Book Three of The Aliomenti Saga
With the Aliomenti village in ruins, the three survivors must choose their own path to rebuilding, and their own ideas about how to use the new abilities they find themselves possessing. Will takes time to ensure others are safely hidden from potential retaliation before he joins in that rebuilding effort.
Their growth is astounding, fueled by innovations driven primarily by Will, and the Aliomenti rise to global–if secret–financial prominence and unprecedented influence over governments. Yet even as the Aliomenti succeed beyond their greatest imagination, Will feels ever more isolated, spending time developing his own innovations.
And dealing with his own personal heartache.
As their power grows, though, so does the paranoia of the Aliomenti leadership, a fear that discovery by humans will be their downfall, a fear that they’ll find–or create–others with even greater power. Minor rules with simple punishments gradually evolve into Oaths with stringent penalties, including death of both the offender and and human deemed a potential threat due to the offending Aliomenti transgressions.
Will cannot abide by these Oaths. The Aliomenti won’t allow him to remain free if he does not.
It’s a conflict with only one possible conclusion.
Chapter 2 Error
Due to a document compilation issue, a version of Ascent of the Aliomenti was distributed to retailers with the text for Chapter 3 repeated in Chapter 2. If you downloaded this version of the file, we apologize for this error. The text for Chapter 2 is repeated here.
Will walked away from the smoldering remains of the southern half of the village, the darkness becoming total as he escaped the light of the flames. His shadow preceded him into the darkness, as if it was a scout searching for danger. It wasn’t necessary to scout in front of him, however, for the most dangerous beings in the vicinity, and perhaps in the world, were behind him. Will tensed at the thought, wondering if Arthur might talk Adam into chasing Will down to stab him in the back, just as he’d convinced Maynard to stab Eva. Will’s normal senses were much sharper than those of most men and women, his Purge and Energy work enhancing them far beyond what he’d known for the first thirty-five years of his life. He’d hear and even feel a person sneaking up on him before a stabbing became a possibility. But he looked over his shoulder anyway; just to be sure he wasn’t followed.
He’d walked away, and doubted his parting words meant a permanent separation in anyone’s mind. At the moment, though, Will simply had no interest in being around either of the two men he’d just left. He knew from his own future that at some point he’d go back, for Will Stark was supposed to be a key founding member of the Aliomenti, driving innovations and becoming their greatest practitioner of Energy skills. His departure, therefore, could not be permanent, at least not yet, not until he departed centuries from now to form the Alliance. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t choose a temporary separation. He had a thousand years to accomplish all he was meant to accomplish.
Will walked for nearly twenty minutes before he realized he was heading in the wrong direction. He needed a place where he could reflect quietly on what had happened. He needed a place where he could rest and sleep without concern about an attack by humans or other predators. He needed a place where he could review the diary for any guidance that his children and, yes, Adam, might choose to provide. And he needed a place where he could reach out and talk to Eva and Elizabeth. Correction: Eva and Hope. After spending three years learning to refer to his future wife by her original name, he now had to teach himself to refer to her once again as Hope.
Arthur’s recovery from the morange berries that Adam forced upon him was still ongoing, and eventually Adam would be focused on helping the man in his recuperative efforts. With Adam’s attention distracted, Will could teleport safely to the cave without drawing attention.
He frowned. Did he want to risk that? Adam seemed to know Will was no neophyte with Energy; he hadn’t asked if Will had taken the necessary ingredients, but rather how often he’d done so. He’d handed Will a standard dosage of the berries at the same time he’d forced a similar portion down Arthur’s throat. Will hadn’t realized until then that his hand was still clenched around the berries. That would be something else he could do in the cave; he was long overdue for another Purge. He frowned for a moment, concerned. Adam had said that taking the morange berries without following it up with zirple could be unhealthy, but he’d not offered Will any zirple.
Will snapped his fingers. Zirple still grew in the fields, fields that would never again be tended by the village farmers. He’d been headed in the right direction after all.
