by AB

Chapter 16

The Gathering

"We're all here, what did you want to talk to us about?" Asked Paul. It was two days after their return from Santorini, and the search for Mathew by the authorities was not going anywhere positive.

Triton and Kendra as well as Triton's mother were there.

"Triton, wanna do the honours?" Andreas asked him.

Triton nodded and proceeded into telling them all they needed to know, from Andreas' life, from his encounters with Ulagh, the second Adam. "Well, we don't know his name, so since the first one was named such we've named him so." As Triton explained, up to his motives, desires, the dreams of the Gathering and the vision he had had that night in Santorini. Everything.

"That's all very interesting but right now me and Kendra need to go out there and find Mathew, help with the search. Either as in an official capacity or as in Watchers." Paul asserted.

Triton shook his head. "No, dad. Listen we believe…" he looked at Andreas who nodded. "We believe that Ulagh is the true leader of the Watchers."

"That's absurd." Kendra replied in a dismissive gesture. "We know him, he's a mortal like any other. We've met him, he's a sixty something year old man from New York, who fought in Vietnam and now has a Jazz bar and an old books shop, his last Immortal was a guy from Scotland or something."

"No, look, listen to me…us. Ulagh has been throwing Immortals at Andreas for a while now, you know this, right?" Triton asked looking at his father, who nodded.

"Indeed, George seemed to think so and I agreed with him after doing some…research."

"So, think about it. You are a guy who thinks himself a god. You are an Immortal, about seventy thousand years old, you want to be able to keep track of other Immortals, preferably all of them, what do you do? Considering if you come anywhere close to another Immortal he or she will know through the sensation they all get when another is close by. So, what do you do?"

There was a still silence for a moment, Paul broke it. "You have mortals keep track of the Immortals…" Kendra seemed lost, as did Paul. "But…wouldn't we know of that?"

"No, clandestine organizations are known for their secrets. Maybe it's a pact or something between the mortal leader and the Immortal one, although Andreas has a different theory in mind." Triton looked at his friend.

"I think you are all being conditioned." He saw blank stares in Kendra, Paul, and his wife. "Through my travels I have met various…you could call them wise men and women, sages, and medicine men, now I know we don't believe in magic but considering this Immortality of mine is a curse…maybe science has not, yet, explained everything, maybe one thousand years of dark and medieval ages actually killed all those who knew and could use…this stuff. I don't know but, I have learned of methods and techniques that can make another human being be...conditioned. Ranging from simple stuff like memory loss, or implantation of false memories and suggestions and emotions in another up to complete mind domination. I know it sounds a lot like hypnotism and in a way, it is but it's so much more than that.

Andreas took a breath and continued before anyone could interrupt him. "I first learned of this in Babylon, but I've been researching it lately and I think it's a combination of body language, tone of voice and even up to brain waves synchronisation but the point is with enough knowledge and practice one can do amazing things."

"It seems a bit far-fetched." Kendra said.

"I thought you'd think that so I…did something with Triton yesterday. He won't remember it now, but he is in on it. Andreas got his mobile out and pressed play on a video that was on screen. They saw him talking with Triton then him conditioning Triton. Then Triton remained there for fifteen minutes until Andreas pressed in with his index finger on Triton's right shoulder for two seconds and Triton snapped out of it asking if he'd condition him? Andreas stopped the video there.

"Remember." He commanded Triton making direct eye contact. Triton blinked rapidly for a second or two before clutching his head by his temples, his hands then sliding on top of his eyes.

"Fuck…that was unpleasant." Triton commented now remembering it all. "Shit, how the fuck did you make me not only forget that but also remember something else instead?"

"I…don't know what to say…I can't decide if it's real or an act by you two but…if Immortals can exist…" Kendra stated.

"There is a test I can do to see if you and Paul have been conditioned before." Said Andreas.

"What test?" Asked Paul, feeling cautious.

"I can try to condition you, if you have been before I won't be able to, once conditioned by someone you can't be by anyone else, your mind is changed."

Paul and Kendra nodded.

"Okay, well I'll go to my room, I need concentration and quiet for this. Paul, you come in first and then after you, Kendra." They nodded, and Andreas went to his room. Paul followed him seconds later.

"What's taking them so long?" Asked Triton, six hours later.

