who were hobbling about twenty feet behind me and could not yet view this with their own eyes. "The chamber with the mechanism can now be entered!"
After my announcement the two hunters vividly lifted their heads in utter surprise and then even managed to hasten their steps as if suddenly having found inside themselves the reserves of strength they didn't know they had. Once they walked into the hall as well they marveled at the scenery before their eyes with expressions of genuine wonder.
"My goodness!" exclaimed Bolgor. "I cannot believe my eyes! It worked!"
Clearly the humans didn't even expect that practically anything could come out of this long and sophisticated scheme we had developed together, but now that they beheld the translucent walls that used to block the path to the mechanism torn down to shatters it seemed to have imbued them with the first seeds of hope that all the efforts and strivings they had put into this lingering, painful journey would not be in vain. Even barely conscious Ansek that had been hanging languidly over my shoulder during this entire trip slowly began to wake out of his pass-out in response to our glad cries and gradually perceive what was going on around him.
We started making our way up the rising track toward the doorway that led into the chamber with the mechanism, the glass-like flakes of the broken walls crisping under our feet with every step. Surprisingly enough there were no Zephonim or vampire religionists lying here in ambush for us as I suspected earlier. Perhaps the vast observable area of this hall might not have been the fittest place to lurk in, which gave me a nudge that the trap could simply be awaiting us in the very chamber where the mechanism was located if our enemies had already found it.
With this idea born in my mind I cautiously made the last paces to the entrance then carefully laid Ansek's body on the ground nearby and faced the wooden door, looking to open it.
When Zolyn and Bolgor approached me from behind I turned my glance to them and said, "Stay on your watch! This might be a set-up!"
Upon my order Bolgor quickly took the sword out of his scabbard while Zolyn who until this point had been carrying both his own and his brother's crossbows attached one weapon to his belt and held the other one in position to fire. I too raised the Soul Reaver in train for a blow and then mightily kicked the door off its hinges with my foot, already prepared to momentarily spring into fight if necessary.
But fortunately it turned out that there was no danger awaiting us here as well and the chamber appeared to be empty with only the gear-work and maintenance of the mechanism itself occupying its space.
When it became clear that there was nothing hazardous to anticipate about this place I relaxed my posture and let the hunters step in the room after me. Zolyn and Bolgor put their weapons aside and then brought Ansek into the chamber, carrying together his flabby body by arms and legs before laying it on the floor with his back pitched against the wall. After that the two hunters remained standing by their injured comrade for some more time as I went on examining the mechanism's exterior view.
It was a colossal system of various pipes, pinions, wires, gears and levers, looking together like an inside of some gigantic clockwork. Albeit I was not thoroughly competent in matters of technology, so far it was the most complicated and inconceivable piece of machinery I had ever seen in my entire existence. Once again it made me get astonished at the tremendous progress humanity had achieved in their development, for I could not recall anything of such complexity and profoundness to have ever been created by the vampire race. With such an elaborate operating system now there was no shade of doubt left in my mind that the whole idea of the cathedral being capable of spreading the deadly hymn through its pipes across the whole Nosgoth territory was obviously no idle threat.
At some point Bolgor stood by my side and started regarding the mechanism as well, his glance though looking a bit puzzled.
"Do you know how to make this thing work?" I asked him after some pause.
"In general terms." he replied tonelessly then came nigh to the machinery and started gently trying some levers. "Do not forget that it has never been set in motion before."
I gathered my brows together, then asked the human in a more persistent tone, "So can you start up the mechanism or not?"
"I believe I can." Bolgor answered without looking back at me, still busy pulling the levers. "But it is going to take some time."
"Which we don't have plenty of right now." I remarked sardonically.
Bolgor finally turned his head to me with a grim look on his face then spoke through gritted teeth, "I'll try to do everything as fast as feasible."
Sensing his negative fluids I said nothing in return and simply let him carry on his work. For now there was nothing for me to contribute to this process, so all that remained was to arm myself with patience and wait for the outcome. With this comprehension I backed myself in the corner of the room and sat on the floor, continuing to watch Bolgor messing about with the gear-work and from time to time making some of its parts groan and gnash. To the right of me Zolyn kept leaning over Ansek, probably still trying to bring him to senses. He sure did understand that what his wounded brother truly needed now was a real healing and not some weak attempts to console him, but since there was no such option available at the moment it was presumably better than nothing.
