Ashes of Fate, Season 2

by Cynus

Episode 4

Pardons

Fire engulfed both of Tristan's hands as he started toward Finn, his eyes blazing with an intensity that easily matched the flames. Micah growled and jumped to his feet, shifting his hands into claws as he moved up to guard Tristan's flank. Meanwhile, Ivan raised an eyebrow and looked to Finn who was calmly watching the duo as he stroked his chin thoughtfully.

"You know they're lying to you, right?" Finn said casually as he glanced at Ethan, Luke, and the others. "Jacob Walker was dead long before I ever got to him."

Tristan hesitated, glancing briefly at the others, and then at Ivan, until finally looking back at Finn. "You have thirty seconds before I burn you to a cinder."

Finn smirked at the comment but raised his hands in surrender. "Jacob is temporarily suppressed. I only exorcise malevolent spirits, and Jacob Walker has never proven to be malevolent. Quite the opposite actually, if he had been malevolent, he would have been more of a challenge. Instead I found him remarkably easy to handle."

"Temporarily suppressed…" Peter echoed, "What does that mean?"

"It means that he's kept from acting by the mental control of someone," Luke explained quickly, eyeing Finn with an eye of respect. "It's the same thing my subconscious does toward my guardian angel. To do so consciously and to a spirit as powerful as Jacob is quite remarkable."

"Now that we've reached an understanding, would you mind putting your fire away so that we can get on with this flight?" Finn asked with a bored expression. "I didn't kill your friend, and I have no intention to. I did scare him a little, and he's most likely wondering what the hell has happened as he floats in the aether, but otherwise…"

"Why did you suppress him?" Tristan asked as he allowed the flames to dwindle but not disappear in their entirety.

"I asked him to," Ivan interjected. "It would have been a different story if Kurt were still alive, but Faust's recent actions complicated that matter. Kurt may have been able to convince Jacob to not try to save all of you, but we couldn't afford to have him interfere with our leaving, and we are needed back in the capitol as soon as possible."

Tristan met Ivan's eyes and looked for any sign of deception. Seeing none, he let the flames disappear as he took a step back. "I'm going to trust that for now, but if there is any indication that you have actually caused Jacob harm, I won't cooperate with you any further."

"The same goes for me," Micah added with a growl.

"Understood," Ivan replied with a cautious smile. "Well then, Mr. Elliot? Would you please take us out?" Hayden glanced at the others, pausing on Luke until his husband nodded, and then he stepped into the cockpit with a sigh and closed the door behind him. The engines came to life and the sign to buckle seatbelts flashed above their heads.

"What are you going to do with the facility?" Ethan asked as everyone slowly settled into secure positions. The members of the confederacy were directed to buckle up, and Ivan did the same, and they were followed by the soldiers other than Finn, who assumed a balanced stance as the aircraft began to move.

"What indeed," Ivan replied, "For the time being we will see if there is anything of use in it to my cause, and then we will work from there."

"Ethan, there's no need to be afraid," Nevala said suddenly, reaching out and touching Ethan's arm. "It's all going to be okay. You'll see."

Tristan watched the eyes of his comrades and winced as he saw the hopelessness in them all. As much as he believed in Ivan's sincerity, there was little doubt that the sentiment was not shared. This was going to be a very long trip.


It was one of the most impressive sights Tristan had ever seen, and was far beyond the majesty he had come to expect from the world at large. He was used to ruined remains of civilization, people living in rubble and broken streets as they struggled to make a living out of what was left of a once proud society. This was something else. This was opulence. It was the capitol from which Ivan ruled with the backing of Skinwalker and The North Wer Alliance.

There was electricity in every corner of the city, making it stand out in the darkness of the night like a swarm of fireflies. Only once in his childhood had he spent any time in a city with working lights, and it had been a very brief stay. Although he had gotten used to the idea of electricity through his time spent with the Confederacy, this was completely different. This was a fully functioning city like the stories always talked about; above ground and full of people.

And some of the buildings were as tall as mountains, the way they rose above the earth. It was a mesmerizing sight, and Tristan was lost in the warm glow of the buildings as they approached. Hayden seemed to have no problem guiding the aircraft through the city, deftly moving past the buildings as he received direction from whomever he shared the cockpit with.