"As I told you, the past forty times, I do not know." His mother replied him.

Fifteen minutes later Paul came out with Andreas right behind him.

"Fuck, I had forgotten how tiring this is…how can he do it as much as we allege he has?" Andreas stumbled grabbing hold of one of the living room armchairs.

"He is conditioned, I could not do it." Said Andras, sitting on the chair.

"Then, what took you so long?" Asked Triton.

"Conditioning someone depends on many factors, the ability of the one doing it, the mind of the person getting it, how…simple or complex either of them are, education, upbringing, there's a few parameters that complicate things. Your father is a complex individual due to his work and his involvement with the Watchers. Conditioning can take one minute or…days. I could not condition your father, but someone has so I took apart the life memories of his last twenty years trying to find an overlap."


"There's several ways you can condition someone. You can care if the other person knows you have or you can not care. You can leave him knowing you have or you can cover it up. You can let him remember or you can make him forget. If you make him forget you can have him known he should remember something you can cover it up with something else, a false memory. I tend to name that overlap, you overlap the real memory with the false one. If you don't plant a false memory, then there is a real danger the conditioned person will keep digging into it trying to remember what he or she can't and may unravel it.

"So, I thought Ulagh wouldn't want the Watchers to know he is the real "leader" behind all this, wouldn't want them questioning anything so he is likely conditioning them all regardless of rank in the Order. There is an initiation ceremony, from what Paul has told me, first thing a new Watcher does before he or she is accepted in the Order and at some point, during the ceremony the initiate must enter a room where he meets the Leader of the Order for the first time. I guessed that's where it happened, so I started asking your father questions, learning his life so I could remove the overlap." Andreas took a breath, continuing his recounting of the last six hours.

"This guy's good, I have never seen something as complicated as this. He had placed overlaps on overlaps, planting real memories on fake memories on multiple conditionings. I could not undo it all but at least we know your father is conditioned, that he was there when George died and the Ulagh ordered him to leave and he left unable to disobey and he not only forgot any of this happened, but he planted a plausible fake memory on his own. I'm impressed."

"So, I'm next?" Kendra lost no time.

"I'm not sure you want to."

"Why not?"

"Well, we already know he'll have conditioned you during the initiation ceremony. Are you sure you want the overlaps removed?"

"Yes, why not?"

"Because your replies to the police are plausible and believable but you being conditioned means Ulagh may have very well asked you to give him Mathew and you would not have been able to resist him, motherly love or not. Do you want to know you gave your son to a sadistic narcissist who we know killed Maria's two sons?"

Kendra looked away for a moment before making eye contact, again.

"Now, I must know. Can't go on the rest of my life not knowing if I did, conditioned or not. Mathew's my son. He, Artemis…and you are the only persons I care in this world."

"Me? You have known me for less than a year." Andreas felt astounded.

"How long do you need to love someone? Even someone as…remote as you?"

"C…come with me, then." Andreas stood up heading to his room. "You guys should go about the rest of your day and night. I'm going to remove everything he's done to her mind. I'm pissed."

Paul smirked.

Two days and two nights later Kendra came out of his room.

Elena was asleep on the couch, holding on to Triton who was asleep next to her.

Andreas came in the living room after her. Paul stood up ready to talk but kept his mouth shut seeing Andreas pressing his index finger on his lips.

On nod from Andreas he followed him to his room.

"It's done, but no rest for the wicked. Kendra and I are going to Yellowstone, we're leaving now, and Watchers will pay for everything. I need you to keep Triton here. I can't risk Ulagh getting his hands on him, can't risk anything going wrong, yes? Because you know Triton will want to be there, by my side. Good thing Sophocles and Artemis had friends to stay with."

"Sure. Won't you take those?" Paul indicated his bag with his blades.

Andreas shook his head. "No, won't need them, I have absolutely no intention of getting his Quickening. I won't become him. I have other something else in mind for him."

Andreas picked up his small carry-on suitcase and left the room.

Two days later they were standing in front of the Yellowstone's visitor's center.

"Excuse me, miss?" Andreas asked one of the employees. "Where's the closest Holy Ground inside the Yellowstone?"

She looked at him confounded for a moment. "There's some churches back in island park or big spring." Andreas shook his head.

"No, it needs to be inside the national park or even better inside the caldera?"

