CHAPTER THIRTY ONE: SATURN'S SON

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I woke in the semidarkness

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I woke in the semidarkness.

The long, bleak silence I'd been drifting in came to an abrupt stop, broken by a monsoon of thoughts rioting inside my head. Cool air tingled my skin, and the quiet hum of traffic whispered somewhere far off. Trying to take in my surroundings, I swallowed the taste of dust and mildew and rolled onto my back.

My eyes took several seconds to make something of the shaft of streetlight falling through the massive hole in the vaulted ceiling. The old tiles reflected a waxy gleam over the chipped, hand-painted sculptures of battling angels and demon-like creatures. They hung on the soaring roof, next to the worn chandeliers, as a challenging statement against time and tempests, creeping from all directions.

Each one emulated an ominous feeling of warning and distress—almost as if all that was left for them was to gaze down at the unpreventable faith of an ancient prophecy. The mere image seemed poetic, and its implications sent a dark shiver through my spine.

I tested my hands under me, but when I tried to raise myself up, dots of red and black danced across my vision.

Memories of what happened came rampaging down on me, then. The crystal, the fight with Viper, Hunter's body lying on the ground, the wards breaking, the black rift opening through the ground, and the world dissolving into a vast oblivion. How long had it been since then? The concept of time seemed distorted in my mind, and the more I tried to gather my thoughts into a coherent reasoning, the further they appeared to get.

I lay there as my heart thrummed at double its speed, my eyes blinking the spots away.

With a second, more determined heave, I pulled myself to sitting. The surroundings adjusted to my line of vision, including a half-broken wooden bench that was poised next to me. Clinging to its side, I dragged my body all the way to standing. The adrenaline surging through my veins was not nearly enough to keep me from staggering, but, despite my brain's protest, I managed to scour the place through the vertigo.

It was massive.

The parquet floor was covered by a thick layer of filth and debris. Regardless, its dazzling geometrical designs of diagonal oat slats stretched into a multidimensional network that managed to shine through the dirt.

Lifting my gaze, I noticed the walls around me rose thirty feet. They evaporated into the darkness above, and as I ventured down the main corridor, the yawning space emerged from the long shadows that encroached the main dome. A staggering collection of biblical paintings still clung to their sides, some of them crooked and already tainted by graffiti. 

Each step I took reverberated off the stained glass overhead, and the crisp wind from outside swept through the corridors with a silent howl. I feared how calm and deserted the environment felt. The fleeting sense of panic mixed with the crypt-like atmosphere made me search around the shadowed church.

To no avail.

It looked barren and dark.

My brain started to send my legs the command to turn and flee the abandoned building, but then I heard it. Next to the third line of broken benches, on the left side of the corridor, the sound of a low groan cooed its way into my ears. It was easy to spot him through the shadowed space, and I realized the same bruises I'd seen before still clung to his face.

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