As time began to slowly drag on I stopped trying to follow what was going on around me and eased my concentration for a while. I pondered into my own thoughts, letting them wander randomly and absorb me with the unpredictable course of their flight. At first I began to think about Zephon and how I would reach his lair if Bolgor would not manage to activate the mechanism. Then I endeavored to imagine what kind of monstrosity my brother could have turned into as a result of the desecrating influence of corruption, building my views on the appearance of his arthropod-like offspring. Then I thought about Kain and what could be going through his mind now as he was awaiting me in his retreat in the northern mountains. This thought in its turn made me remember about the Elder God who was the one to have informed me of Kain's current location in the first place and after recalling it I started wondering if my omnipresent protector was having fun now watching me become deadlocked throughout my quest over and over again.
Before my stream of consciousness could bring me to any further meditations I suddenly heard some new rattling sound beginning to dilute the rumbling noise of the mechanism that filled the chamber's space.
I stiffened and gruffly bolted to my feet, continuing to listen out for the sound as Zolyn dazedly twisted his helmeted head to me in response to my abrupt movement.
"What happened?" he asked me, his question making Bolgor redirect his attention to me as well.
"Can your hear it?" I asked them both back, feeling the clattering noise becoming louder and drawing closer.
The mortals exchanged inapprehensive glances, but still providently made a reach for their weapons. Certainly it was pointless to ask them if they could detect such subtle sound, since human hearing was far beneath the one a former vampire like me could have.
But in a matter of seconds the noise became so intense that the hunters were able to hear it too.
Bolgor and Zolyn started frantically whirling back and forth in an attempt to track down the source of the rustle, while I shifted my gaze to the side of the doorway and at once caught sight of several shuffling stick-like limbs already beginning to show out of it.
Before any of the warriors even managed to react to the incoming peril I launched myself toward the entrance with one quick bound and swung the wraith blade in a virulent arc.
The flaming edge of the sword met an eerie pale-grey head of a fledgling Zephonim on its way, which it instantly blew to pieces. The beheaded skeletal frame flaccidly thudded down with the liberated vampire soul flying out of its neck and feeding the Reaver, making the energy spire around it glare brighter and snake faster.
But even then the clacking sound didn't cease and I anxiously stamped out of the chamber to see what was happening outside of it.
Just as I peered out of the doorframe I beheld the whole track of the platform I stepped upon rapidly becoming swarmed by an entire horde of the Zephonim ghouls, their heavily gathering flows looking from afar like those that were hounding me on the ground-tier earlier before. The spider-like beasts were coming out of everywhere, some of them even scaling their way from both ends of the vertical tunnel formed by the cathedral's organs.
So this was the very trap I had been apprehending all along, but didn't know where exactly to look for: the vampires had purposely let us get into the chamber unhindered and now that we were all gathered inside it were planning to corner us here all at once, leaving us with no way to run and no place to retreat to.
"Watch out! This is an ambush!" I bawled out to the hunters without taking my eyes off the host of arachnids drawing near from all sides of the uplifting track.
In response to my call the leader of the hunters' squadron at once abandoned the mechanism he had been working on and promptly dashed to the doorway, looking to join me in the upcoming skirmish, but I strongly blocked his way with the Reaver's blade.
"No, Bolgor!" I stopped him as he nearly ran into the sword's burning corpus. "I'll deter the onslaught by myself! You must go on trying to start up the mechanism! This is the only way your brethren can be rescued!"
The scarlet-armored human continued standing before me for several more seconds, his whole face frowning and eyes shifting with hesitation, but in the end he must have decided to yield the voice of reason and returned to the machinery.
Once he did so, Zolyn attempted to take up his place in assisting me outside the chamber, but I came up with a different instruction for him as well.
"Stay here and cover the entrance!" I ordered the crossbowman, hurriedly barking out the words as the very last feet remained between me and the impending swarm of the Zephonim. "Don't let any vampire get to the mechanism!"
The moment I finished this sentence one of the Zephonim, approaching from afore, lunged at me with its sharp-toothed jaws aimed at my left shoulder. I sidestepped and slashed the arachnid across its spine with the wraith blade, dissecting it in two.
