Chapter 9.21 – Sunset

Moira wakes from her nap, then breathes in a deep dose of invigorating, springtime air being offered to her by the French countryside villa she now calls home.
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Gerard had taken Louis fishing, and left little Emilie behind, leveraging the pretense of mother and daughter enjoying a nap together. She smiles knowing what her boys really wanted, was time for fishing without an excitable, little toddler scaring away the day’s catch.
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She stands and looks down over the slightly convex field to the lake, where she spots them, just in time to see Louis reel in and hold up his prize and receive proud praise from his approving father.
 chap9-21c
Moira smiles again and quietly admires her own perfect catch.
 chap9-21f
Life has changed for Moira since becoming madame Moira du Pont. It has been a blessing in more ways than she can count. After having suffered the loss of everything she had ever known, and gaining the unenviable understanding that most of it had been an elaborate deception, there is no telling what she may have done without the overt kindness Gerard had shown her.
 chap9-21p
At the time of their meeting, the only thing she had remaining was her vulnerable and susceptible state of mind. Malachi was dead. And poor Finn, a sim who had seen too much suffering, had gone to rest in his rocking chair during her absence. And as difficult as it was for her to lose those two, it was the affront of learning she had been manipulated and deceived for much of her life, that had left her questioning even the most basic truths. She had left Finn that day in search of answers. But by the end of it, all she had to show for her efforts was a broken heart and a brand new burning question. Why was she still alone?
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Hendrake, the creature responsible for all of this, had toiled for eons in an effort to learn the secrets of the algorithm. He’d slaughtered an entire race of beings like herself to learn it. But the beast had nothing to show for the scourge of merciless killing, corruption, and deceit it had perpetrated over the span of its vile existence. Then, under the bloated shadow of so much suffering, it had nearly managed to trick a silly girl into handing it over to him freely. The diary where she inscribed her insights, was the prize Hendrake had hoped to secure. Ironically, it was also a critical component responsible for bringing Adam and Kacey together.
 chap9-21n
Logic would seem to dictate that any deviation from the formula that had led to Adam and Kacey finally meeting, would create a scenario wherein that meeting would never occur. Clearly, this is not the case. The same diary that had played such a pivotal role in bringing them together will never be found by David Barimen in the library. Realizing the danger it posed, Moira had burned it to ashes. And the ashes, she had burned to dust. By destroying it, she also destroyed the only recorded reference of the algorithm. And likewise, by uprooting her little contraption and using it to slay Hendrake, she had also changed the course of history in a way she is incapable of comprehending.
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Though it may seem impossible, both Kacey and Adam were brought into this reality as a result of the actions of sims, who, by her estimation, will never be born. Yet, she is here and she exists. But why?
 chap9-21d
A tugging at her skirt brings her back into the present. And she revels in the feeling of pure joy that accompanies nurturing the children she bore; and loving, with indescribable intensity, the man who fathered them.
 chap9-21e
After hugging Emilie then setting her down to play, Moira’s mind wonders back to the morning when she had first seen her amour de sa vie. Having dispatched Hendrake, she fled the cavern to find Finn, and tell him about Malachi. That’s when Gerard literally appeared from out of thin air, landing in a heap at her feet.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
 chap9-21t
She instantly sensed an inexplicable connection with him. He was there for her when she found Finn’s lifeless body. He consoled her through the aftermath and helped her move past the pain of witnessing the manner of Malachi’s tragic ending. Without hesitation, Gerard worked with her to bury the two sims that had functionally served as her stewards in the absence of having her natural mother and father.
 chap9-21u
Gerard’s vocation as clergyman came as a surprise to Moira. She’d learned of this when he held an impromptu funeral service for Finn and Malachi. And though it was somewhat unexpected, it provided a great deal of context into Gerard’s outpouring of generosity and empathy.
 chap9-21v
Moira and Gerard became acquainted very quickly. It came as no surprise that, after the matter of just a few weeks, they had formed a nearly insuperable bond. It was during the course of this magical and beautiful courtship that he confided in her, his innermost personal thoughts.
 chap9-21r
He and a friend, whom he had referred to only as “Doc”, had been coerced into helping Kacey fix something she had broken. Gerard became separated from them shortly after stepping into a maelstrom; a tempest so fantastic, that it defied description. Being a simple man of the cloth, he did not understand any of it. Kacey, however, did seem to possess some keen understanding and insight into the situation.
 chap9-21q
The evening before the maelstrom, Kacey had revealed her true nature to him. The motivation for doing so, she claimed, was to thank him for helping her find her faith; simply by living his. Through this awesome display of trust, she was able to surface the lustful desire for intimate relations with other men he had fought to resist his entire life. And by experiencing the light of perfect love, those salacious cravings no longer seemed insurmountable. She stayed with him that night as he wept, both with joy and with pain, for the new source of strength she had uncovered inside him.
 chap9-21w
Moira smiles, remembering how she revealed her own angelic nature to him the night Louis was conceived.
 chap9-21z
So much has happened since then. Most importantly, she fell in love with Gerard. Shortly after moving here from Sunset Valley, he became Pastor for the small church nestled into their countryside village. The Sunday services are always full and Gerard’s message never dulls. She has come to accept the reality that she may never fully understand what happened to Kacey and Adam. The artifact that Gerard brought with him was the last link to them. But it too is gone, having turned to dust during the journey to France.
 chap9-21y
Moira waves and Emilie squeals excitedly as Gerard and Louis walk together up the path from the river to the villa. She laughs with Gerard, listening to Emilie scolding Louis for going off to fish while she was napping. Moira uses the distraction to gently kiss her husband. She finds his dark eyes with her own brilliant, blue gaze then whispers musically into his ear, Je suis enceinte, mon amour.
 chap9-21x
His smile is warm, happy, and genuine. He hugs her ferociously, then kisses her with the same sentiment. Then, after collecting the children, the du Pont family retreats into their villa, just as evening begins its watch over the French countryside.
 chap9-21h
Standing by the window, Moira welcomes a kiss from the sun’s last rays on her cheeks, before it disappears behind the rolling hills. She smiles before drawing the curtains. There is no more perfect place for her to be, and there is no more perfect man for her to be with.
 chap9-21g
Just as the sun’s setting foreshadows the start of a new day; this, by no means, is the end of her story. She prefers to think of it as the interlude before a new dawn. And what could possibly be a sweeter and more lovely way of honoring a new dawn, than by dressing it with these proud words,
 chap9-21i
“The du Pont Legacy”
 chap9-21j
…they have a rather fetching sound to them, wouldn’t you agree?
 chap9-21k
chap5rule
 chap9-21l
Some butterflies will dismiss it as ludicrous and irrational. But the ones that trust in faith and make the journey, become a part of something wondrous and beautiful. – Gerard du Pont (Chapter 6.12 – Butterflies)
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Chapter 9.20 – Gold