"There's a site which is considered holy by Native Americans, used to be a cemetery, and now they do ceremonies, is that what you're looking for?"

"Yes, that'll do." Andreas nodded. "Where is it?" He asked hurried.

The employee having given him the path to take and shown him in the map, they left, the three of them, for the site.

Some four hours of trekking later they arrived in the foot of a large hill, the site just outside a cave.

"I'll go in, Kendra…please do not come in at any point." Andreas told the woman who nodded. He then looked at the third of the company who just made eye contact with him and no more was needed.

As he entered the cave he felt him, the same crippling, soul-devouring sense he'd felt the past few months.

"Hello, Third Adam, ready to end this? Ready to…"

Entering the inner sanctum of the cave Andreas saw Ulagh standing in the center of the chamber and Mathew unconscious at his feet. Ulagh was short, his complexion Asian and his face reminded Andreas of a creature that'd have lived seventy thousand years ago.

"I know what you want, Ulagh. That's what we've named you. You are blown to the watchers, they will by now know as Paul does his thing within the Order. I know what you want, and I am not here to kill you. You have killed everyone I have ever love and cared about. Almost. My culture, my people, so many people throughout the centuries, George…I am not going to kill you and become you, I am not going to trick two Immortals who don't know what they are into killing each other and cause Yellowstone to erupt a thousand-fold more powerful than otherwise. I do not want to be a god and I have a newsflash for you. It is not the first time I have had the dreams. You are the architect of your own demise, of the undoing of your plans.

"I have no intention of killing you, but you will not come out of this cave alive either." Andreas saw his face change emotions, from joy to anger.

"I just want you to know one thing before I leave. The Gathering is near, so after here, I'll be returning to Athens where I'm guessing a very angry Triton will demand he comes with me to Kilimanjaro where I will go through the trials of the Gathering, and should I be successful I'll come out of it not a god but a mortal."

Anger turned to rage but before he could reply, a gunshot echoed across the cave.

"You created the Watchers to know where each and every Immortal is at any given time, and I have used them against you, to come into the country undetected with whatever weapons were needed and end you, Goodbye Ulagh." Andreas walked towards Ulagh who received a second gun wound to his torso.

"You can't kill me in here!" His face grim.

"I can't, she can. I'm just here to tell you to your face you failed and get Mathew out of here." Andreas kneeled picking up Mathew, circling a hand around his shoulders and standing up. Behind him Maria entered the cave holding the gun.

"She…can't kill me."

"The gun is only to keep you in place until I'm out of range, after that she has a bastard sword, George's blade, to remove your head from your shoulders." He told Ulagh and started walking towards the cave's entrance.

"Give me forty minutes, then decapitate him. You sure you're up for this?" He asked Maria passing by her.

"He killed my babies, I have no hesitation." She replied with a stern look on her face.

"I'll tie him up good, and I'll place the ear protectors, so he can't…condition me?" Andreas nodded exiting the cave.

With Kendra's help they walked away as fast as they could.

Six hours later they were placing Mathew on the back seat of the car when Maria came in the parking lot.

Making eye contact with Andreas she nodded before handing him George's sword. "The gun?" He asked her.

"Did as you instructed me." He nodded entering the free seat on the back.

Two days later they were driving back to their homes in Athens, from the airport.

"I was thinking." Maria hadn't talked throughout their journey back. "I'll need a couple of days…but I'd like to keep contact, at least for as long as you're in Athens?"

"I'd like that, although I have a feeling things are about to change…We should talk before I leave for Afrika for I have no idea what'll happen there."

"What do you mean?" Maria looked at him. Mathew had voiced the question.

He had woken up on the way to the airport in St. Francisco, the Watcher's main city in that general region and Kendra and Andreas had elected to tell him everything, much like he and George had done with Triton.

"The Gathering's close, and by close, I mean…whenever I get to where I must go. Once there I'll have to pass some kind of trials and if I come out of them "victorious" I'll be given a choice. To which my answer is I want to be mortal, three and a half thousand years are enough and I don't want to lose a second family. If I don't get through the trials, it probably will mean I'm dead for good. It's one of my regrets…if only things had been different George could have still been alive and he'd have a chance of becoming a mortal and living out his days with Maria…he loved you more than he had ever expressed." He finished looking at Maria who did smiled.