The trip had been remarkably uneventful. The Confederacy had remained tightlipped through the entire journey, and refused to talk to anyone or anything. Tristan hated seeing his generally talkative friends being so subdued, but he also knew there was nothing he could do to change it. He knew where they were coming from, and he also knew that they would be all right in time. Or, at least he hoped that they would be.

Until they had arrived at the capitol, Tristan had spent most of his time watching Finn. The soldier was the image of perfect calm, and he maintained his balance easily throughout the entire journey to the city. It was an easy feat to accomplish after the initial jittering of takeoff, but even during that portion of the flight he had walked smoothly around the cabin, making sure to keep an eye on all of the members of the confederacy and a few of the soldiers as well.

Before Tristan knew it, they were landing on top of a large building near the center of the city. Tristan left his seat excitedly as Finn opened the door, and though Lieutenant Greenwood shot him a dark look, Finn grinned as he let Tristan join him beside the door. There as a large 'H' painted on the roof beneath them and there was a squadron of soldiers who were waiting for them in ranks, as if they had been expected. He hadn't heard Ivan give any orders to communicate their arrival, and he was impressed by the preparation shown by the soldiers.

Micah joined him a second later, and Tristan glanced at him in excitement. "I've never been to a city like this before," he admitted, "I don't know what to expect."

"There are interesting things to see, for sure, but don't forget that we're still in the presence of people who want to kill us," Micah whispered so that only Tristan and Finn would be able to hear. He cast a nervous glance up at Finn, but he continued anyway, "I don't like the way the Lieutenant is looking at you right now."

"I'll be careful, Micah," Tristan replied with a nod.

Ivan joined them at the doorway, and with a nod to both of them he stepped out onto the rooftop. The soldiers stood at attention, saluting their leader, and he waved them to be at ease. The rest of the occupants filed out onto the windy rooftop, the members of the confederacy being escorted by the soldiers, and before any of them had a chance to settle they were being led across the roof and into a door at the end of the aisle that was made for them through the soldiers.

As soon as they stepped through the door, they were greeted by an inviting warmth that warded off the chill of the wind that had whipped across the rooftop. Although the chill had not bothered him, Tristan immediately felt more comfortable as they were led through the carpeted halls of the building. Wherever they were now was a place of comfortable richness, with wide halls covered in all manner of art and decoration, though not so much as to make it look gaudy. It was like every rich home Tristan had ever read about that belonged to a man with power. He lost himself in looking at everything as he continued to absentmindedly follow the rest of the group.

Before long they had come to a stop, and he heard the sound of doors being opened. "Considering your reputation, Ivan, I would have imagined that you'd have a throne room, not a council chamber," Hayden remarked as the group was led through the large set of heavy wooden doors. They were elegantly carved, and Tristan was mesmerized by the sight of them as much as he was by everything else he had seen so far. So many things had taken him by surprise about this place, and he was beginning to wonder if Ivan was really as terrible as his reputation claimed him to be.

"That is an unfortunate consequence of how I came to power, Hayden Elliot," Ivan said as he moved toward the far end of a large round table. A middle-aged man with blonde hair pulled back into a pony tail and a fine blue and white suit stood up as Ivan approached and stopped at the man's left. He quirked an eyebrow at the group as they entered, and then shared a knowing smirk with Finn.

"Allow me to introduce my chief of staff, Max Derringer," Ivan said as he gestured to the man at his right. Max bowed regally, his ponytail maintaining a perfect balance as he bent forward, and when he straightened his eyes were full of warmth and welcome. Tristan wasn't sure what it was about him, but he instantly liked the man.

"You have a very strange way of treating prisoners, Ivan," Ethan remarked as his eyes began exploring the various pieces of art that hung on the walls. There was a definite elegance to the room as a whole, and that fact was not lost on Tristan either. The room felt as warm and inviting as the rest of the building had, and the chairs that surrounded the round table looked to be the perfect balance between comfort and professionalism.

"That's because we're not prisoner's, Ethan," Tristan said he walked further into the room to address the rest of them. "Did you not hear Ivan's words on the way here? We've been pardoned."

"The pardon of a spider to a fly does not make the fly any less suspicious while they are stuck in the center of the web," Luke replied as he eyed Tristan and Micah with a look of concern. "How either of you have forgotten that basic instinct is beyond me."