Moira sprints away from the small cabin as her head swirls with confused images and conflicting emotions.
 chap9-20k
The flashes of her mother, pregnant and heavy with an unborn child (her brother), and of her father returning home from work, have become indelibly etched onto her mind’s eye. Why had these things been repressed, while other things came to her so clearly? The answer, she believes, lies within the cave where Malachi has spent too many years of his life speculating (unsuccessfully) for precious metals.
 chap9-20i
She approaches the cave entrance cautiously, weary of the complete silence within its dark interior. It occurs to her, that this is the same place where David had nearly been killed by Reid, and where Kacey had been hidden as an infant. Immediately upon crossing the wooden frame marking the cave’s entrance, she is met by an onslaught of hatred, jealousy, greed, lust, and wantonness. Like weapons, they are wielded against her with merciless force.
 chap9-20a
Hendrake approaches a stunned Moira; his naked, marvelous, and statuesque form beckoning her to release herself to him. No words are necessary for her to understand his invitation. She will know pleasure unlike any other has ever known pleasure, and she will indulge like no other being has ever indulged. No limits, no rules, no inhibitions. Just simple, unrestrained, and eternal hedonism. He reaches out his hand, but says nothing. It is an invitation to end the hunt and join with him.
 chap9-20c
Hendrake’s beguile is masterful. Moira, however, is no simple, silly, little girl to be easily swayed by flesh and bones. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a shadow cast on a nearby wall. The shadow belongs to a man hanging by his neck inside an adjoining cavern. His lifeless corpse is swaying silently before the light shed by a bright, unseen candle. Though she can see only a silhouette,  she knows immediately that it is Malachi.
 chap9-20d
Moira digs deep to resist the arousal Hendrake has attempted to provoke, and manages to douse the lustful desires aching to be acted upon. She sets her jaw and looks squarely into Hendrake’s sinister eyes. Having broken his grip on her, she now sees Hendrake’s true form. He is not an impressive monster, nor is he a statuesque demigod. He is nothing more than a snake; sleek and vile, and dripping noxious venom from its vicious maw.
 chap9-20b
She is not afraid, nor does she feels any grief for Malachi. He had been tormented (likely for many years) and nearly driven mad, by Hendrake’s evil influence. She prays for Malachi, asking that he be reunited with is lost family and be absolved of his missteps in life. She regards Hendrake with a quirky half-smile. Her confidence restored, she observes that Hendrake has not only failed to tempt her with his wicked interpretation of paradise, but with Malachi’s death, he has also lost his primary foothold in this place and time. It is a place and time where he does not belong.  And as a result, he has left himself exposed and dangerously vulnerable.
 chap9-20e
Hendrake, nearly hemorrhaging with fury, spits his defiance toward Moira. With boastful narcissism, the creature claims victory nonetheless, warning that her destruction is an eventuality. It will only be a matter of time before he builds influence and power. His twisted, taunting laugh causes her some hesitation, as he announces that his path to ascension has already been put into motion. And as his power grows, hers will wane.
 chap9-20j
Moira’s mind races. In his arrogance, Hendrake had just given her the answer to everything. She shakes her head slowly in disbelief. The algorithm… and the repressed memories …the anxiety of wanting to know her parents. They’ve all been temptations coaxed out of her by the master of lies. But to what end? There has been plenty of opportunity; why hasn’t he just killed her?
It will only be a matter of time… his path to ascension has already been put into motion…
 chap9-20h
Moira squeals with a burst of sudden excitement, having made the realization that her parents are safe. She affords herself a small measure of pride and hyperactively offers the serpent a portion of her understanding that pertains directly to it. Adam and Kacey HAD escaped that night. And they now reside in a time and place neither of them can reach… Nowhere. Hendrake needs Moria, or more specifically, the algorithm. Without Moira, Kacey and Adam are lost to him.
 chap9-20l
Shielding her eyes from Malachi’s hanging corpse, Moira rushes out toward the deep cavern where she had let the little contraption begin it’s work solving the algorithm. Hendrake, desperate but powerless, commands her to stop. He attempts again to beguile her, suggesting that stopping the algorithm may seal off the only means between here and Nowhere. She may never meet her parents.
 chap9-20f
The tiny ball, having completed only a minuscule fraction of the algorithm, halts obediently upon her approach. She smiles and picks it up from the floor. Immediately, the glowing symbols it has etched onto the floor disappear; erased from existence. If a snake where able to scream in rage, Hendrake would have done so.
 chap9-20g
Holding the brightly glowing ball in the open palm of her hand, she watches as powerful, feathered wings unfold from it’s surface. A beaked head and tail feathers emerge from within it’s interior. Screeching victoriously, the bird of prey leaps away from Moira and deftly snatches Hendrake from the ground with its deadly talons. It flies off, screaming hungrily, then disappears into the blackness of the cavern’s bowels to feast on its catch.
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 chap9-20m
A soft, cool breeze and the sweet scent of lilac and periwinkles greets Gerard as he regains his lost wits. He opens his eyes for the first time after having squeezed them shut, when Kacey let go of him inside the maelstrom. Her amazing artifact, the strange, glowing hunk of wood she had taken from Khaliq, had fallen away with him. It lays beside him now, softly humming and pulsing a weak bluish-green.
 chap9-20n
As his eyes focus, and his head and gut both adjust to solid ground, he is quite suddenly aware that he is not alone. At first, he is worried that something had happened to Kacey; and that Doc had also fallen into the chaos. But as his vision clears, it becomes quite obvious that his mysterious companion is most definitely not Doc. Rather, it is a young woman, well into her teens, who is now standing and regarding him curiously.
 chap9-20o
He is immediately stricken by her astonishing, blue eyes and the most beautiful hair he had ever seen. It is shimmering and lustrous; nearly metallic, as though it had been spun from the purest gold…

