-Dear Z
I know I told ya that I’d be meetin you this evening but I was just so darn excited I’ve already left twenty four hours ago! If you’re just now reading this twenty four hours later please don’t be mad girlie, surely you can understand my excitement on this matter? But don’t worry you can call me on my cell phone and I’ll update you on my whereabouts so you can find me easier.
Love always,
Gryphon-

After Z read the final sentence from the letter Gryphon had left, she looked down on the coffee table seeing that his cell phone rested there. She started to slowly fume, this was all deliberate, she underestimated how immature Gryphon could be. She thought that surely he wouldn’t pull anything foolish knowing that Lord Apex commanded her to accompany Gryphon in search of the half light. But she was starting to see that Gryphon wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone. She stood inside Gryphons mansion four Seekers were behind her silently waiting. Taking a deep breath she closed her eyes turning toward the Seekers, she opened her eyes exhaling. “You are capable of tracking Gryphon? She said addressing them, her question was meant for any of them not one in particular. They all looked at one another before letting the one in the center speak. “It would be very difficult to track one of our own, even more so the Alpha” He said. Z made a smooth aggressive stride up to him looking up at him with eyes of hate. She already hated Gryphon, Seekers were just clones of him, to her they were just as worthless, she instinctively didn’t trust them. “I didn’t ask if it was difficult I asked if you can track Gryphon!” She said raising her voice, the Seeker seemed undaunted by her yelling his face remained calm. “The Alpha leaves barely recognizable energy trails that do not stay long in the air” He said. She reached up with incredible speed superior to the Seekers. He responded too late as her palm touched his face, he grabbed her hand as smoke rose between her fingers from his face, the smell of burning flesh filled the air as the blood under his skin bubbled like boiling water. The Seeker dropped to his knees yet he didn’t scream out as he died. Z released her hand letting the Seekers body fall. She looked at the other Seekers who seemed unmoved by the display. “Again, I asked if Gryphon could be tracked! Yes, or no will suffice!” She said crisply. They all looked at each other calmly before the Seeker closest to her spoke. “Yes…” He said without emotion. “Then do it now…” She said assertively. She wanted to show the Seekers that she cared little for their lives, and that she wanted unquestionable servants who listened attentively. “Have you preceded?” It was the voice of Lord Apex in her mind, he was communicating telepathically, an ability that all shared in the realm of Gifted and the Shroud. His voice was deep, cold, and uncaring. Z looked at the Seekers suspiciously. “What are you wating for? Move out and find Gryphon!” She ordered. The Seekers bowed before darting off into the shadows leaving her alone. Although though the Seekers would not have been able to hear the private conversation she felt more at ease talking to Lord Apex alone. “It seems Gryphon has left already my lord” She said.
“Left?”
“Yes. He told me that he would be ready tonight to head out in search of the half light. But when I came to his mansion he left a pompous letter stating that he had gone the night before!” She balled her fist in rage.
“I had asked you if he was capable of such foolishness from your first contact with him” Lord Apex said so calmly that you could tell that his arrogance exuded from just the sound of his voice.
“I know my lord I am sorry for underestimating his foolishness!”
“No it was my fault really, I shouldn’t have fucked you last night. I think the anticipation of sharing my bed clouded your judgement”
Z smiled lustfully. “It was a dream of mine that I had for years my lord, thank you for allowing me to serve you in, and out of the bedroom!”
“It was no dream of mine, only of yours, merely a useful release for me, a convenience. Let it be understood that if you fail me continuously I will cut your life span short with no hesitation. Just because I spread your legs does not mean you have special privilege. I have many lovers across the span of the globe” He said coldly. Z lowered her head feeling foolish, she had thought her pleasing Lord Apex sexually gave her some advantage, she realized now that she was wrong.
“Yes my lord” She said humiliated, but she kept her voice strong masking her true emotions of shame. Although she enjoyed her activities with Lord Apex the night before she knew that because of that Gryphon had slipped out under her nose. Apex was right, she wanted him to make love to her, it was something she had always fantasized about. Not many had ever seen him, he was almost as private as the Sovereign. But she was one of the few that had ever been so intimate with him or even stood in before him. Sure he might have said that there were many lovers across the planet but those numbers were still not that many compared to the actual numbers of the Shroud she told herself. She blamed Gryphon for Lord Apex being angry with her, it made her hate him even more. She couldn’t wait to find him, and once she did…?