Twenty minutes later, he’d collected a large quantity of ripened zirple plants, digging them out of the ground so as to gather the all-important roots. The leaves and fruit were useless, but the roots provided such an improvement in health that Roland, the Traveler, had believed zirple to be the secret ingredient to unlock those mysterious abilities Arthur had long fantasized they’d all develop. They’d started raising the zirple crop here, and Arthur had engineered an elaborate lottery system to determine who would receive the daily rations. Arthur ensured scarcity in those rations, ensured there were always fewer rations each day than villagers desiring them. The lottery had become such an income-producer for him, so powerful a method of accumulating power and control in the village, that Arthur had forgotten about his daughter. Her worth to him had ended, a truth proved when he’d ultimately disowned her.
Prepared now for his journey to the cave, Will elected to avoid teleportation. He needed to practice some of his skills, and with only two men left alive in the forest, there was no better time. Will flooded his entire body with Energy, enabling his cells to be both transparent and lighter than air. Within moments, his body was invisible, and so light that he could lift it off the ground with his mind with minimal effort. Clenching the zirple roots and morange berries in his invisible hands, he soared into the air.
The closest he’d ever come to this sensation was during the clairvoyance sessions he’d performed, in which he was able to use Energy to change his point of perception to an area away from his physical body, seeing and hearing the sights and sounds in remote locations. He’d used the technique to locate the cave three years earlier. But it was a far cry from the actual experience of flying, for those sessions produced no remote physical sensations. He felt the wind on his face as he flew, and he also experienced the innate terror that he might fall, a sensation that lessened as time passed and his mind and body learned that he wasn’t capable of plummeting to the earth. The thrill was comparable to the roller coaster rides he’d experienced in the twenty-first century, but there was no need to pay an admission fee, wait in line… or have the experience end before he wished. He relished the sensation, and though he’d come upon the location of the cave, he flew past, soaring higher into the air, viewing the entirety of the forest and river landscape below. He could make out, in the light of the early dawn, the water Wheel they’d constructed and recalled the social challenges they’d needed to overcome to complete the project. The fiery embers of the burning village walls and rooms were visible as well. Will looked away, not wanting to think about the deaths of so many.
After thirty minutes, he flew into the cave, and allowed his body to solidify and return to visibility. As his corporeal presence returned, he was better able to sense the Energy flowing around him. Over the preceding three years, he and Elizabeth had spent several hours each week inside these stone walls, working together to grow their ability to produce and absorb the substance which enabled all manner of unique abilities. Three years earlier, Will had started his own initial Energy work, trained in the basic skills by Adam. His greatest progress came through his own work, where he learned that willingly sharing his Energy with other living things, including the trees in the forest surrounding the Alliance camp, produced a feedback effect that dramatically grew his own Energy stores. When his Energy grew, new skills, beyond those taught by Adam, revealed themselves. He discovered his ability to project his senses outside his body and eavesdropped on a conversation held far away, and accidentally teleported before ever learning the correct process. Adam had briefly touched upon other skills, such as flying and invisibility. Will realized Adam knew their time in the future was coming to a close, and Will would need to teach himself those skills without Adam’s guidance.
That was a fortuitous decision. Right now, Will would sooner learn about Energy from Arthur than Adam.
Will allowed the Energy to flow from his body outward into the canopy of living greenery surrounding the cave, felt the familiar impact of the feedback effect, and breathed in the oxygenated air. Both sensations bolstered his spirits somewhat, but he was still left with two uncomfortable tasks. He needed to take the morange and zirple combination to Purge himself, a word that seemed appropriate now only if it removed the memories of the screams of those dying in the fire. He needed to report in to Eva and Elizabeth—no, Eva and Hope—about Adam’s return and subsequent arson exploits. He elected to start with the latter; perhaps after that conversation, he’d find the experience of the Purge less painful.
He reached out with his senses, listening for the sound he’d come to know so well, the pure flute-like music generated by Hope’s Energy. In this calm environment, he realized that he’d heard it long before his time travel had ever begun, a sound that he’d heard many mornings as his body moved from sleep to conscious waking. Perhaps, as she slept, her Energy seeped into him, filling him with its purity, calming his mind with its sound. He’d always thought it was simply his imagination, but he realized now that he’d been hearing her Energy throughout their married lives together. That raised a question, though. How had he heard a sound based upon Energy? He’d had no discernible Energy until his children and Adam had snatched him from the Hunters and delivered him to the twenty-third century. It was a sound he should not have heard.
It was a mystery he’d have a thousand years to solve.