Chapter 9.19 – Marshal

From the diary of Moira McAllister
I write this in the earliest hours of daylight, having woken up from another restless sleep.
 chap9-19g
All I think about now is the algorithm, which stubbornly refuses to be silent in my head. At first, I assumed it had originated from deep within my own mind, and was attempting to emerge through my subconscious and into the forefront of my thoughts. But recently, I’ve come to suspect otherwise. Just as my parents were physical expressions of the intangible concept of Love; this algorithm …this equation… it may be alive. Do I possess some manner of latent empathy through which am being essayed? It is communicating with me, but I don’t understand what it wants. It is impossible to ignore. But how do I begin to solve the unsolvable?
 chap9-19j
Employing skills I still do not fully understand, I have succeeded in assembling a wee, little contraption to assist me in this endeavor. I dare not claim any credit for creating such a thing. While necessary, my role in bringing about its existence was tiny. Like a farmer does for his crop, I provided the conditions necessary for the thing to thrive. More catalyst than creator; more paint than artist. It hardly matters now, as I have released the little wonder to do its work in solving the algorithm.
 chap9-19i
For now, I feel good about the accomplishment. Yet, there is still some part of me that fears what consequences might occur, should some unwholesome character gain access to it. All I can do now is pray this was the right thing to do. In the meantime, I continue to also pray for insight into what happened to my parents. By revealing the secrets locked within the algorithm, I hope to finally learn the ending to their amazing love story.
chap5rule
 chap9-19h
Moira closes her diary and breathes a depressed sigh. Like the many past and future circumstances into which she has had some uncanny, prophetic insight, Moira does not fully comprehend the meaning behind an intuitive notion suggesting she has just written its final entry.
 chap9-19z
She stares out the window and watches the rhythmic motion of Finn’s old rocking chair. She remembers the days when she fit neatly in the crook of his arm; and when that same rocking motion would lull her to sleep. She was not an unhappy child, exactly. Nor was she overly delightful. It has been a rather subdued melancholy. Though at the same time, it colors every aspect of her persona, which Malachi often describes as “silly”, “aloof”, and “brooding”. Still, it is deeply rooted, and it emerges at the most unexpected times. Now, actually, is one such occasion.
 chap9-19aa
Neither Finn or Malachi has ever spoken a single word about Kacey or Adam. All these years, they have lied to her; telling her she is Malachi’s daughter by his late wife, Fiona. And all these years, she has lied to them, never once telling them what she knows about the two angelic beings Malachi had found – and her knowledge that she is, in fact, their child. But she is not a child any longer.
chap9-19q
Today, she decides, is the time to put an end to the lies. Finn regards her with the same warm smile with which he always greets her. But upon sensing Moira’s resolve, it takes only one moment for the expression to change.
 chap9-19p
A range of emotions plays across his face. He struggles briefly to maintain the facade. But his animated expressions betray any attempted subtlety. Or, perhaps, he has just become weary of the deception. His rocking motion becomes a little bit quicker, as his lips purse into an unhappy frown. The sudden loss of color from Finn’s face, and the appearance of a gaunt expression, causes Moira’s heart to flutter. Hesitant to make eye contact with her, Finn quietly (and correctly) guesses that she has come to ask about her parents. She catches her breath, and manages to choke out the word, yes, despite her larynx threatening to close from anxiety.
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Finn’s eyes, which had hardly ever shown anything but happiness and joy, begin to cloud over with tears. Finn starts to speak in a low, expressionless drone, which evokes a sense of the old sim having practiced this dialog many times in his mind. The words have barely left his lips when Moira is assailed with agitated flashes of past events. Each one of the disconnected and surreal situations fights against her, battling to remain hidden. She struggles with each one, forcing her will, and working to pull out as much detail as she can before it breaks free of her grasp.
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Old Finn had found a nugget of gold worth thousands of coin; more than a year’s crop of potatoes would ever yield. Since then, Malachi has staked a mining claim to the entire hill and started working to find more. He’d worked together with Adam for hours, clearing rocks from the opening of a natural cave in the rocky hillside. Malachi shakes his head in wonderment, as he watches Adam continue to work under the blazing, hot sun. He has easily done the work of ten men today.
 chap9-19b
Signaling Adam to stop working and collect his gear for the day, Malachi thinks back to the evening he had found the young man and his wife. The circumstances were very suspicious, if not bizarre. They’d been terribly mauled, and by all rights, should have already been dead. Malachi would have bet every coin he possessed that they would not survive through the night. But they did survive. And not only did they survive, but had they healed with no visible trace of the grievous wounds they’d suffered. Impossible? …Aye. But he has never worked up the disposition to ask what happened to them or where they came from. And they’ve never volunteered any information regarding their appearance. Perhaps old Finn was right about them, after all…
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 chap9-19d
Adam jogs easily beside Shena, as though he had just woken up from a fresh night’s sleep. This, after working non-stop for no fewer than twelve hours. Upon arriving back at the cabin, he greets his wife and baby Moria with warm embraces. Kacey, now very heavy with a second child, returns his affection. After a bit of small talk, Kacey speaks to the matter of a telegram that had been delivered earlier in the day. Malachi opens the message and reads it out loud.
 chap9-19e
It had been sent by a distant friend of Finn’s from the Old Country, who now works for the federal government back east. Aside from a short greeting, the only other contents of the wire is a peculiar presage. A Federal Marshall, going by the name Hendrake, would be arriving in Sunset Valley by the end of the week to investigate Malachi’s mining claim. Although the text itself had contained nothing to suggest any malevolence,  just the simple presence of the letter seems to evoke a sense of dread.
 chap9-19f
If this visit from a Federal Marshall was simply an investigation into his mineral extraction rights to the hill, then why send a provocative warning? Caught up in his own feelings of uneasiness,  Malachi fails to notice the stunned and fearful expressions washing across the faces of both Adam and Kacey. Finn, however, does notice; and the only words he can think of to describe their reaction, is nothing short of pure, terrified, panic. 
chap5rule
 chap9-19x
The sound of Finn’s troubled voice eases her back into the lucid present. He is in the midst of verbalizing his recollection of sitting with Moira in the bedroom later that same evening, rocking her to sleep. She was, at the time, only just a baby. She had always been a fussy child, possessing a wail so shrill, that it may have been able to unsettle the dead. But she had taken a liking to old Finn, and seemed content in his company. And much to Kacey’s dismay, Moira would only sleep when Finn was rocking her in the bedroom.
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Finn’s old voice quivers from the strain of revisiting these unwelcome memories. His words, shallow and weak, leave Moira feeling sick to her stomach. He regards Moira with as deep a sorrow as she had seen befall any sim. They wanted to take her with them… But it was Kacey, wanting to protect her first-born, who decided that it would be safer to leave baby Moira with Finn until Hendrake had gone. The old man’s entire body shudders from a memory he refuses to speak. After a moment, his tired, sober eyes meet hers. The words that leave his lips cause Moira to cringe. She was right.
 chap9-19u
The marshal arrived shortly after Adam and Kacey fled into the night that same evening. An unusually hot, dry wind had accompanied Hendrake’s arrival, which was a full week earlier than expected. Somehow, they had known…
 chap9-19v
Peeking at the Marshall through the bedroom’s keyhole, Finn understood what had provoked such terror. Marshall Hendrake was not human. Finn describes the sense of dread and bleakness he had felt from just being within close proximity to such a creature. That’s when everything fell into place for Finn. This creature had nearly killed Adam and Kacey, but they had somehow escaped. The beast, unwilling to lose its prey, had tracked them down. And it was eager to finish the job. Instinct alone (or perhaps it was his deeply rooted faith) had warned Finn to keep both himself and Moira silent. It would easily recognize the golden-haired, angelic child for what she truly was. And child or not, Moira was in grave danger.
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Over the booming of his own heartbeat, Finn could hear muffled voices through the door. The creature had convinced Malachi that Adam and Kacey were criminals. The government was offering a permanent land trust within Sunset Valley as reward for capturing the “fugitives”. Malachi had not been able to see through the Marshall’s guise. So, in the pitch of night, Malachi led Hendrake and his contingent to the mine, where Adam and Kacey had taken refuge.
 chap9-19s
After a long quiet spell, Finn, now clearly exhausted, completes his telling with a hushed whisper. Malachi did not return until morning. And even then, he was too traumatized to speak about what he had witnessed at the cave. In his hand was the payment Hendrake had promised for his obedience; a deed administering full and permanent ownership rights to all land claims within Sunset Valley. As to the fate of both Kacey and Adam, Malachi has kept his account of what transpired that night, staunchly to himself.
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Having unloaded his burden, and with nothing more to tell, Finn finds his usual rocking rhythm and begins to quietly hum the Irish lullaby he’d always hummed while rocking Moira to sleep. He had seen too much unhappiness over his lifetime, and Moira does her part to ease his broken heart. With tears still fresh in her eyes, she kisses the tired, old man lightly on his cheek, and expresses her gratitude and love. Then, filled with a surplus of nervous energy, Moira runs through the tall grass toward the cave …and Malachi. She looks back once, and understands that this is the last time she will see her dear, old Finn.
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Afraid but determined, Moira continues on her path, unsure of how the day will end – but certain that it will end with her finally learning the truth.

