Chapter VI

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Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, Present Day

KREIOS AROSE, MILLIONS OF thoughts pouring through him. He felt as if he would run in mad circles until insanity finally took him, and then . . . what? El! Where is the end?

Ellie would not listen—no one would listen.

"All these books," he said, looking at the piles he had amassed, "and not a single answer." He shoved the stacks over, kicking the table legs, scattering things in all directions. He knew of her Mark, had spent days going over and over his books to find a way to save her. But there was nothing. Now she had left again and he had other matters to attend to, but his anger flowed through him and he left it unchecked.

Impulsively, he stalked to the door of his closet. The bare concrete room. The Threshold. He would not stand by and do nothing. His hand seized the doorknob and he wrenched it open without pause, keeping his eyes brazenly open. There was no need for him to focus any more intently than he already did upon the destination; he was of single purpose.

Cain.

The door did not show some otherworldly scene. It did not open upon the woods near where Cain had dwelt for so many thousands of years. It did not reveal the Keep of the Damned; it did not link to Sheol. It merely revealed a clean emptiness, a space much like the plain concrete room Kreios had built as a covering for this thin place.

And there was Cain, in the flesh, sitting on the floor. He bowed to the Angel of El, tucking his chin to his chest.

"Cain. It is time."

Cain looked him in the eyes.

"Release your dead upon the earth."

Cain hesitated. "What of the seal?"

"Release your dead, worm! Go forth! Do not spare. Kreios commands you."

A change came over the countenance of the man Cain, and his eyes dimmed to full pitch black. "It will be as you say." He did not issue another word, and in the next instant, he was taken away.

Kreios closed his eyes and quietly shut the door. He had not heard the command from El. He had not, as Cain had confirmed by his obvious question, been granted the authority to do as he had commanded him to do—the seal of which Cain had spoken was still intact.

This was not the time. But he had done it anyway, and now there was no stopping it. What Kreios had done was willfully out of order, and he knew it. His grief had mastered him, if only for a moment.

What will it cost?

He could feel it—the souls of the dead were rising through every thin place on the face of the earth. Would they now go forth? Would these who had unjustly killed before wage a just war upon the Brothers, those whose dark kingdom had enslaved them? Would Cain fulfill his final purpose now?

Surely he would.

Surely.

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