Before the stumps of the ghoul's chopped carcass could even hit the ground three more vampires emerged on its former place and started vehemently advancing on me. Behind them could be seen hundreds other beings of their kind densely crowding the platform after these three, all hissing and clicking with their scraggy insect-like limbs.
"Perhaps breaking off the door to the chamber was not the wisest move to make." I thought as I began to backtrack toward it from the verging horde, trying to shield the way to the room as much as I could.
I knew the mechanism had to be protected at all costs, even if it would mean exterminating the entire Zephonim clan in this fight… so much like my own clan was exterminated by Kain…
But what was happening for the next ten or fifteen minutes could not really be called a fight, for every fight, even a simple or inessential one had to require at least a measure of some strategic thinking and use of skills. Instead it could only be called a massacre - a thoughtless, brutal, inordinate massacre with blood uninterruptedly pooling over the platform and pieces of scattered limbs, bones and intestines flying every which way.
The Soul Reaver in my hands was getting overfed with infinite stream of breaking loose souls, the loudness of its insane screams of engorgement yielding only to the one of the dying screams of the arachnid ghouls it was dispatching as I kept randomly hacking and tearing with it at everything that moved around me, sometimes successfully slicing several monsters at the same time with one swipe of the sword. Curiously enough it turned out to be easier to battle the Zephonim when they were gathering in such colossal crowds rather than small packs, since there was no room left for them to make use of their agility and dodge my shots.
But even with this kind of advantage their violent onset was still wearing me down bit by bit, forcing me deeper and deeper into the chamber I was do desperate to protect from intrusion.
When I was already standing with one foot inside the room a long metal bolt swished the air an inch away from my right hip and pierced all the way through two Zephonim in front of me at a time, impaling them together like peaces of meat on a skewer.
Without reverting eyes I realized that Zolyn had just followed my order and joined me in defending the entrance now that the vampires got too close to the mechanism.
In the same second Bolgor's voice rang out from behind, its usually confident tone trembling with audible nervousness, "Hang on! Everything will be running soon!"
Although it was supposed to be good news to hear, the fact that the mechanism was still not yet set in motion had only vexed me more and after inquiring about it I destroyed the next several Zephonim to get in my way with almost berserk-like savagery.
But giving way to rampage had its drawbacks too, for it could often be the first step to getting reckless, which proved to be true in my case as well when in the full swing of this butchery I negligently missed one of the vampires catching me across my chest with its cloven limb.
I staggered back from the blow with the Reaver's manifestation retreating inside my frame as the barging-through host of the arachnid beasts finally managed to tear a hole in my defense and began to invade the room.
Zolyn immediately shot down one of the intruding ghouls into the head, but several more were still able to creep into the chamber.
Thereafter one of the penetrated beasts instantly made a threatening move to the mechanism, but I quickly stopped it by jumping it and slashing its fanged muzzle with my talons.
As the Zephonim recoiled from my attack I turned around and saw the other arachnids that had broken into the room starting to simultaneously impend on me as well, ignoring wounded defenseless Ansek lying couched against the wall in the distant part of the chamber and Zolyn that was still busy hectically loading a new bolt into his crossbow. There seemed that the ghouls had only the destruction of the mechanism on their mind at the moment and were now intending to assault me only for the sake of cleaning the way to their primary target.
To the right of me Bolgor was still not done with the activation of the device, nervously pulling one lever after another and from time to time worriedly looking out at the slaughterhouse taking place a couple of feet away from him. I understood that by all manner of means I had to win some more time for him to finish his work, so without a secondary delay I lashed at the approaching bloodsuckers headfirst, using my talons as the only weapon to remain at my disposal.
With the power of the wraith blade already lost I no longer had to care about not getting injured, so once I got into the very gathering of my enemies I started bestially flourishing at them with my claws left and right, heedless of the numerous shots delivered by them to me. Of course, absorbing too much damage would not be the most preferable progression of events, but as long as I could keep the Zephonim's attention focused on me instead of the mechanism it was still the lesser of two evils.
In the other corner of the chamber Zolyn continued providing me with fire support, but each time he would shoot dead one vampire several new would immediately replace it while the arbalester had to take precious seconds on loading new arrows into his crossbow before killing the next foes.