Chapter 9.17 – Beginning

From the diary of Moira McAllister:
 chap9-17a
How is it that I am able to know events that both precede and follow me, as though I had been there myself?
 chap9-17b
I’ve come to care about, cry with, and mourn for the many souls who have resided (or have yet to) upon this small plot of earth and its multitude of facets and reflections. How is it so? Why is this place special? I suspect that I am neither privy nor entitled to know the mechanics of such things. Or, perhaps, the threshold of understanding simply lays outside the realm of my comprehension. But what I do know, is that it began with the two lovely creatures Malachi discovered, late one unseemly afternoon.
 chap9-17c
Despite the grim condition in which they’d been found, Papa decided to bring them home, fully expecting to bury them come morning. He’d told his Father-in-Law, Finn, about the circumstances in which they’d been discovered. Finn, being a cheerful and empathetic old soul, had never really endeared himself to a humorless and overly sensible son-in-law. And his odd reaction to the pair did nothing to improve that particular dynamic.
 chap9-17d
I imagine that Papa must have needed a full two days away from old Finn (fishing, most likely), to cool his temper after listening to him rant about the two strangers being angels; sent to them from Heaven by his daughter (and Papa’s late wife), Fiona. He’d chided the old man for being a foolish, old goat. He also remained silent in regards to his own terrible pain, seeing the striking resemblance this grievously injured woman bore to his dearly departed Fiona. I suspect that Finn must possess some uncommon intuition. Because as it turns out, he was more right than wrong.
 chap9-17e
I suspect that Malachi quietly conceded to Finn’s observation, and recognized how special these two were. Could it be that in the process of saving them, he had also saved himself?
 chap5rule
 chap9-17f
Alive. As impossible as it may seem, they are alive.
 chap9-17h
Adam remembers clinging to Kacey’s lifeless figure, just before losing consciousness himself. It was a thing of pure malice, and persisted for just a few moments after Hendrake finally found them. The wanton, murderous brutality was perpetrated without hesitation or thought. Adam’s last conscious thought was a desperate search for escape. He remembered the Algorithm, and the effort he and Luke had undertaken together to traverse it to it’s core. He had escaped then; transported to a young girl who had called him Lukey’boy (see chapter 8.17). He thought of that place again, just as a brilliant white light engulfed them. He assumed it was his own death. But then he woke up here. Alive.
 chap9-17j
The first thing that registers in Adam’s senses is the particular sound made by waves crashing below the bluff. They produce a unique acoustic quality, as echoes from the beating waves ebb and flow up the steep slope, just as the water ebbs and flows at the shoreline. There is a stillness he is not accustomed to, however; and the sound of the gentle sea breeze whispering through a dense population of conifers. Adam opens his eyes and quietly regards Kacey, who is lying next to him on an old, dilapidated bed.
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Kacey had suffered the worst of Hendrake’s malignant hunger. It was violence for the sake of violence; something far worse than sadism. By all rights, the two of them should be long dead, having been splayed open like pigs at the slaughter; ripped from sternum to pelvis by Hendrake’s own, bare hands (if they can qualify as such). How is it possible to survive such a thing? Adam stands, tracing an unsteady line up from his waist to the tip of his unblemished throat. Nothing …no disfigurement …no scarring …nothing.
 chap9-17k
He quickly tends to Kacey as she begins to stir on the bed. Her breathing has accelerated, and she has begun to flail in her sleep. Adam gently hushes her, stroking her silvery hair. His eyes are the first thing she sees as she wakes form her terror. She quickly throws her arms around his neck and buries her face in his chest; trembling, but calm. Finally, her muffled question rises quietly from the tiny spaces between them. Is it over?
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Adam breathes in a deep, cleansing breath and holds Kacey even tighter. For all he can tell, this may never end. There will always be a Hendrake and his ilk. There will always dwell, those who seek to defy, dismiss, and disprove any notion of divine providence. And they will continue a relentless and tireless campaign to crush and silence those who resist. No, this isn’t over. It will continue as long as he and Kacey exist, representing the one, true, and perfect Love.
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His lips brush softly against her ear, his gentle breath moving wisps of silvery hair, causing them to fall in uniform strands to her shoulder. Her response is an embrace that is executed with such intensity, that it feels as though she were attempting to draw him wholly within herself.
 chap9-17n
No, love. It is only just beginning…

Chapter 9.16 – Threads

From the diary of Moira McAllister~
I’ve never spoken to Papa regarding my intuition about the two angelic creatures who left me here (my parents, presumably). He’s never told me about them, but I know they exist. I can’t explain how. I just know.
 
My long melancholy spells are usually a result of wanting to know who they are, and who I am. Though I don’t remember them, their story is fresh in my mind. Their tenacity to exist despite the insolent crusade to crush them (and the ideals they represent) is pure inspiration. Was it breath from Heaven that filled their lungs when the poisonous stench of perdition sought to smother them out? I cannot begin to imagine what bravery, what fortitude, what faith, they must have drawn upon to survive their encounter with the legions of Hell. Every claw, hoof, and flaming maw was brought to bear against their bid to escape. But they escaped. And they survived. The question I ask, is how did they get here?
 
The answer, in part, must rest in the relationship between time and space. And of all places, I discovered this while shopping to mend my dress. It was a comparatively mild encounter with a rather nasty patch of thorn bushes that had ripped it. Papa had taken me to the trading post where the shop-keep (who was not keen about the visit) noticed my general state of disrepair. He’d mentioned not knowing that Papa had a family. After a few tense words exchanged between them, I kindly introduced myself in an effort to ease the obvious ongoing feud.
 
The shop-keep was clearly taken with me, and the unusual quality of my hair; which Papa often compares to threads of spun gold. Granted, it does posses a rather unusual shimmering, almost burnished quality. I am quite fond of it, actually (and admittedly a bit boastful at times). After speaking for a time with the shop-keep  Papa was surprised to receive three times the usual sum for his potato harvest. With the extra proceeds, we purchased a hank of wool thread and some sewing needles. It’s curious that something so simple as watching the shop-keep wind thread into a neat ball, would manage to spark a wealth of insight. I had been confounded by the means in which they were able to transfer themselves from that time and place, to this time and place. Then it occurred to me:
Time, like the sewing thread, is linear. But collectively, it is tightly wound into a ball. Only forward motion is allowed on the thread, but it may be possible to “slip” to an adjacent thread on the ball while still maintaining forward momentum. The calculations would be monumental. But still, I am intrigued by the possibility of uncovering the “algorithm” which makes this possible. Perhaps solving it will afford me the honor of someday finally meeting them…
 
 
Malachi McAllister clicks, whistles, and reigns in his spooked mount.
 
 
Normally docile and as steady as a sailor, Shena whinnies and snorts, and prances around in unsteady circles. Malachi fights to keep her on the trail toward home, but loses the contest. The moment he dismounts, she bolts into the woods neighing and snorting. Now completely infuriated, Malachi throws his hat to the dusty ground and pitches a loud, cursing rant. This continues for some time, but he finally regains his wits after hearing Shena squealing loudly in the woods. Breathing a heavy sigh, Malachi grabs his hat and ventures cautiously into the woods. His rifle, of course, is still with Shena.
 
He’d been returning from a trip to the trading post with a bushel full of nearly perfect potatoes to sell for a few coin. It’s no secret the Irish are not well-liked in these parts. And the shop-keep made pains to let this fact be plainly known the moment Malachi plowed through his front door hauling a giant, canvas sack of spuds. It is also no secret that the Irish have a hot-blooded streak that runs deep, and turns mean with little provocation. After verbally milling the old hoor, Malachi accepted half the coin he should have earned for such a fine crop.
 
