Chapter 6

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MAIEL WANDERED THE STAIRCASE between the floors of Lena's Earth house. The dim glow of street lamps cast through the windows provided the only light with which to see. Maiel looked around, allowing her eyes to adjust to the dark. Now was the perfect time to renew her effort to undo Mort's poison and return home vindicated. The human pitarau slept, so their thoughts were quieter. She tried to locate her assign and redirected her searching mind. The rest of the family were in bed.

Inside these walls, Maiel sought refuge and amends. To start, she gathered her tattered emotions and planned a way to heal the wounds her rashness had incurred without reaching out to the watchers. Her flight from her family weighed heavily on her shoulders, distractingly so. The quiet of Lena's home once made it easy to piece together scattered ideas. At least few would follow her there. At worst, the Illuminati could break down the door at any moment to return her and take over the mission.

Having a vague idea of what needed to be done, Maiel reached to the minds of the pitarau. Four days had passed in their life. Their thoughts were deeply focused on the overwhelming pain of their loss. Maiel sighed. Past the living room, she caught sight of the guardians in much needed meditation. They attempted to heal the wound left by Lena's death and their spent  energies in protecting their assigns during the transition, but it would take much time.

Decorated with framed photographs, the hall to the kitchen showed the humans in happier times. Lena's laughing face peered back at her. A tear slid from Maiel's eye and she pressed her fingertips to the glass covering the photo.

Only a few short months had passed since Maiel came to fill the shoes of the lost guardian and she'd forged a nominal bond with the two who remained. A thread of emotions whipped loose at the memories. No one thought of Gamael in the crossfire. His disappearance coincided with Lena's illness, a time when he would be vulnerable, weakened by the droves of opportunist imps to beat back. Yet no one mentioned a thing about him. Had they honestly abandoned Gamael to the shadows?

Staring into the darkness, Maiel recalled the day she'd tried to figure that out. The alders in charge of Lena's incarnation and the alders in charge of administering orders to the assign guardian had strangely summoned her from the Moon Order. She'd answered them promptly and received orders to replace Gamael. She heard their voices ringing in her ears and even saw the black marble room in which they disseminated little information.

"Gamael has been abducted by shadowalkers," Alder Maxiel said, with a pale, grizzled face.

Because Maxiel was also Dominic's alder, she felt very familiar with him. He regarded her with a pair of eyes that seemed completely unmoved by the information. They weren't black like many of the elder alders; by her assessment they seemed more human. A dark brown, perhaps. That was significant, because it might mean he was unworthy of his post. However, pigmentations in duta could stray from the norm, like they did with her onetime friend, Gediel. If Maxiel sat there, then Ganesha had determined him worthy. She wasn't of a rank to question him. Maiel did her best not to think too much on it, though she cared for other personal reasons. His pale, balding head was a sign of his advanced resonance.

"You'll need to replace the guardian during the soul's transition back to Zion. When it has crossed the barrier free of physical form, you'll bring it to Otzar to be raised. It is necessary for the soul to be without physical form in order for it to cross the khajala. This task is very important, Captain. Don't allow the dark dwellers to gain this one. It's the next soul to be raised and will serve as a youngling in your regiment, once graduated from the Ordo Priori. That should be incentive to keep the transition smooth."

It. He'd referred to Lena as an object. Maiel had received the orders with no outward display of emotion. Inside, she had been excited to return to her duties as a guardian. Her last assign had been centuries ago. Her command filled the space her ketu didn't claim. Preparing and drilling others for such duty, along with fighting dark dwellers that crossed the khajala to wage war, had become her main occupation. Her light endangered souls if assigned to them for too long, but her strength was a great threat to the shades who dared to cross her. She expected to face a heavy number of them due to the soul's status. She thought she'd enjoy the assignment, though it would keep her from her family for a year or more. The assignment also happened just when she and Dominic had gotten refocused on his rising. Sending the cursed back to the pits was a pleasure for all duta, if they were not allowed to send them to Oblivion. Dominic understood, as a former milite, and would be happy to wait. Besides, she had the opportunity to lessen the number of shadows who could harry them when they incarnated. However, Maxiel calling a human child "it" left a bad taste in her mouth.

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