The flute sound called to him, and he chased it with his mind, seeking and finding Hope, who was just waking from a long night’s sleep. He linked into her mind, and projected words of greeting along the trail of Energy connecting them. Good morning, Hope.
In his mind’s eye, he watched as she woke with a start, sitting up in the small bed she used for sleeping. Will! I’ve had some terrible dreams lately, and I worried I’d not see you again.
Will sighed, a sound that echoed within the empty walls of the cave. I’m fine. Your father is fine.
She waited for him to continue, but when the silence became unbearable, she was forced to ask the question she did not want answered. What of the others?
Arthur and I are all that remain save for the missing Traveler, who returned with powerful Energy skills and who judged the entire village guilty of murder, a crime carrying a penalty of death. The Traveler sent me away to fix a problem with the Wheel, and while I was absent held the others asleep and set fire to their homes. They are all… gone.
With his mental connection to her location, he could hear her gasp of horror, the sharp inhalation of breath as she realized that every one of the villagers, even those like the Traders and Kay who had treated her with some kindness, was dead. The tears came soon after, and he could see the moisture streaming from her bright blue eyes. Her sadness made him ache inside, and he found himself wishing he could resurrect the time machine and take back what he’d said, to prevent her from experiencing the pain she felt at that moment.
He’d once told Hope that she was a truly good person, one who could feel compassion for those who least deserved it. She’d refused his offers to escort her away from the village ruled by Arthur, preferring instead to work her own plan to try to improve Arthur as a man and a father. She’d never once asked Will to injure the man, to force her father to act as a father should, to be her protector rather than her tormentor. She wanted him to change of his own free will, not through any type of coercion, a philosophy toward life that mirrored Will’s own, and in his mind meant she was one well-suited to the burden of the abilities possible with Energy development.
Now, after hearing of the deaths of the men and women Arthur had manipulated into murdering her, she did not cheer or gloat their demise. She wept. Will let her cry until her tears fell no more.
We have to tell Eva, don’t we? That Traveler… I think he’s her brother. She needs to know.
Will sighed. She does. Is she there with you?
She’s already off to her work for the day. She is acting as a medicine woman and healer, using Energy to help the sick. She is gradually trying to work me in as her assistant. It is good work, though it does not bring much pay. But we don’t need much, and we both have plenty of money saved up.
That was a relief to Will. He’d not yet discussed with Eva how she was planning to survive in the remote city she’d reached, but it appeared she’d settled in nicely. She’d developed sufficient presence in these few weeks that she’d been able to bring Hope into a highly-secured city without issue. I’m glad to hear that, Hope. I may be joining you soon.
He felt the jolt his words had on her. I thought you were staying there? To help them rebuild, to become what they’re supposed to become?
He’d shared with her that he’d come from the future, and she’d known from her Energy training that he’d been telling the truth. When she’d asked him to leave with her after her burial, he’d declined, indicating that he knew he was meant to stay. But now…
I know that I’m meant to be there, eventually. In the aftermath of the fire, given that the only two men remaining are the two I trust least in the world at this moment… I simply need to get away for a time. If I don’t, I fear I might lose control. I don’t want to do what Adam has done.
Hope seemed to think that through, for her thoughts were quiet for a moment. I don’t think you could ever do that, Will. No matter how angry you might become, I don’t think you could intentionally end someone’s life. If you need to spend some time away, you should come here. The three of us can be together again, without having to worry about… him.
She meant her father, of course. It wasn’t unreasonable for her to feel that way, given the manner in which her life had unfolded. But it angered him that there was someone in the world who had such a profound, negative effect on her. He wondered what he’d do if Arthur ever found out that his daughter still lived, despite seeing her die and hearing Will’s pronouncement of death. Perhaps, he mused, he would find himself capable of murder in such a circumstance.
I think you’re right, Hope. I’ll find you and be there in a few days. When Eva returns, let her know that I need to speak to her. I want to ensure she knows what happened here, and I also want to figure out if the two of you think it best for me to arrive as one looking to see the two of you, or to attempt entry on my own. I don’t want to endanger what you’ve already built there.
Don’t forget, Will… you don’t want to do anything to make them suspicious. Make sure you walk or ride into their view. If you appear suddenly, they’ll assume the worst and won’t let you in.