He’d have carried the sack home again, if not for the promise he’d made to his late wife on her deathbed. He’d promised that he would look after her doddering, old father as an honor to her memory. Fiona’s passing had been tough on the old goat. Aye, and it’s been no easier on Malachi – especially so soon after losing their only son, an infant, to fever. The fact is, that both men have become lost since the tragic deaths. Tending potatoes seems to be the only thing keeping them from giving up and reuniting with their lost loved ones.
 
He had no idea what to expect upon reaching the spot where Shena had stopped running. Being a simple man of simple words, he finds he cannot express exactly what the peculiar sensation feels like. He is reminded of that same feeling of smallness he’d felt when trying to comprehend the night sky; or how it came to be.
 
It is not fear that Malachi feels. These days, fear is has nowhere to set up shop in Malachi’s gut. This hadn’t always been the case. He’d seen what suffering came with the famine, and the more suffering that came from weeks of living within the steerage of those great, floating, metal coffins; where the air was so foul that some prefer to simply stop breathing than continue sucking down the vile stuff. A man who lives through that, has little else left to fear.
 
Shena’s panicked agitation subsides as Malachi approaches. Honestly, he’d figured that she had spooked and ran *away* from something. This wasn’t the case. Sweet old Shena must have somehow sensed these two being attacked by …something. The pair had remarkably survived, but had lost consciousness, still huddled tightly together. The viscous bites and gaping claw marks on their bodies leads him to believe they’d been attacked by a bear; or more than one. But it’s the burns that cover each of them from nearly head to toe that has Malachi feeling skittish.
 
Malachi is no bleeding heart when it comes to charity, but leaving these two here to die would be nothing short of evil. Besides  there is something about them he finds compelling. It’s probably the strange quality to their hair, which shines like fine strands of metallic silver. Malachi quickly lays them both across Shena’s back and grabs Snenna’s reigns.
 
Ignoring the fact that no sign of struggle seems to have unsettled the woods where he’d found them, Malachi instructs her to follow by making a clicking noise. The complete absence of bear, wolf, any other kind of large animal tracks speaks to the suggestion that these two simply fell from the sky in this condition. What’s worse, Malachi ignores the overwhelming and eye-watering stench of brimstone that pervades, not from these two, but from the section of woods where they were found.
 
His anxiety does not subside until the tiny cabin he’d built for Fiona appears over the bluff. An odd smile tugs at the corners of his mouth upon seeing it. It’s a sentiment he’d never before felt living on this dreaded rock, but he welcomes it nonetheless.
 
I’m home.

Chapter 9.15 – Goodbye

Adam wakes to find brilliant, blue eyes searching for some kind of coherent awareness.
 
The smile he sees, is one he’d seen many times during his visit to distant memories. Is this just a memory now? The smell of smoke in his throat and nose say that he is not daydreaming. He last remembers being trapped under the collapsing estate, and thinking that he would surely be burned alive just as the Flaumel’s had. His blurry vision begins to focus and he sees Kacey. Only this time, she is  real and substantial.
 
He tries to say something but he can only stammer in confusion. His mind is still racing, trying to figure out what happened. He is badly disoriented and he struggles unsuccessfully to find his bearings. Finally, he manages to eke out that he had called to her for help. She smiles and softly hushes him, planting her finger on his parched lips.
 
That simple touch ignites a peculiar, though not entirely unpleasant sensation. She closes her eyes and breathes in sharply. At the same moment, a exhilarating sensation rushes throughout Adam’s body and limbs. Her touch is electric. Kacey opens her eyes and smiles again, still enjoying the shared experience. Then she nods and acknowledges shyly that she’d heard him.
 
While Adam was sleeping, Kacey had explored and found a small pool of bubbling spring water. She’d bathed and changed into clean clothes left behind by the ancient inhabitants who had once dwelt here. She’d also found a change of clothes for Adam. She helps him to stand and gently suggests that he use the pool himself. The smell from being nearly burnt alive (combined with stinky seaweed) is offensive to him. Adam can only imagine how bad it must be for Kacey.
 
 —
 
Adam bathes in the pool. And while doing so, he swims to the bottom of the deep spring and gathers a large number of ancient coins. This helps to clear his mind, and wash away the any trace of of the burnt estate. Finally, after what must have been an hour, he hops out, and dresses his injuries. Thankfully, the wardrobe Kacey had found for him is soft and gentle against his painful burns. He smiles at the thought of her name.
 
Suddenly very anxious to see her, Adam finishes dressing and finds Kacey sitting alone, meditating by an arrangement of candles. She attempts to hide her excitement as he approaches. Failing to do this, she asks with embarrassing giddiness, how he’s feeling. Adam’s burns are still very tender, and his insides feel as though they’d been taken to a blender. But considering the alternative, he’s purely ecstatic.
 
Adam sits down on the floor next to her and quietly enjoys her actual presence. Normally, Kacey would immediately work to establish a safe buffer zone from any sim encroaching on her personal space. But she feels no threat and no discomfort when Adam presses closer. They sit like this for a few minutes, just absorbing the encounter. Finally, Kacey is forced to speak, when she remembers the imminent threat Hendrake still poses.
 
She gently explains to Adam that Sunset Valley has likely been crushed under Hendrake’s legion. And by now, it is also very likely they have spread to outlying areas looking for them. And there are other …things, that have been attracted as well. Kacey sighs, trying hard not to fall back into the scared little-girl role. She shakes her head, lamenting that she knows they have to both leave. She’s just not sure how, or where.
 
Adam reflexively puts his arm around Kacey to comfort her. He’d held her like this a number of times in his memories. But he’d never imagined that the real thing could be so inexplicably perfect. Kacey surrenders any discomfort and allows herself to fully experience Adam’s adoring affection.
 
They had likewise kissed a few times during those visits to David’s memories. But when their lips finally meet together in the same reality, it is unlike anything either had ever expected. It is not the physical aspect, so much as it is the emotional release of having finally found each other, that seals the moment in their minds. Okay, the physical part of it is pretty good too.
 
The kiss naturally evolves into a pair of purely spontaneous smiles, pressed amorously together. They laugh, and then settle into a quiet, meaningful, and gently swaying embrace; which continues for a very long time.
 
 
Government disaster managenemt officials believe a nuclear device may have been detonated underground somewhere near Sunset Valley; possibly the result of a tragic mishap at the Fort Gnome military base. A seventy-five mile quarantine radius has been established around the site. Nobody is being allowed to enter or exit. Military personnel are quickly massing around the quarantine zone. But the effort has been clouded by confusion and chaos, as reports of fierce battles involving heavy weapons and grievously injured combat troops continue to surface…
 
Amber turns off the television, then stands in shock and dismay. She’d had difficulty sleeping after consuming too much nectar at a party tonight. She’s definitely not as young as she used to be. Amber smiles absently, thinking back to the first dinners she and Wendell had shared together, many years ago. She was just a teen then, and the poor guy nearly drowned himself in nectar because of her.
 
But the smile is very short lived, as reality sets in again. She had turned on the television to relax and hopefully find sleep. What she found, only made her feel worse. It was all over the news on every channel. Something has happened in Sunset Valley; something terrible. Only, Amber suspects that it was something more than a bomb …something worse.
 