"I have not forgotten it, but I trust Tristan," Micah said, glaring at Ivan and then looking back to Luke. "That's all I can do."

"Peter, you seem to think differently about all of this. I met your father once upon a time, and he was a good man," Ivan interjected, drawing all the eyes in the room to rest uncomfortably on Peter. To his credit, Peter held himself professionally under their scrutiny and put his focus entirely on Ivan.

"If you think to earn points with me by being friendly with my father, you haven't done your research as well as you thought," Peter replied with a sneer. "I left Korea for a reason, and it was not so that I could end up back in the hands of The Alliance."

Ivan's mouth curled up in a smile as he replied, "Good. I hate your father as well. I hope you will find that The Alliance is not the same in every part of the world. I try to run things differently here."

"Death is the same no matter where it is in the world," Zach growled from his position in the back of the line. "What makes you think you have moral superiority?"

"Death is not the same everywhere. Death is never the same," Finn said with conviction as he closed the door to the room. The other soldiers were gone, left outside the door, leaving Finn, Max, and Ivan as the only members of The Alliance left in the room. Tristan watched the others share looks that spoke volumes to him. No one was restrained, and the leader of Skinwalker had only two guards to keep him from death.

Tristan was not the only one to notice the meaning behind the looks, and Ivan was quick to address the group. "I hope you will see this as a sign of trust on my part, that you have been allowed in here without anyone else to protect me. We can drop the professionalism now. We were enemies, but let's not play the political game any longer. You've already lost the war but now I'm giving you a chance to live."

"Where is Nevala?" Ethan asked, his voice carrying a harder edge than any other time that Tristan had ever heard him speak. "Where is Jacob?"

Tristan blinked several times as he realized that Nevala was no longer with them. He had disappeared from the group at some point during their journey, and Tristan was surprised that he hadn't noticed. At the very least he expected to hear Ethan protest, but he hadn't heard anything. Nurim was also missing, though the fact that his disappearance had gone unnoticed was not quite as strange to him.

"Nevala is being dressed. I understand that your resources were limited for a person of his size," Max spoke up quickly, his voice calm and reassuring. "As for Jacob… Love, would you mind answering that question?"

Finn nodded and raised his gloved fist. The group gasped collectively as runic lines appeared in the leather, glowing white like hot metal as the light began to fill the room. Jacob's screaming came next, and then abruptly stopped as Jacob appeared in front of them, coughing. He looked at Finn with a mixture of fear and anger in his eyes as he said, "You won't get away with this! My friends are already escaping! They'll…" he stopped and looked around the room, seeing that everyone else was present. "Shit… what happened to the plan?"

"We failed, Jacob," Hayden explained with a shake of his head, "But it's good to have you back with us."

"Are you willing to hear me out yet? I have not killed any of your friends over the past two days, despite countless opportunities," Ivan said with a touch of exasperation. "Please, sit, and hear what I have to say."

Tristan was the first to comply, and Micah followed after him, though he still glared at Ivan before he took his own chair. Peter came and sat at Micah's other side, and then Zach sat next to Tristan. With half of their number now sitting, the others grudgingly followed suit until everyone was sitting except for Jacob. When Tristan turned his eyes on Jacob, he found Jacob watching Ivan and Finn with murderous contempt.

"Very well then. At least I have your attention," Ivan said dryly before retaking his own seat while Finn came to sit at his left. Max also sat down, and as soon as he was settled Ivan turned his attention away from Jacob to address the rest of the group. "As I told you before, I have decided to grant a pardon to the Icarus Confederacy. I am considering extending this pardon to include the Nine Dragons members that will be taking up residence in the area I control as well, though now is not yet the time for such a maneuver."

"That's preposterous. I cannot see how you think a pardon would change anything," Luke growled. "It's not like you've changed your platform on which you've built your empire, or at least, nothing has indicated such. You still consider humans to be second-class citizens, or have you lost your inferiority complex?"

"You know considerably less than you think you do, Luke," Finn said with a shake of his head. "You do realize that Max and I are human, do you not? And we're the only ones allowed in the room for this discussion with you. I think you'll find that Ivan has never viewed humans in such a light, despite what you have seen."