I think I know an excellent way to ensure that happens, Will projected, thinking about his invisible flying session earlier. He could fly over the city, even look around the inside, and then descend just beyond the visible range of the guards and walk to the gates providing entry. I’ll sleep here in the cave tonight, tell Adam and Arthur that I’m leaving for an indefinite period of time, and then I’ll try to make sure I’m at the gates in the afternoon.
Be safe, Will. Her thoughts were tinged with concern and worry. I know there’s nobody better able to keep himself safe than you, but please, be careful around those two men.
Will smiled. I will, Hope.
He spent the day in quiet contemplation, wandering around the forest, visiting areas he’d not previously inspected in his three years in this era. He sat quietly, and marveled at the sight of the roaring Ealdor and the calm Halwende Rivers merged to form a third river, which he suspected would flow north until it reached the sea. He walked among the cave formations near the one serving as his second home, fascinated at the idea that massive glaciers had carved everything over a period of thousands of years. He grazed on vegetables he dug from the ground, and used his nanos to catch a fish, amusing himself as he tried to figure out how to prepare the food for cooking.
As night fell, he steeled himself and consumed the morange berries. The Purge was nowhere near the intensity he’d experienced during his first round, and he quickly followed the morange berries with the zirple root he’d prepared. Exhausted in the aftermath of the Purge, he fashioned a bed with the invisible nanos, surrounded his body with the warm touch of Energy, and fell into a deep sleep. When he woke, he felt a deep sense of peace, and his body was refreshed.
He rose and walked to the spot where the rivers merged, and performed his morning bathing routine. The water moved more quickly here than it did in the gentler waters of the Halwende farther to the south, and he found the water’s movement invigorating. Moving to the shore, he used a burst of Energy to dry his skin and clothing, and then floated himself above the ground and flew in the direction of the village. He dropped to the ground just before he reached the clearing, his nose assaulted by the overwhelming aroma of burning wood. He directed a portion of his nanos to surround his shoes, hiked to the immolated southern portion of the village, and climbed atop the burning remains of the walls and rooms.
He had a brief, fanciful notion that he’d hear or sense someone still living in the debris. It took only moments to confirm that was untrue. He glanced north, and caught a glimpse of Arthur moving toward the spot where the chefs and bakers normally ladled out breakfast. Still dazed from the effects of the morange berries, Arthur seemed confused at finding no one there. Will watched as the man’s face contorted, memory and recognition appearing on his face mere moments apart. He turned, apparently to walk around to look in the food Stores to see what might remain, and caught sight of Will. The man’s face was pitiful, or would be if Will hadn’t watched him direct a population, over the course of three years, to murder his own daughter quickly after they’d failed to do so slowly.
Will moved toward him, climbing through the wreckage until he was able to walk the rest of the distance to Arthur. As Will approached Arthur, Adam walked around the corner, apparently having just come from the Stores himself. He held two loaves of day-old bread. At the sight of Will, his face froze and his gaze narrowed.
“I came to tell both of you that I am going away for a time,” Will announced. “I cannot tolerate being in the presence of either of you.”
Adam scowled. “I thought you’d already made that clear yesterday.”
“One of you was effectively unconscious at the time.”
Arthur finally found his voice. “You’re going away for a time? What does that even mean?” Will noted a slight tremor of fear in his voice. The man didn’t relish being left alone with Adam.
“It means that I need separation to assess what’s happened here, what went wrong, what could be done differently. I think I’m meant to be here one day… but that day is in the future.”
Adam waved him away. “Leave, then. Arthur and I will rebuild on our own. But understand this, Will. We will define the rules for acceptance of new members of the Aliomenti. If you aren’t here, you’ll have no say in what those are, and you won’t be able to join if you don’t assent to them.”
“I’ll take my chances. So long as the rules don’t involve murdering our neighbors, I can likely live with them.”
Adam considered him, then nodded. “Good luck then, Will. Until we meet again.”
He held out his hand, and Will, after a moment’s hesitation, shook it… and staggered out of the grip.
Arthur offered his hand as well, and Will, still dazed, shook it. He turned and walked back out of the village the way he’d entered, his mind still buzzing at the message Adam sent during the handshake.
Take care of Elizabeth and my sister. Don’t ever let Arthur find out about either of them. And Will? I exterminated all of them because they were planning to kill you next.