Amber squeals in alarm when Kacey and Adam appear from out of thin air. She had seen pictures of Kacey during her years as a teen author. She also remembers wondering about Kacey’s appearance throughout the generations of Barimens (see chapter 8.4). Every one of the heirs who had protected Adam, were connected on some level with Kacey. Amber had been the first of the heirs to understand what was happening; what “the entity” was, and how important their role as guardians were.
 
A new understanding immediately forms in Amber’s head. Her instincts were correct. There was no nuclear bomb in Sunset Valley – and it is far worse. The hunters had finally found Adam and Kacey (See Chapter 7.25).
 
Amber fusses over Adam’s injuries while regarding Kacey with some fascination. Amber had suspected that Adam was with a young woman when he failed to return home tonight. But this is not at all what she’d had in mind. Amber studies the pair for a moment. Then, after quickly analyzing the situation, she comes to a very somber conclusion. She hugs Adam gently.
 
This is goodbye, isn’t it?
 
Adam nods and politely hugs Amber in return. She stands back, holding Adam at arm’s length. A knowing smile appears on her face. Smirking, she observes that he’d actually come here to say goodbye to somebody else. Adam shrugs his shoulders apologetically, and nods again. Amber winks at him and wistfully announces that she’ll go and wake up his mother.
 
A moment later, she emerges again into the living room with a sleepy Makayla. Adam cocks his head and smiles when he notices the manner in which she carries herself. He has two young sisters already, and he loves both of them dearly. Unfortunately he’ll never meet the twin girls Makayla now carries.
 
Adam hugs her very close. Then, addressing her as “mom”, Adam gently explains the situation to the best of his ability. He continues, rebuffing her sleepy protests, and reassuring her that staying here will only mean more death and destruction. He must leave with Kacey; not only so save their own lives, but to save the lives of his unborn sisters.
 
Adam takes a step backwards, holds Kacey’s hand and disappears into nothingness while his parting words hang potently in the air.
 
I will never forget you, Kay…
Author’s Note: So it has finally happened after eight generations. Kacey and Adam have been finally and formally brought together. The major plot line is finished now, but I still have a few posts remaining and a tenth generation heir to introduce. So, where do Kacey and Adam go from here? Some of you may have already figured it out (but I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t).
This post does, however, bring the story of the human Barimen family to an end. I had prepared a short preview of a story I’d wanted to write using one of Makayla’s and Luke’s offspring. But I’m just not ready to commit to another story just yet, and I still have some plot problems to figure out. Luke and Makayla live out their lives happily together in South Sim Beach. They end up having three sets of twins – all girls. I do play them occasionally when I want to play “easy mode” (9 million simoleons takes care of that). Oddly, I find myself playing in Sunset Valley with the sims who were present after I removed the legacy family from the game (literally exported the family, then leveled the lot with the bulldozer). There are still many Nava offspring running about, as well as some Barimen from Amber’s brother, Peter. After running only one family for so long, I’m finding it fun  hopping into different households and meddling with their lives for awhile before moving on the next unsuspecting household…

Chapter 9.14 – Needle

The ground begins to rumble beneath Kacey’s feet, as though Sunset Valley itself were in upheaval over Hendrake’s assault.
 
Kacey has seen, firsthand, the vast network of underground caverns and tunnels beneath Sunset Valley. And she can sense now, that they are filled with the same monstrous creatures that visibly stream like molten lava, out of caves and crevices in the foothills. Hendrake will destroy this world looking for her and Adam; possibly this entire reality. That is, unless they find a way of removing themselves from it.
 
A sick, seaward wind hurls itself from the bay, as though clashing with the vile demons bleeding out from somewhere deep with in the earth. Panic begins to overtake Kacey’s judgement, and she runs back toward the beach where she had landed her boat. It does not occur to her that in her natural state, she could easily take wing and fly to her destination.
 
Unfortunately, she has never moved beyond the scared little-girl who was left alone in that cave while the only advocate she’d ever had on this world was burned to death. Her “mother” had done the right thing, of course. There is no arguing that. She had been protected from the then-living Corwin. But more importantly, the cavern sufficed as a  shield, protecting her from the being that now calls itself Hendrake. Her formative memories of childhood are not those cherished moments playing with swing-sets and baby-dolls. They are, instead, dominated by the sense of awaiting her own murder, as the unseen beast sniffed around her with terrifying proximity. Indeed, she had survived. But Kacey is left with the torture of remembering. (see Chapters 8.10, 1.12)
 
Her silvery hair is whipped wildly around in the unholy gale blowing in from the sea. The sea itself, it seems, has become a threat. Hendrake’s presence has provoked the attention of other …things. They are unspeakably evil and impossibly ancient, and have become drawn to Hendrake and his unusual display of power on this little speck of a world. If she weren’t so afraid, she’d cry for this place and it’s inhabitants. She can hear their dying screams, even now.
 
A figure is waiting for her by the boat. It is Adam’s brother, Noah; the one who calls himself Caine. He sneers at Kacey over the howling wind and demands to be told where she is hiding Adam. But Kacey does not acknowledge Noah. A black, oily mass of squirming, gigantic, trunk-like tentacles has emerged from the sea, expanding menacingly toward her. They instantly smother Noah, while also smothering his startled cries of terror.
 
Perhaps it is some fight-or-flight instinct that sparks a keen lucidity from within Kacey’s troubled psyche; or perhaps it is something else. Her fear parts like a veiled curtain, allowing her to finally embrace herself for what she is.
 
Neither Kacey nor Adam were conceived in the same manner as other sims. Noah was the biological fusion of his mother’s and father’s DNA knitted together through a physical reproductive process that, while mundane, is still worthy of awe. Kacey’s and Adam’s origins are not so simple. They are living beings whose physical forms are insubstantial and inconsequential; manifested from a primal concept and brought to life in a domain where such concepts are real and tangible. In essence, they are the manifestations of perfect love; an articulation of the perpetual, loving bond forged between a mother and a father under the auspices of that which begat the universe.
 
That is what Deirdre had been trying to tell her; but lacked the understanding necessary to effectively verbalize it. Julian had told her to remove the dagger from her side. The dagger, of course, represents the abuse she had suffered over her curiously long lifetime.
 
With love comes forgiveness; and the forgiveness frees her. Wings unfold with a grace and beauty that cannot be effectively described. She leaps into the sky and speeds toward Adam, toward her love, with a single-minded clarity she has never once in her life enjoyed. And oddly, she finds herself smiling.
 
The monstrous tangle of oily, black tentacles have retreated back into the sea, leaving no sign of Noah. Those same horrific appendages now assail the lighthouse, squirming up the sides of the building; hundreds of hellish constrictors crushing the landmark to rubble. She penetrates the mass with the ease of a hot needle through wax, and emerges from the other side with Adam in tow. There was no sign of Jopin, as he had likely fought to the end to protect his ward.
 
She does not look back as she soars high into the sky, and away from the doomed town. It will not take long for Hendrake to realize they have fled. And once Sunset Valley has been reduced to an uninhabitable wasteland, he will come looking for them. She and Adam must both leave this place. But first, she must rest.
 
 
Ancient ruins lay scattered about the world. They are the artifacts of an age where reverence had been never been in question. These hallowed, sacred places are where sims once came to give thanks and praise to that which created everything. They now sit unused and forgotten; much like the ideals that had seen them originally built.
 