"You have nothing to regret or be sorry about. What you describe is one possibility. Another is you'd have to fight him for the Gathering, or that he'd be dead regardless by the hand of another Immortal. What is, is." Maria told him.

"I still can't believe Immortals exists…" Mathew muttered. "And you are…three and a half thousand years old? How does that even work? Do you forget your own life?" He enquired not accusatorially but in wonder.

"Don't you? Do you remember what you did, ate or said when you were five?" Andreas shrugged. "But no, I do not forget, my memory seems unable to vanish."

Mathew did not reply, he had been a source of never ending questions, as Andreas knew he'd be, the past two days.

"How was Helen of Troy?" Mathew grinned.

"Invented." Andreas laughed.


"Beautiful by Roman standards, ugly by today's standards. Her brains did more for her than her beauty."

"Julius Cesar?"

"Cunning and a military genius."

"You and your wit." Mathew poked him a tongue.

"Wit comes with hope or despair. For the first time ever, I have hope." Andreas' reply made no sense to the young teen.

"You have witnessed so much, most of recorded human history, why desire mortality?"

"Imagine if you will, leaving out your parents, as is natural, then never aging while your friends, siblings, family members, kids, grandkids, lovers, everyone and anyone you ever meet dies out. It takes a toll, greater than you can ever measure or admit. I imagine this is in part what happened with Ulagh…seventy thousand years…no one, no living being should live that long, after a while each day, week, month and year strips away any vestiges of humanity in you."

"I guess…" The chatter and torrent of questions continued until they arrived home.

The door opened and a second later, as he expected, Andreas was met with a stinging sensation in his cheek.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't put you through such danger." He told an enraged Triton.

"After everything we've been through together? You claim we are…I am your second brother, yet you leave me behind?"

"Yes, you and Mathew are. He was already in grave danger and I'd be a complete fool if I put you through it as well, besides you really believe your parents would let you come even if I had allowed it?"

"Is it done?" Triton asked, after some moments of silence.

Andreas nodded.

"You don't seem evil." Triton stated.

"I was not the one who took his head. He had wronged another more than me. She took care of it as she had and thus brought ruin to his plans."

"How's Yellowstone?" Triton was calming down, it was not in him to stay angry for long.

"The nature is stunning, and the wildlife is plenty, perhaps one day we can go there together in more pleasant circumstances." Andreas smiled.

"When do we leave for Afrika?" There was no room for maneuver in Triton's voice.

"When ready." Andreas replied, looking to his left, where Paul stood, silent.

"Oh, everything's ready. We four are leaving tomorrow."

"Four? You mean five." Mathew announced. Kendra was the fourth.

"Someone better start explaining shit to me." Came Artemis' voice from behind them as she made her way through the room, hugging her brother.

Andreas sighed. "You better sit down, this is long, mostly unbelievable without…proof and I'm sure Paul can provide it…" He sat down in one of the chairs in the living room.

Three hours later it was done.

"This shit will never grow old." Mathew chuckled, seeing Andreas come back to life after Paul shot him square between his eyes. Elena shut down the music placed on max to cover the gunfire sound.

"Paul, can I have the two runes you found, please?" Paul gave him two pictures; the rune knuckles back at their home.

Andreas produced the ones he had, from inside his bag.

They saw Andreas arrange them on the coffee table.

"Life through death, Immortality through sacrifice. Ascension through knowledge of self." He said in a language they understood not. He repeated in various dialects of ancient Greek, then modern, current Greek.

"But Immortality, can also be mortality, in my peoples' language the two are the same, only separated by context and intent. I have no wish to gain permanent Immortality."

"Why would Ulagh be giving you an explanation of the Gathering that drives you to do the opposite of what he wanted?" Mathew scratched his head.

"That's the point, of it all. It is a message, and each of us, Immortals, can decipher it however we see fit. The answer, I believe is one but perhaps the answer to this is one of the trials." Andreas replied. "Ulagh read into it what he wanted, and I'm reading into it what I want. I guess we'll soon know who was correct."

Triton's phone vibrated, he opened the protective screen and quickly replied something, a faint sly grin apparent on his lips.