Slowly more and more arachnids began to infiltrate the internal space of the room and it became evident that no matter how hard we all tried we would not be able to curb that many of them for much longer. I strove to keep every single Zephonim in view in order to be able to promptly react if one of them would try to get its hands on the mechanism, but to do this was getting harder and harder as the ghouls that I was ceaselessly battling suddenly started to enclose me in a tight circle.
I began to stray from their sprawl with everything I had but soon they still managed to surge all over my body like some vermin insects, ravenously clawing and biting at my flesh as I struggled to get them off me. Such relentless attack was literally nibbling the soul energy that held the matter of my body together, and in a couple of seconds I already felt my spiritual essence to be about to slip away from the grasp of the material plane.
But in the very instant the world of the dead almost greeted me again a sound of flesh and bones carved by steel was abruptly heard inches away from my head as several arthropod carcasses that were biting into me at once released the hold of my figure and limped down with mournful shrieks. The same repeated several more times until there were so few predators left on my body I was able to shake them off me by myself.
Once I finally got unbound I saw Bolgor standing in front of me in a triumphant posture with the claymore in his hands thickly dripping blood on the floor. Before I even managed to say something he bolted past me and finished off the two Zephonim in the rear I had just thrown off me.
On the morrow of this the leader of the hunters' squadron turned his face to me again, the expression on it resembling a mixture of elation and impetuosity. Bolgor's unique ability to come to my aid exactly in the very second I was needing it most seemed to have already become a habit of his and when I arrived at this idea it made me chuckle at the back of my mind.
"Raziel, I have managed to launch the mechanism!" he informed me with strutting excitement in his voice. "The air-vents at the bottom of the organs are now activated!"
After hearing this I glanced at the mechanism's outfit, seeing how most of its details were now automatically running and rotating with a distinctive loud groan of metal against metal.
"Excellent!" I praised him for his success and then looked behind me at a new pack of the Zephonim invading the chamber. "Can you cover me now for short while?"
"With great pleasure." the hunter replied sneeringly and instantly darted at the assailing vampires with nearly animalistic vigor.
Thereupon I quickly turned down my shoulder-cape and imbibed all the souls left by those ghouls that Bolgor had just dismantled. There were about five or six essences to get drawn into my gaping maw, which was more than enough to restore all my expended energy and return the Reaver's projection to me.
Once I retrieved my symbiotic weapon I rushed forth toward the scuffle ensuing between Bolgor and the breaking-through arachnids and joined the human warrior in his desperate opposition. Together we finally began to force the horde of spider-like monsters out of the room, behind us Zolyn still assiduously supporting our encroachment with his well-aimed crossbow shots.
After several minutes of constrained confrontation we managed to recapture the initiative and drive our foes back to the platform they were coming from. As we made our way there I noticed that the streams of the incoming Zephonim were no longer as dense as before and their numbers had visibly decreased in comparison with the beginning of their invasion. But nevertheless there were still rather many of them continuing to impend and with Ansek being out of action I had grave doubts whether Bolgor and Zolyn would manage to handle them all on their own if I would now embark to the topmost tier of the cathedral.
"Will you be able to withstand their siege without me?" I asked Bolgor who was violently combating a couple of ghouls almost back-to-back with me.
"Sure we will!" he answered all but jestingly, even though visibly straining with every blow he administered to his adversaries. "After all that terrible tinkering I have had with the activation of the mechanism this feels like a child's play now!"
For some reason the leader of the hunters' squadron seemed to be taking a rose-colored view of the situation, but I was not yet ready to share his optimism and once we rebuffed another stream of feral vampires and gained time to fetch wind before the new pack would reach us I spoke to him again in a more persuasive manner,
"Seriously, Bolgor," I said. "The vampires keep coming, and if I leave now there will be only two of you against nearly an entire clan of theirs!"
The mortal took a deep breath and then turned his face to me, putting on some genuine graveness.
"You may be right." he returned with utmost solemnity. "But it doesn't matter now. You have to leave us and ascend the apex of the cathedral, for there will be no other chance like this one! The lives of our brethren depend on you and you only!"
Bolgor's tirade made me turn my gaze away in contemplation as he proceeded, "Do not give me wrong, Raziel – I'm honored and pleased to hear that you want to stand by us to the bitter end. But you're a being that is gifted with the power of a God, and you have to use it for the greater good. By staying with us now you might condemn not only our siblings', but the whole world's last chance for survival. But if you do the right thing, there still might be hope both for them and for Nosgoth."