Kacey is welcomed by the warm glow of lit candles and the soft voices of those who had once sung their praise to the almighty. They will be safe here. For a little while, at least. She lays Adam down in a primitive bed and covers him with simple linens she’d found nearby. No longer quaking from the pain of his injuries, Adam settles into a soft breathing rhythm. Kacey lays tentatively beside him and attempts to process what has happened. Before drifting off into her own slumber, she mumbles a small, but powerful prayer.
 
 —
 
Thank you.

Chapter 9.13 – Dagger

Kacey cringes while Jopin re-applies his concoction of gross-smelling seaweed to Adam’s badly burnt limbs, chest, and face.
 
Deep inside, Kacey recognizes there is little cause for concern. She had personally suffered cataclysmic trauma. The sims around her had literally been shredded to bits by an explosion she’d inadvertently triggered in a secret, underground lab (see chapter 3.7) . And yet, she had somehow healed with no trace of the event. The only requirement was time. Coincidentally, this is what worries her most. Time, it appears, has become a scarce resource.
 
She senses the event horizon of something terrible approaching. Not knowing what it is scares her more than anything. Both Reid and Jopin had alluded to it earlier. They’d both seemed to also sense the looming dread. And what of Jopin? Who is he? She finds his timely appearance at the lighthouse almost too fortuitous. Had he been placed in her path via some manner similar to the boat on the beach? He’d told her that she and Adam wouldn’t be able to stay here much longer. The question remains, What did he mean by “here”?
 
Kacey lands the boat on the same shore she had found it, then walks cautiously up the bluff toward the ruined estate. The stench from the gutted building hangs in the air as a thick, black fog. Her stinging eyes widen in horror as she crests the bluff. She is greeted by the sight of wildfires burning out of control through the recessed parts of Sunset Valley not visible from the lighthouse. She can hear Hendrake, bellowing brutally from some far-off point in the distance. There is a moment of terror when she comprehends that what she sees is no simple wildfire. It is a host; his army. Hendrake intends to destroy this place looking for her.
 
The horde has already made its presence known, and it burns with the brightness of an unnatural pyre. Kacey does not know whether Hendrake is able to sense her presence or not. Regardless, Jopin was correct about one thing. She needs to find whatever she is looking for and get back to Adam. And then what?
 
 —
 
Heat and flame from the smoldering ruins of the estate are repelled away from Kacey’s body by some unknown force. It lends the visual effect of her moving about the ruins inside a vortex of fire and smoke. She ignores this, and instead reflects upon her ponderous sadness. Before seeing Reid today, she thought had shed her last tears some time ago, after sadness had became the norm. So many memories lay buried here now; memories of David, Mark, Hope, Faith, Doc …Gerard. All of it is gone. As far as she knows, Adam is all that remains of the Barimen legacy.
 
She finds a place among the smoldering rubble that captures her attention. A chest has survived the blaze, seemingly unmolested. She cautiously approaches, then opens the box. Those tears she had thought were barren, easily spring from her eyes again. She begins breathing in sobs, attempting to control her emotional response to the box’s contents.
 
A ring …the ring.
 
And her artifact, or something like it. Her artifact was old and dying. But this …seed … like an unborn child, is pure and bursting with life and potential. Through her confused tears, she reads the note written to her by Luke (See Chapter 8.24). She laughs, then cries, then laughs again. Then, after a short time, she hears an old Irish lullaby and wonders if she’s finally gone mad. She works to dismiss this as a relic from her profoundly vivid visit with old memories. But soon, it becomes very evident that the song is no figment. Her mind reels as suppressed memories from her terrifying childhood surface.
 
A deep, smooth, and reassuring voice calms her deep anxiety. She looks up to see a vaguely familiar face. Their last meeting was not a pleasant one (see Chapter 2.19). But everything is different now. It is the same, self-assured, confident, and silken voice she remembers …Julian? Having appeared through through the smoke, the aged Barimen founder offers his fraternal sibling a warm smile (see Chapter 8.10). Kacey’s face contorts in confusion and uncertainty. The lullaby stops abruptly, and is replaced by a sweet, soothing, melodic voice from her distant past. It is a voice she had not heard since she was a baby; since before the cave…
 
Eva, love, you’re so beautiful! Look how you’ve grown!
 
Any remaining defense against the unwelcome flood of childhood memories fighting to reclaim their place in her mind, is immediately smashed to splinters. The past forcefully occupies its long-empty compartment, while Kacey …Eva, stands with slumped shoulders, weeping. Desiree and Julian both support her for a long time; saying nothing, but speaking volumes.
 
Finally, Desiree steps back and gently consoles the angelic being she had carried and birthed. She quietly hushes Kacey, encouraging her to let go of the burden. The things that have happened to her are no better than having a long dagger repeatedly plunged into her side. Choosing to to leave the dagger in place, and attempting to ignore the pain, is completely understandable. Removing it is a very scary proposition. But it has to be done; for herself …for Adam. Yes, there will be some blood shed; and tears too. But she will never heal unless she first removes the thing causing her wound.
 
Julian’s deep voice, as usual, provides context; It’s already done it’s harm. Why let it continue hurting you?
 
For Kacey …Eva, there had always been something missing; though could never quite grasp or comprehend what or why. Radiant blue eyes stare into those of the woman whom she’d always missed so terribly, and longed to be comforted by; the way she’d been comforted as an infant.
 
And though the words never actually emerge, as they are obscured by Kacey’s weakly quivering voice and sobbing breaths, Desiree smiles as though they had been perfectly spoken. Kacey had never in her life used these words before, not even for David. But what’s important now, is that she’d attempted to use them at all. Desiree comforts the young being she had carried and birthed, then musically returns the long-overdue sentiment.
 
I love you too, deary… I love you too.

Chapter 9.12 – Lighthouse

A blazing, golden beam of light breaks through the smoke and flames that greedily engulf the Barimen Estate.
 
Weak and incapacitated, Adam expends the last of his strength to escape the raging hell-fire surrounding him. He sails through the air in a lazy, ballistic trajectory. And he lands with an audible thud somewhere on the beach below the bluff.
 
Kacey had never really become comfortable using her innate abilities. It could be that in some way, the multiple instances of trauma she’d experienced as a result of her uniqueness has subconsciously suppressed them. She runs on foot down the bluff, and toward the beach where she begins to frantically search for some sign of Adam.
 
The new moon provides an inky darkness, through which only the eerie light provided by the burning estate seems to penetrate. A weak cough in the distance captures her attention. She focuses her eyes in the murky, smoke-filled air, and carefully scours the area. She finds him laying in a rough patch of singed beach grass. She immediately attends to Adam, gently hushing his incoherent mumbling; and squelching her urgent panic response. His condition is dire.
 
She has nothing to dress Adam’s burns, which require tending. Any thought of taking him  to the hospital is out of the question. She remembers her own captivity at the hospital while recovering from her own near-fatal wounds. By that time, a young and ambitious Jon Buford had already figured out her “gifts”. It was Buford who had her placed under constant surveillance under David’s nose. It has taken her decades to realize it, but Adam had saved her life the day she finally regained consciousness. The baritone choir that always accompanies his presence instructed her to flee Buford (see Chapter 3.?? – Voices).
 