Paul changed the subject to their trip to Tanzania and what they needed to know. The hotel they'd stay was a day's trip from the mountain amidst a safari resort area. Triton and Mathew wanted to go with Andreas to the top of the mountain, but Andreas would have none of it, he'd have none of it with Paul wanting him to have a local guide to the top either. "This is something I have to do on my own. We will be there for a week after, plenty of time for together, but this, this I have been waiting for three and a half thousand years plus two hundred and it's something for me and me alone." They knew he'd not back down and resisting was futile.

Andreas decided to spend the night alone, knowing the dreams would not leave him alone, and wanting to concentrate his thoughts. Mathew spent some of it with his girlfriend who was all too happy to see him back safe and well and Triton with Nikos who had a special gift for him. Their first time.

The next morning, they were boarding their BA flight to Heathrow, there they'd have to wait for seven hours for their connecting flight to Doha, Qatar and from after another two hours wait to Tanzania.

"It's hot and humid, lovely." Triton whined. They entered the car to their resort. Travelling through the hilly terrain they eventually saw the towering figure of Kilimanjaro appear, covered in mist, appearing blue and distant.

Andreas doubled over clutching his head, in the back seat, between Mathew and Triton.

"Climbing down, the mountain of the gods, leaving the area, to avoid the wrath of the dead seer, the mountain erupts, in scorn and fire, all will die, a terrifying column of grey ash covers the plains, forcing my tribe north, beyond the jungle. Her words true, we'd leave this place, my desire true, we conquered all in our path, but we cannot die unless we take each other's heads, so I first of Ada, am going to create others in my image, since I no longer can procreate, I will find mountains of fire and make them erupt, I will be god." His voice dying down Andreas rested his head back on the car seat.

"Is this how humanity's migration from Afrika begun?" Triton wondered.

"Was for this tribe, but not for all tribes, do not forget it did not happen in one go, but repeatedly over millennia." Replied Andreas.

An hour later they arrived in the hotel, and settled in their rooms.

Triton saw Andreas remove the blades from the bag, placing them inside sheathes in his pants.

"You're leaving?" Andreas stepped close, hugging him.

"I…do not know what is going to happen, but in the event of…I just want you to know, I love you and I am glad you persisted when I was being an ass in the start. You all mean the world to me. I just wanted you to know this." Mathew had come in from behind them hugging them both, by the end all three of them had tears rolling down their cheeks.

Andreas left them behind going out. "I am ready, let's go." He told Paul waiting in the car. An hour's time of silent driving later they arrived at the foot of the mountain, at the tourist office and where all who wanted to trek to the top gathered. The three volcanic peeks high above them in the near distance, Uhuru the highest, and Andreas' destination.

"I'll wait for you here. I'll wait for the whole week if I must." Andreas shook his head.

"No, I don't think it's going to take that long." He took a final glance at Paul and started walking, following the marked path to the top through the lush vegetation.

An hour of walking later he felt not one but four different sensations. Not unsheathing his blades, he looked around.

"The Gathering, where the stroke of a sword, will unleash the Quickening and one will gain the knowledge of the ages." A female voice came to his right.

Five of them, stood in a clearing. Andreas' eyes darted around, he knew they were not meant to fight here, if at all. "I don't think we're meant to fight here, this I believe is a journey of gaining a measure of one's self. We've all fought enough as it is, no?"

The woman ignoring his heed released her Han Dynasty era sword.

The other three released their swords respectively, Andreas kept them hidden. "Do not be stupid, we are all weakened after a Quickening. What's the point of getting here, so near the source to die? This can happen later if required." Andreas tried again to stop what was coming. A Norse looking man attacked him, while the other three engaged each other.

Andreas jumped back backflip after backflip avoiding the man before jumping one more time twisting in the air he ran up a tree and from there jumping from tree to tree away from the clearing.

From then on, he ran to the top of the mountain almost without stop, running. Seven hours later, the sun setting behind the peaks he reached the dry, black rock barren top. The wind a gentle breeze. Around them deep purple storm clouds were gathering ominous.

Taking a breath, wiping the sweat running from his forehead he looked around for a sign of the seer.

He found a lot of modern human signs, welcoming him to the top, but nothing as ancient as he was looking for, until he felt two sensations. One of them an Immortal's, the other, unknown yet older than anything he had ever felt before, older than Ulagh's but not crippling like his.

A ghost-like apparition guided him and the other Immortal, the woman, to a crag in the mountain overlooking Kenya and the Indian ocean below and to the far distance.