*****************************************

Judge Moses sat atop the high mountain overlooking the valley where his sanctuary lay below. The wind blew through his long black dreadlocks, they raised slightly as the the current pushed through them. His mind was on last night , when he found Jeni saving her from the Seeker hunting party. He had only heard of Seekers from others that had come to him, last night was his first encounter with them. Now that he’d seen them with his own eyes he knew that the Shroud posed a threat in wiping out the Gifted entirely. He knew that he must go before the twelve with his plea, unless others already had. The twelve were the highest of the order of Judges. Many in the twelve were of the oldest in the order while others among them were known for their great wisdom and not age. It was only close to three hundred years ago was the final member Judge Cervantes found. He closed his eyes controlling his breathing before speaking telepathically calling outward. “I humbly seek an audience with the governing body of the order” Judge Moses said, he waited many minutes keeping his eyes closed before he heard a voice.
“We are before you brother Moses, what troubles you?” Said a woman’s voice, Judge Moses opened his eyes, twelve robed figures stood around him in a circle in glowing astral forms. The woman who had spoken stood in front of him. Judge Moses smiled upon seeing her.
“It is an honor sister Chinaza!” Judge Moses said as he bowed slightly.
“You have summoned us, I hate to sound short but our time is limited. To call out to us means that you are truly vexed, that something of a most serious nature must be brought to our attention!” Judge Shiro replied. Judge Moses turned to Judge Shiro lowering his head briefly before speaking.
“Has the Shrouds new soldiers been brought to your attention?” Judge Moses said.
“You mean the Seekers?” Replied Judge Chinaza.
“So you have heard of them” Judge Moses responded.
“Yes and it is not our concern!” Judge Cervantes replied. “We are here as teachers and observers only!” Judge Moses turned addressing Judge Cervantes.
“Brother can you not see that this is the beginning of the end for the Gifted? My sanctuary has become flooded…” Judge Moses was cut off by Judge Anthony.
“All sanctuaries have become flooded not just yours brother Moses! But your concern is unfounded!” He said, Judge Moses was flustered.
“But how can you say this when those that have already been trained are only allowed to stay for a brief time? I would only be sending them back out to their deaths!”
“Not all are weak among them” Judge Anthony said. “There are ones that have power to resist and defy the Shroud”
“Yes but not enough, and even those with sufficient power might be overtaken!” Judge Moses replied.
“They will rise above as they always have” Said Judge Seth. Judge Moses shook his head in discontent.
“Listen to us! Using words to differentiate between us and our brothers! We too are of the Gifted fold!” Judge Moses replied frustrated. He turned walking up to Judge Chinaza locking his eyes with hers pleading. “You are the oldest amongst us, and the most wise sister Chinaza! Of all in the Order you were the only one to have ever met the first one among us! Would the first Judge agree with our lack of action?”
“I can not speak for Judge Shongu, he has not been seen for thousands of years! He may be dead, and I can not speak for a dead man. But I can say that the laws of the gifted, and of The Order of Judges was set in place by Shongu. He knew all too well that we must steer clear of the affairs of man, and of our brothers the Gifted”
“She speaks truth brother Moses” Said Judge Anisah. “We all have our place, this can not be denied. For us to involve ourselves in the war between the Shroud and the Gifted could disturb the natural balance, do you not understand this?” She said. Judge Moses nodded his head. He was deeply saddened by what he was hearing.
“You are still a young Judge brother Moses. You allow your emotions to entangle you in thoughts that need not house inside your mind” Said Judge Butu. Judge Moses lowered his head his long thick dreadlocks fell covering his face. This was not the first time that he had heard this. He was the last Judge to be born. Nature seemed to know when a new Judge would come into being, and that was only when an existing Judge was killed. All gifts seemed to be this way, some more than others.
“Have you all forgotten that you’re still human? That emotions are part of humanity? Surely you know that the Gifted slowly break away from us? Most feel that we care little for them, that we only do what is tasked, but we care not for them! We should not keep our distance. Instead we should bridge the gap between us!” Judge Moses voice sounded weakened.
“All of this emotion, do you see what is is doing to you? Do you meditate daily to free your mind of this?” Judge Shiera responded.
“It is a part of my humanity, I do not wish to eradicate it from me” Judge Moses said calming down.
“This conversation is over brother Moses” Judge Shiro responded. Judge Moses started to protest. “Enough!” Judge Shiro said raising his voice, his face was annoyed. Judge Moses smiled with a nod.
“See…? You’re still human after all” He replied with laughter. The twelve vanished without saying goodbye, Judge Moses had disrespected them.

*************************************

Tarik had accomplished his job, he dropped off Joe and his daughters near sanctuary as agreed. He was sure that Judge Moses knew he was close that only made him more persistent about leaving as soon as possible. Maria was heart broken to see that he wasn’t going with them, she thought that maybe since they had made love that Tarik could look past whatever it was that made him a half light and live among the Gifted once more. A woman like Maria definitely made Tarik think twice about it, but the pain in his heart and the thirst for revenge and closure was too great for him. Maria knew it but was hoping that she was wrong. Joe was surprised to see that his daughter was gifted after all this time and was proud by the surprise. After all she was an elemental, and once trained by Judge Moses she’d be a powerful elemental. His anger for the connection he saw between Tarik and Maria was more controlled but it was still there. Tarik and Maria said their goodbyes and kept it brief. She let Tarik know that if he never came back to her she would be waiting and that she would never make love again unless if was with him, it was just the way she was. Tarik didn’t know how to respond to that but there was no denying that he felt strong emotions for her, it was just sad that his emotions for her were not as strong as his desire to find Mr. Chains the murderer of his father, and whoever killed Deacon Marino as well. As he drove the van back to the city he felt very alone. He thought heavily about Maria, not just the love making but the conversations that they had before and after. In his heart he knew it was love, he was just surprised that love could take root in such a short period of time. And although he never said it to Maria, he promised to himself that he would never make love to another woman. He felt that bond with her now. And after all of this was over he promised he’d go out in search of her. Several times he had to fight the urge to turn the van around and head to sanctuary so he could be with Maria, but his loathing of Judge Moses followed by the stronger urge to find closure was too strong. “Damn…” He said to himself. He knew he was a fool, but maybe the love he felt for Maria might start the healing process within him. Or maybe he’d become so obsessed with finding the killers of his father and Deacon Marino his love for Maria would fade, or not be as strong as it was now. Tarik was afraid hoping that he would never lose his love for Maria. Only time would tell. He had money now thanks to this job, money that would keep him fed, and a roof over his head when he needed it. He never charged Joe for going out and finding Maria, Tarik smiled. Maria paid for that already he said to himself. The sun was coming up on the horizon, he still had hours to go to get to wherever he was planning on going next.

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