"It's true," Max said with a sigh, "Though that has not always been an easy thought to get across. The fact of the matter is that Ivan joined The North Wer Alliance for the purpose of freeing the nonhumans from their oppressors, but had no intention of oppressing the humans in return. It was the political maneuvering of the Alliance that led us to such a predicament."

"You're asking us to believe that all the humans that were killed in the name of Skinwalker were not your responsibility? Do you know how many of my friends died in the first year?" Hayden roared as he rose to his feet, fists clenched at his sides. "I was willing to forgive Nurim because he was a soldier, and I understand soldiers, but leaders like you? You're a despicable excuse for sentience."

"I concur, though I am not nearly as aggressive as my husband," Luke added, eyeing Hayden cautiously. "What in the world possesses you to think that we would forgive you so easily?"

"I held no such illusion; it is my associates and dear friends who choose to be apologists on my behalf. No." Ivan's eyes grew hard and his voice became solemn as he continued, "I am aware of the death and pain I have caused. What I am looking for is your help in stopping more of it."

"As much as I am normally for peace, I'm afraid that I find it hard to believe that you have anything to offer in bringing it about," Ethan said dryly. "You can talk about how you want to stop pain and death, but what about the New York City Massacre? Or the Second Burning of Chicago? Your troops, not random pockets of radicals, were responsible for both of those events, among countless others not quite as well known."

"Would you have me answer each event individually? Or will you simply accept the fact that I take responsibility for each one?" Ivan replied calmly. "I do not doubt your hatred, or your suspicion of me. I am aware that you detest me, and think that I have made a grievous error in the path I have chosen, and quite frankly I agree with you. What I am trying to do here today is to make that path diverge. I aim to leave the Alliance."

Hayden snorted and sat down, crossing his arms over his chest as he avoided Ivan's look; Luke's eyes widened in disbelief as he shook his head, sharing a look with Ethan who likewise seemed incredulous at the claim. Tristan was about to open his mouth to address the others when Jacob suddenly spoke from his position at the side.

"You? Ivan Tsela Adakai, Whitefang, the Bloody, the Demon of the West, the leader of Skinwalker and the champion of all that is good and holy in the bible of the North Wer Alliance, you…" Jacob laughed, his haunting sound filling the room with melodic chords that reverberated through the walls and shook the fixtures attached to them. "You dare presume to tell us that you're abandoning the Alliance that coddled you? The Alliance that gave you power over everything? Your precious patron who gave your wolves free reign to destroy us all? You're pathetic."

Finn stood up quickly, throwing back the chair he had been sitting in to clatter loudly against the floor and glared at Jacob with his eyes promising that the ghost would pay for his words when Ivan laid a hand on his arm. Looking down at Ivan, Finn began to calm down, and without a word he reached down and picked his chair up before sitting in it again, though he returned his eyes to Jacob whom he watched carefully.

"Once we are done with this discussion, you will all be free to go," Ivan said clearly. "With the exception of Tristan, Nevala, and Nurim Khrys, who has absolutely no choice in the matter of whether he will help me. You have been pardoned, and if you choose to continue to fight me with that pardon, then that is up to you. I beg that you will stay, and listen, and that you will help me avert another world war."

"I have already decided to stay with Tristan, though I won't hold it against you for not staying," Micah said suddenly. "I don't like Ivan either, but as I said earlier, I trust Tristan, and Tristan has agreed to stay under his own free will."

"I won't leave Nevala with you without having me to watch over him," Ethan replied with fervor to match Micah's. "I hope you will explain to me why he is to be your prisoner while we are to be pardoned, but I doubt you will give me such information, and so I will have to settle for proximity."

"I have to stay with Tristan as well. You're not going to separate me from my brother so soon after I found him again," Zach announced. "But that doesn't mean I'll help you, it just means I'm staying."

"And the rest of you?" Max asked suddenly, when the room had quieted down and Peter, Luke, Hayden, and Jacob had all remained silent. Ivan was staring hard at Jacob and seemed oblivious to everyone else.

"I am inclined to stay with my family, and they are in this room," Peter said, glancing at the others. "I will help avert a war in whatever way that I can, though my skills are most applicable to the medical field. I am in the business of saving lives, and if you can convince me that what you need my help with will bring about that end, then I will help you. Not as a friend, nor as a servant. I am free if I am here."