"Such beauty…you are the seer who started all this?" Andreas asked, with an eye on the other Immortal.

The apparition, dressed in otherworldly blue light and only a loincloth, beads and animal skulls hanging from her neck, mixing with her black braided hair. Lifeless eyes staring intensely at them.

"Three have failed before you, thus you must know thyselves. The trial first you have passed, having not only survived but overcome birth's arrogance and greed. For the second trial…do you know you?" She spoke in a ghastly, deathly voice, ageless and old.

To her left and right two more apparitions came to life, flesh, and blood engulfing them into seeming actual human beings, only their eyes betraying otherwise.

They attacked.

"No, I've seen this dream too many times, I know better." Andreas voiced aloud, locking blades with his ghostly self, dodging and pushing him back. "I am a son of Poseidon, child of Ares, heir of Atlati, it is in my nature to fight, to survive, so I will not. I surrender." He dropped his swords to the rocky ground, opening his hands to his sides, fully exposed and vulnerable.

The apparition stopped on its tracks, the vicious look on its face changing to a gentle smile before turning into a blue glow and evaporating into thin air. Picking up his blades and sheathing he turned around to see the woman fighting her apparition.

"Die will you!" She cussed as the apparition landed another blow to her ribs.

"Death by a thousand cuts…" Andreas thought as he saw her get slashed and cut and beaten down until she no longer had a will to fight, then in a final stroke, the apparition severed her head.

Andreas closed his eyes expecting to receive a quickening which never came. Opening his eyes, he saw the Quickening gather in the seer's left hand as the blue glow that was his apparition gathered in her right palm.

"Trial second passed, you are aware of what you are, but are you aware of who you are? Your deepest desires and fears? Four have failed before you here. Trial third…" The seer's light walked towards him. "One hand, all the Quickenings that have ever been, knowledge without bounds, perpetual Immortality, Godhood." She took yet another slow purposeful step. "On the other hand, a mortal life, the chance to grow old, to have the ability to reproduce. What do you choose?"

She looked deep in his eyes, waiting for his answer.

"Mortal life, I choose mortal life." His answer came fast and ready.

"What are you willing to sacrifice for this? Are you willing to forget all, or are you willing for all others to forget you?" Another step, now two paces away from him. The red glow vanished, her empty hand to her side, her other hand extended in front of her, ablaze in blue flames.

"To forget all of who I am…a worse curse than Immortality, perhaps but less painful to those I love is for them to forget me than to have me and not remember them, or of the last year with them…I chose whichever option of the two causes the ones I love less pain."

A smile appeared on her incandescent, transparent lips. "So be it." Crossing the last two steps in a stride her hand aflame grasped his forehead. Pain shot throughout every inch of his body, radiating rays of light blinded his eyes to the world outside, his spine arching backwards.

An unknown time span later he felt his knees touching the ground. The seer's hand letting go of his forehead.

You have passed the trials, live a life without arrogance and greed and the cycle will be truly over. Fail this and it starts anew. Your death signifies this." She told him starting to vanish.

"I…still remember?" He enquired in a broken, tired voice.

"You are mortal, your life has changed forever. Do not squander this gift. You had to pass a trial, your memories, and the memories of those who knew you are the same as before. You've had enough cruelty enacted on you thus far. It is over, my curse to Ulagh the defiler is lifted and will be over when you die. Live well, Aranare son of Yikashata."

Not sure what to believe Andreas took one of his blades, carefully sliding it across his finger.

He bled. A few minutes later the wound was still oozing droplets of clear, red blood.

A scream, unlike any other left his throat, emanating from deep inside his lungs, cathartic and full of wonder, a need seated inside him as old as he releasing with it. The wound had not healed itself, he was as mortal and fragile as all other humans on this Earth. The realization washed over him as he fell back crying and laughing at the same time. "I've done it! I've done it!" Was all he could say amidst hiccups from the crying and the laughing.

Standing on his feet, he saw the sun rise. Time had passed it would seem. He took in the vista before him, somehow now more valuable than ever, for now it was fleeting, it would one-day end in old age.

An hour later he began his trek to back to the foot of the mountain, where Paul awaited him, where Triton, Mathew. His family and the rest of his life awaited him.

The End

I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and that you felt what I felt while writing it.

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