Authors: Glenn van Dyke,Renee van Dyke
said the Keeper.
Steven roused. From the depths of sleep, he turned over and blinked at the ceiling, trying to force his eyes open. He reached out for Ashlyn who lay beside him, his hand coming to rest atop her butt.
Ashlyn responded to his invitation—moaning softly as she moved toward him and cuddled deep into his shoulder. Throwing her arm and leg over him, she took pleasure in the warmth of his body against hers.
“Keeper—give us an hour,” said Steven. Ashlyn’s hand had wandered below the sheets, seeking him out. Her breasts were demanding attention as she moved them against his muscled chest.
“Keeper—you had better make that two hours,” said Ashlyn as she fluidly slid atop Steven.
“I am sorry. I do not mean to interrupt, but you have an incoming hail.”
Ashlyn slid off to Steven’s side and buried her face in the pillow, giving a frustrated scream.
Steven exhaled in defeat. “A hail from who?”
“Excuse me, Lord Steven and Lady Ashlyn, I know that you did not get much sleep last night—but I need your full attention.”
Ashlyn turned over and propped herself up on her elbows. The sheet that had been laying loosely over her, slipped down about her waist. “Come on,” she encouraged Steven. “Get up.”
Seeing Ashlyn’s sensual posture and exposed breasts, “I’m up—believe me, I’m up.”
Ash slid her hand under the sheet to see for herself. Her hand clenched him, squeezing him friskily. Giving him a sexy smirk, she silently spoke in the meld.
I didn’t know our ship had a mast.
Let go of the crow’s-nest or I’ll have to flog you.
Steven slapped her thigh playfully.
Is that a promise?
Ash slid the tip of her tongue across her lips.
You don’t play fair, Ash. Not at all.
He turned his attention to the holo of the Keeper near the foot of the bed. “Okay, we’re awake.”
“It is Lord Enki. He urgently needs to speak with you.”
“Enki?” said Ash, surprised. “Keeper, give me a moment to put something on.” Ashlyn rose and going to the hidden closet within the wall, slipped a robe on. Turning around, Ash came to an abrupt stop. Her eyes were distant, her mind trying to comprehend the emotions within. She threw Steven a glance with a raised brow. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this. I sense great sadness.”
For the first time, he hoped she was wrong. Pulling the disheveled sheet from the bed, he wrapped it around his hips and sat down—Ashlyn taking a seat beside him on the end of the bed.
“Okay, Keeper—put Enki through.”
The visual image of Enki appeared. Steven and Ashlyn both noted how similar he was in appearance to Enlil. There was no doubt as to their shared lineage. It was perhaps too close and they both found it a bit unnerving.
He bowed, giving honor. “Hello, Lord Steven, and Lady Ashlyn. It’s a great honor to meet you.” Seeing them sitting on the bed—the rumpled sheets, blushing faces and self-conscious grins telling him more than he wanted to know, Enki felt compelled to apologize. “I am sorry for the untimely interruption.
“Unfortunately, this discussion cannot wait. There is much that I have to tell you, and I am sure that you too must have many questions.”
“No need to apologize, Lord Enki. We too are honored. And you’re right, we have a lot of questions, but first—is that Defender behind you?” asked Steven, surprised to see the large ship in the distance, behind Enki. “Are you on Hadaesia?”
Enki smiled. “Yes, to both questions. I have met your friends, Novacek, Brooks, Stratton and many others of your crew. They are an admirable people—smart, disciplined, spirited.”
“Perhaps, we should turn Destiny around. We’ve only been gone a day, less than a week in Hadaesian time. Ashlyn and I would very much like to meet with you in person,” said Steven.
Enki shook his head. “I’m sorry my friend, but things are as they should be. Your presence is needed elsewhere. Your futures follow a different path from my own.” Enki smiled. His eyes shifted to Ashlyn, narrowing as he looked at her intently. “That is a very pretty and very unusual pendant, Lady Ashlyn. May I ask where you got it?”