"Noted," Ivan said as he returned his attention to the group.

"I must hear more before I would ever agree to help you, but I will listen to what you have to say," Hayden said coldly.

"Very well," Ivan said with a nod. "I can see that your husband shares that sentiment entirely." Luke nodded and Ivan shook his head helplessly, "You two are so in sync it is almost frightening."

"Can we get on with this please? My patience is waning," Luke replied, his eyes narrowing.

Ivan shot him a glare but then began speaking. "The North Wer Alliance has designs on the world. They are tired of the resistance groups that are still fighting in every corner of the empire, and they are ready to take more drastic action than ever before to end them all."

He sighed and nodded to Max who pulled a small remote control from his pocket and pressed a button on its end. Speakers activated on all sides of the room, and a low, gravelly voice began speaking. "Ivan Tsela Adakai, after great deliberation, the ruling council of the North Wer Alliance has elected to pursue cleansing operations beginning in March. We ask that you cooperate and begin cleansing the attached sectors as soon as preparations can be made. If you do not comply, we will be forced to take matters into our own hands. You have one week to make your decision."

The recording ended, and the room was left in silence for several seconds until Max addressed the group as a whole. "If you haven't figured it out yet, 'cleansing operations' refers to exterminating the human populace. The North Wer Alliance plans on killing every single one of us that they can get their hands on."

"Do they not realize that there are nonhumans who are rebelling as well?" Peter asked with a confused look at Max. "As well as the fact that large portions of your own army are human?"

"Of course they are aware of both points, Peter," Max replied with a joyless smile. "They just don't care. The problem is the fact that the North Wer Alliance can actually accomplish that goal if left unchecked. Only Ivan has any ability to fight it, but he needs help."

"How could we help you fight that? You're the one with soldiers and firepower," Hayden replied with a shake of his head. "I don't see how our small group can contribute in any meaningful ways."

"I don't need more soldiers or firepower. To have enough numbers to allow me to defeat them through traditional means would require a great deal more soldiers than I have any chance of acquiring," Ivan replied dryly. "My people would be destroyed. I am out number four to one at least, and half of my troops would side with the Alliance as it stands. We only have one option left to us, and that is to think like rebels. I need the best in the business for that, and that means you."

"What makes you think that even then we could win?" Luke asked with a shake of his head. "We already lost to you before. You found us, you captured us. Our advantage was that you didn't know where we were. You don't have that advantage. How did you find us anyway?"

"Kurt," Jacob said, drawing confused looks from his friends as they turned toward him. "They used Kurt. Now that I know who we're dealing with, and specifically who that soldier is," He said, glaring at Finn, "I know for a fact that they used Kurt."

"How?" Micah asked, looking between Jacob and Finn in bewilderment.

"Though only Jacob and Kurt would have been familiar with my identity at all, my name is Finn Turner, and I'm an exorcist," Finn explained, drawing the eyes to him. "I've sent many spirits on to the great beyond, and Kurt was one of them. I'm sorry, Jacob. If I had known that you were still around at the time, I could have reunited the two of you, but unfortunately by the time I learned that the rest of you were still alive, I had already released him."

"I understand. Surprisingly, I believe you," Jacob replied with a nod.

"We came across Kurt's buried body not long after you had left the area," Finn continued, his eyes strangely dark. "His spirit still lingered, pining after your own. I'm sure he had not quite risen yet by the time you left. I know that he had hoped to see you one last time. I spoke with him briefly, and we told him of our plans to pardon the confederacy and to stop the Alliance. He gave us the location of your complex and some details we were missing about your capabilities. If we hadn't had that knowledge, we may have never managed to capture you, and we would have certainly not been able to do it without harming or potentially killing anyone."

"Which is why you had the rods for dealing with Micah," Tristan said with a look of shock.

"Or why you set up around the perimeter, outside of our surveillance net," Ethan observed with a silent nod. "So, Kurt trusted you before any of this began. It makes sense to me. I've always trusted his instincts before, maybe we should…"

"What's to say they didn't force it out of him?" Hayden challenged. "He might not have given that information willingly."