As much as I hated to admit it the warrior was right almost about everything. Even though I was still under an obligation to all these hunters and more than anything else in the world wished to repay them for everything they had done for me by saving their lives, I knew I could not put my emotions before my ultimate task when there was so much at stake. These humans certainly knew from the outset that once they crossed the threshold of this edifice they could never come back again, but they still made that choice and now it was time for me to do the same.
I had to do the right thing.
"Bolgor," I referred to the hunter after a short moment of reflection. "I don't know if this is our last meeting or not, but before I leave I want to thank you and your brothers for all the help and support you rendered me. It was an honor to battle alongside such noble and worthy warriors as you are."
"The honor was ours, Raziel." Bolgor replied respectfully and thumped himself across the chest with the left fist in his traditional gesture of deference.
Normally I would have found such displays of ceremoniousness irritating, but for this once the gesture felt more than appropriate and I even decided to return it by offering the mortal my hand. Bolgor was visibly surprised by such action on my part, for it probably was the least thing he could have expected from me, but after a second of hesitation he proudly clasped my palm and shook it with renewed enthusiasm. Through his eyes I could see that the sensation of a tactile contact with a tridactyl clawed hand of a former vampire seemed very unusual to him.
After shaking my hand the hunter jerkily whirled his head back, sighting the next pack of the Zephonim drawing nearer from the left side of the track we stood on.
"You must leave now, Raziel!" he anxiously told me, again grabbing the hilt of his claymore with both hands. "Quickly, I'm not sure for how much longer the power of the airflow will suffice!"
I nodded to him silently then squinted behind me as well, spotting another group of arachnids also advancing from the right. Stirred by this sight I slovenly scratched at my flesh with the left-hand talons, freeing my right arm from the Reaver's projection, then grabbed the rags of my wings and hastily approached the verge of the platform.
As soon as I stepped on the track's brink I could already feel the intensity of the air current streaming from the bottom of the vertical tunnel as it winnowed the hair on my head. The power of this updraft was far greater than the one of the weak vapor I had used formerly to elevate on this tier, so now there was no doubt left in my mind that it could provide more than enough lift to carry me up to the pinnacle of the cathedral.
Before taking a leap off the platform I took the last gander at Bolgor and said, "Good luck to all of you!"
"Don't worry about us – we'll be fine!" he returned fervently. "For now you should have more important things to be concerned with!"
After saying this, the human harshly swung his sword to the right, decapitating the Zephonim that had just stolen up to him as we spoke. The headless vampire went down, but in the following second the other members of its pack already started striking after their dead mate. But Bolgor was not intimidated by their rush at all and fearlessly threw himself at them with a loud war-cry.
Before the leader of the hunters' squadron and the arthropod ghasts clashed into each other I caught myself realizing I had to stop watching and finally make my initial move, otherwise I probably wouldn't be able to resist the desire to drop everything and come to Bolgor's aid instead.
Grasping this thought I took my eyes away from this scene and turned them back to the barely discernable air-motions swimming in front of me. Then I flexed my knees and desperately jumped off the platform into the vast space lying ahead.
The airflow instantly caught my bulk and swelled the membrane of my ruined wings, momentarily lifting me high upwards. The elevation was so rapid that it almost scared me with its abruptness and for an instant I even felt something close to vertigo.
In less than a second I was already so high I could no longer see the space of the tier I had left beneath me and from then onward there were only the walls of the tunnel and the colossal brass lines of the cathedral's pipes concealed in their fundament surrounding my body throughout my flight.
Slowly I was beginning to get used to such fast gliding and with every passing foot the sensations of space around me were getting replaced with the sensations of approximation to my brother Zephon. He was there, I knew it, waiting for me in his lair on the topmost level of the edifice and I knew he too was able to sense me coming, for the blood connection between all the members of our dynasty still lived even after the death and rebirth of me. It was a long journey I had to struggle through to reach my second sibling, but I had endured it and now another family reunion lay in my prospect.
"I'm coming after you, brother," I was saying inwardly, knowing that Zephon would be able to hear my thoughts over this distance. "I'm coming after you…"