Ashlyn reached up, her fingers softly stroking the pendant which she’d clasped to a choker. “Thank you. It was given to me by a friend when I was young. He was like a father to me.”
“Then it is an item that should be cherished,” said Enki. “Such gifts are very rare.”
Steven saw a great depth of empathy in Enki’s eyes, a depth that he had not seen in the eyes of any man before. It was easy to see that Enki had a great love for them.
Enki continued, his eyes returning to Steven. “You have given the name of Enki quite the reputation here on Hadaesia. For this I thank you. It is easier to be a leader when you have the respect of the people.” Enki tipped his head. “Much like you, the people here are family to me. As such, I have been given a great task. My father has asked me to teach those on Hadaesia, the ways of the Anunnaki. It is hoped that someday, they will attain the gifts and be able to join my father and I on Heaven.
“I must also apologize to both of you, for I was unable to save the people of your world. I know that what happened is in fulfillment of prophecy, but still, I did try. I must admit that sometimes I find prophecies difficult to accept, especially when it involves the lives of the innocent. Ever since I was a small child and my parents told me the stories of what was to befall your world, I wished it could be different.”
“To what prophecy do you refer?” asked Ashlyn.
“Broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction and many are the ones finding it, but narrow is the gate and few are the ones finding the road unto Heaven.” Enki cleared his throat. “You and your crew have found the narrow road. And I must now teach them and the people of this planet, all 144,000 how to reach Heaven.”
Ashlyn answered for the two of them. “We have heard that prophecy before, though we attributed a different meaning to it. The Keeper has been teaching us about Earth’s true history. It’s amazing how much became twisted over the millennia.”
Enki gave an insightful grin in return. “Such is often the case with history. There are always those wanting to lay claim to the feats of others for selfish gain.”
An uncomfortable pause stilled the room. Steven and Ashlyn took a quick glance at one another. Enki’s face grew sullen as the words he wanted to speak refused to come easily.
“I must also tell you that I have committed an act of treason against our people. I have killed my brother. I have killed Enlil. The punishment for such an act is death.”
Great conviction filled Steven’s voice. “No, that’s not true. I killed Enlil. Not you.”
“I know that is what you believe—but such is not the case. Enlil tricked you, letting you think you had done so. Even the Guardian which threw him into Gehenna did not know.”
The sadness upon Enki’s face seemed to break momentarily. “Enlil had once done something similar when we were young children. He scared our mother very badly.” Enki’s narrow smile widened. “She punished him severely. He couldn’t sit for a week afterwards.”
Ashlyn and Steven couldn’t help but give a small laugh. It was so out of place for the seriousness of the conversation, but the fact that Enlil had been spanked was hilarious. They both envisioned him being bent over a knee.
“Later in life, I learned that mother had always known he was faking his death, but that she was just trying to teach him a lesson,” said Enki. Exercising brevity, he moved on, beginning to address the weightier issues. “I gave Enlil every chance I could, but his heart had become dark and he had plans for the two of you that I could not let happen.
“Suffice to say, I did what must be done. Long ago, you saved my life and the lives of many Anunnaki. We owed it to you. I owed it to you. It was time for him to pay for his torturous acts and his treason against our laws. Had I done so long ago, billions of lives might have been saved.” Enki became lost to his memories. His words came slow and deliberate. “There was a time, when I admired him. A time when I would have gladly given my own life for his. But he changed and I fear that too—may be my fault. The love of a woman can do such things to a man. It can turn brother against brother, father against son. It can destroy families.” Enki frowned. “Still, he was my brother and I will forever mourn the death of the man he once was.”
Steven took Ashlyn’s hand. “We’re sorry for your loss. The world does not often reward goodness, and the price for holding to a principle can often be hard to pay, but it is the right thing to do.”
“Yes. It is as you say—the reward is in knowing that it was the right thing to do,” Enki repeated.
Ashlyn took a big breath, as much to settle the emotions welling within her own heart as it was to show her support for Enki. “Steven and I may never know the details of what forced your hand, but I trust the heart of the man I see before me. We thank you.”