"Do you really think that anyone could force Kurt to betray his friends?" Jacob asked defensively. "No, Kurt would have let himself be destroyed before he ever let that happen."

The room fell into a contemplative silence for several moments as the occupants considered the recent revelations. Ivan broke the silence eventually with a voice that was solemn and respectful of those in the room, "So, the question is, will you help me fight The Alliance? Will you help me ensure that there are less meaningless deaths brought about by fools who think that they have the power to determine who has a right to live and who does not?"

"What an interesting question," Luke answered after a moment of hesitation. "Do we have to answer now?"

"I'd prefer if you did," Ivan replied with a slow nod, "Though I understand if you need some time. If you wish I can give you lodging in the city while you make your decision."

"And what if we tell you we're not interested?" Luke added in a neutral tone.

"Then I will let you leave right now, and you will have the choice of becoming my enemy again if you wish, or simply to walk away," Ivan said with a shake of his head, clearly displeased by the question. "What I will not let you do is take your aircraft with you," he added firmly. "I will not let it be used against me again."

"So you're going to commandeer our equipment but let us leave, huh?" Hayden replied with a smirk.

"I'm afraid that's how it has to be," Ivan conceded.

"What is to be Nurim's fate?" Peter asked when it seemed that Hayden and Luke still needed time to think. Ivan looked at him with surprise, but he nodded with eyes of respect for Peter.

"If he cooperates, I'll reinstate him," Ivan said carefully. "If he doesn't I'll get my information from him through other means. Either way, he's my key to Avalon."

"Avalon?" Peter echoed. Ivan winced at the word and looked carefully between Max and Finn, realizing that he had let a word slip he had intended to keep secret.

"Yes. There is more going on than just the Alliance, I'm afraid," Ivan conceded with a sigh. "I have already spoken to Tristan and Micah on this matter, as well as Nevala, but I am not willing to discuss it with anyone who has not already agreed to fight on my side against the Alliance. Once that decision has been reached, then I can determine whom I can trust on that matter and whom I cannot. I ask that you not request me to explain without agreeing to help me fight the alliance. The lives of people I care deeply about are at stake."

Hayden, Luke, Jacob, and Ethan shared looks amongst themselves that betrayed the concern they felt at Ivan's explanation, but Peter did not seem fazed by the revelation at all, and instead he pushed along his original line of questioning. "Are you going to torture Nurim if he does not cooperate?"

"I didn't say that," Ivan replied with a shake of his head. "There are other ways of extracting information beyond torture. I would say that torture would be reserved for my enemies, and I do not consider Nurim my enemy at this time."

"Are you going to need a doctor in your plans?" Peter asked neutrally.

"Yes. I can always use someone of your skills and talents," Ivan said evenly.

"Then I suppose I'm at your disposal," Peter said with a nod. Expect me to kill no one for you, Ivan."

"Of course, Peter," Ivan agreed with a grin. "I wouldn't expect anything else." Peter nodded and Ivan turned his gaze back to Hayden and Luke. "And the two of you?"

"We'll stay in the city for the time being and watch how our friends fare, and we will aid them, but not you, Ivan," Hayden said with conviction, daring Ivan to say differently. "You have proven nothing to me yet. Absolutely nothing."

"I agree with my husband," Luke confirmed, matching Hayden's stare emotion for emotion.

"I'm staying."

All eyes in the room moved to Jacob, but it was Hayden who broke the stunned silence that followed. "Jacob?"

"Zach," Jacob said without looking at Hayden. "I ask you to take over the responsibility of holding my knife."

"I… I'd be honored, Jacob," Zach stammered.

"I'm glad you decided to stay, Jacob Walker," Finn interjected with a formal nod. "I look forward to future conversations."

"So, it's decided then," Ivan said, looking at each member of the confederacy in turn. "I look forward to our future working together."

"You may find that you are in the minority in that regard, Ivan," Ethan replied dryly.

"That is none of my concern," Ivan said with a chuckle. "I am simply glad that you are willing to give it a shot."

"What is our first course of action?" Zach asked, and the others turned to Ivan expectantly.

"For now we wait," Ivan said slowly, glancing at Finn who nodded almost imperceptibly. There are forces at work that we must be prepared to handle, and we need them to make the first move. They will move soon, and we will have to be ready."

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