Steven nodded in agreement, acknowledging Enki’s sacrifice for having broken Anunnaki law on their behalf.
Enki gave a slight nodding bow in return.
“Lord Enki, I must ask. You say that we saved your life, and the lives of many Anunnaki long ago—and you also mentioned that Enlil had made plans for us that you came to stop. All of that is only possible if in the past, you learned of future events, and then used that knowledge to alter the timeline.” Steven’s mind was racing.
Enki nodded solemnly. “Yes, I’d learned that Enlil was waiting, lying in wait for you in the rooms below the throne. I took your form and deceived him. I needed to witness the darkness of his heart, before I passed judgement with The Sword of Truth.”
Steven’s grip upon Ashlyn’s hand tightened. “The Sword of Truth. How could I have forgotten that, Ash? I—I wouldn’t have left that behind.”
Enki held up his hand, silencing Steven. “That was my doing. Knowing the fate that would befall you, I could not let you be the one to face Enlil—so I gave you a telepathic suggestion. I was hidden among the crowd surrounding you, when Destiny returned to Hadaesia. I made you forget about the sword and its importance.”
Steven’s mind was collating the information, organizing it. Looking down at the ground, he spoke softly to himself. “You knew I was going to retrieve the sword? So, we’ve met before, spoken before?” Steven looked up, his eyes wide with conviction. “I would have gone after the sword alone, which means that I’m the only one that could have told you what happened. But that would mean—”
Enki’s eyes narrowed as he studied Steven’s face. “Your mind is putting the pieces together. I ask you not to do so. You must be careful. It must be enough for you to know that I have killed Enlil and that he is no more. There are reasons for the laws that exist. I have done what I did, because it was the right thing to do, but it can be very dangerous to tamper with the past to change the future. Ripples can be created in the timeline that can have unforeseen consequences for the future.”
“I’ve heard those words before,” said Steven.
“May I ask where?” asked Enki.
“From my wife, Renee,” said Steven. He thought back, recalling the holo message she’d given him after he had left Earth for Hadaesia. “She’d claimed to have had a vision of future events, a vision that soon came true. She told me not to try to change it. That the events of the vision had to occur if mankind was ever to be free.”
“Hmm, very interesting. And please forgive me, but this woman, Renee—where is she now?” asked Enki.
“At the time of Renee’s passing, Ashlyn embodied her essence. The two of them became one,” Steven answered tenderly.
Enki’s face grew serious and his eyes darted to Ashlyn. “Is this true? Do you have the ability to transmigrate people?”
Ashlyn’s eyes widened under the intense scrutiny of his stare. Feeling uneasy, she tightened her grip on the sheet around her and shrugged her shoulders. “I have no name for it—but yes, I was able to take Renee’s essence into myself. In doing so, I gave up my own personal identity and we became a singular, new person.”
“Giving up one’s own identity is a big sacrifice,” said Enki. “And you suffered no ill effects from it?”
“No, I suffered no ill effects.” Ashlyn leaned into Steven. “And it isn’t a sacrifice when it’s done out of love. Renee was a remarkable woman, and I am stronger for having done so.”
“Admirable sentiments. Admirable ideals. But—your words are reminiscent of many of the legends my mother told me when I was young. I’d never thought her stories to be true; I’d thought them to be fanciful. She’d claimed they were from a distant time in our history, a time which the Anunnaki now consider mythological. If I remember correctly, she said those with the ability to transmigrate people were called, Transors. They were like gods, wielding immense powers.” Beneath the reverent tone of Enki’s words, Steven and Ashlyn both noted a subtle trepidation and fear in his voice. “The more people that they transmigrated, took into themselves, the stronger and more powerful they became.”
Enki then directed his steely eyes to Steven. “I have heard rumors from the local people about a great battle that took place between you and Enlil outside the walls of the Citadel. I had thought them to be exaggerations—as your people are often prone to do—but now, I must ask. Do you have abilities as well? Abilities beside that of shifting form?”