Adam’s was the lone voice she had heard when she was contemplating suicide after David’s funeral (Chapter 4.12). And he had also helped a teen-aged Faith to clear the mountain of earth which had entombed her beneath Sunset Valley (Chapter 5.19). He has been the only constant relationship in her life. And as bizarre as it may seem, she’s really never actually met him.
 
Moving Adam, given his condition, seems counterproductive. But she heeds her intuition and it’s urgent warning to find cover away from the beach, and away from the estate. Reid had alluded to Hendrake’s return. After what she’d witnessed, she’s not sure how that’s even possible. But one thing is certain; something is going to happen here. And whatever it is, it isn’t going to be good.
 
Adam quakes from the pain of the burns that cover the majority of his body. He will heal. But it will not be easy. Kacey struggles under the encumbrance of Adam’s dead-weight  and only manages to get him onto his feet before the hair on the nape of her neck stands on end. She had hoped there would be more time…
 
Before she can complete the thought, a young man stumbles from out of the underbrush, then stands unsteadily before her. He bears some resemblance to Adam, but there is a toxic aspect of hatred hemorrhaging from his soulless, green eyes. He steadies himself in an effort to play off an almost drunken state. His hesitant laugh is enough to cause Kacey some uneasiness.
 
She had retrieved the weapon Reid used to slay the demonic beast. But with Adam’s full weight leaning against her, coupled with his sudden agitation, Kacey finds it nearly impossible to react. Then, in what must have been a colossal effort of self-discipline, Adam spits out a single, garbled word – Noah.
 
Noah frowns. Then through gritting teeth, he impatiently questions his brother as to why he insists on using the deprecated name. The name is Caine, and he promises to personally witness his brother speaking it using his last, dying breath. Another explosion inside the estate (this one being the largest yet) shakes the ground beneath their feet and deadens their eardrums for a moment. That was no simple fuel canister.
 
Debris from the blast plucks at the sand all around them. Distracted for a brief instant, Noah looks away to admire his handiwork. It is all the time Kacey needs. Adam crumbles to the beach immediately as she removes her support. She reaches nimbly backward and hefts the ancient weapon. The blade is still crusted with black gore.
 
Noah turns to see the evidence of his associate’s demise. He growls, pausing for a long time to think, then calls out the name Hendrake into the troubled air. He calls the name again, after there is no response – HENDRAKE! Noah’s murderous eyes narrow, and then he wisely takes a step backward. He curses under his breath while retreating quietly into a nearby shadow, then vanishes without a trace. Kacey breathes a very sobering, albeit anxious sigh.
 
She hobbles with Adam for a brief distance down the beach until she finds the object she had been looking for. Kacey had wanted to find a small boat that could be used to transport them to the relative safety of the lighthouse (a place where she had fled many times in the past). She has yet to fully comprehend exactly how her abilities work. Whether the boat had been here all along, she is unsure. Perhaps she created it herself out of sheer willpower, or summoned it here from another place and time. It could be any of these, or none of them. But what matters most, is that Adam be taken to safety.
 
Jopin is a rugged old-timer  hired to maintain the aging lighthouse and preserve it as a landmark. He had been watching the blaze from afar when he spotted Kacey in her boat. The weathered, old salt waited for Kacey at the shore of the small island where the lighthouse stands. Having felt no immediate apprehension about him, Kacey trusted her instincts and allowed him to help.
 
 
Surprisingly spry for his advanced age, Jopin had easily lifted Adam from the bottom of the boat and carried him up a long flight of stairs to the living quarters. He cursed a few foul oaths worthy of a sailor, when he saw Adam’s burns. Still, he did not hesitate in tending to them. Kacey wondered whether allowing Jopin to wrap a foul-smelling seaweed around Adam’s burns was a good idea. But it seemed to immediately sooth Adam’s quaking, and so she said nothing.
 
Afterwards, Kacey stands with Jopin on the lighthouse’s terrace, where they silently ponder the Barimen Estate’s destruction. If there was ever a time where the words “the silence was deafening” applied to a situation, that situation would be now. Eventually, Jopin’s harsh, gravelly voice marks the last of the flames dying out of view from their lighthouse perch. He points out that she and “her boy” won’t be able to stay here much longer. Kacey levels a measuring gaze toward the worn, old goat of a man. She knows, somehow, that Jopin is not referring to just the lighthouse.
 
Kacey squints suspiciously toward the old-timer when he speaks again. He recons that it would be best for her to go now and be back before morning, if she’s intent on finding whatever it is she’s yearning. Kacey again searches the man’s deep eyes, which give away nothing. He’s right, of course. When she first arrived, Kacey had sensed something very familiar near the estate. It was something that hadn’t been there before; something she had lost a long time ago. There’d really been no time to think about it or to investigate. But now she wonders what it might have been.
 
Kacey’s whisper is barely audible, and it’s tone conveys her anxious uncertainty when she asks Jopin how bad it’s going to get. Jopin breathes in a tired breath, then exhales very slowly. He regards her with ancient eyes that communicate more of a warning than a suggestion. He nods in the direction of the ruined estate, and mumbles thoughtfully.
 
As I said, you’ll want to be back before morning...

Chapter 9.11 – Thunder

Given his present condition, there is not much else he can do now, but watch and wait.
 
Corwin had been the one to set him down this path. There is no point in placing blame, regardless of how easy it would be for him to believe otherwise. He’s accepted that his own choices in life are responsible for this current, miserable condition. It is a simple matter of cause and effect; the most basic principle in physics.
 
Still, polluting the mind of a child for the purpose of ill-gain is completely reprehensible. Fortunately, there was some small shred of conscience that kept him grounded enough to resist when it counted most. Of course, he’d died as a result of his defiance against Corwin’s evil.
 
While he was alive, he’d never once considered the possibility that there was something ELSE driving Corwin’s malice. Even if the thought had come into play, he would have immediately dismissed any non-scientific explanation as idiotic folklore. The idea was laughable, even. Now he’s left contemplating the reality of things in what remains of his disintegrating mind.
 
He’d never really bought into the whole good and evil thing during his lifetime. He’d decided they were sim-made concepts, manufactured to scare young sims into obeying antique customs. Perhaps some remote part of him had known that Kacey’s condition was not merely a breakthrough in human evolution. Why had he worked so hard to disprove reality with irrefutable (and mostly manufactured) science? Kacey is what she appears to be. And Hendrake, clearly, is what he …IT …appears to be.
 
The fire at the estate continues to rage unchecked. Deadly conditions within the gutted building make any hopes of extinguishing it nearly hopeless. Not that it will matter. Hendrake’s mechanations have payed their dividends tonight. And unless Kacey obtains some outside assistance, both she and Adam will die here tonight.
 
He frees the ancient Chinese weapon from its tomb of smouldering cinders, and studies its unblemished surface. There are few things capable of actually harming Hendrake; even in his measly and feeble sim form. The artifact is likely sufficient to get the job done. He may finally be able to collect some long overdue compensation, but it brings him no satisfaction. He still feels nothing; only the deep shame of remorse …and the fear of knowing that certain damnation draws near.
 
It is widely accepted by experts, that thunder is the sound produced by a shock wave which forms after air molecules are instantly super-heated to temperatures that approach those found on the surface of the sun, transforming them into electrodynamic plasma. Something very similar in effect presently rips throughout the cosmos; as a being of extraordinary ability slices through spacetime with the focus and intensity of a massive arc of lightning.
 
Her arrival is marked by an instant of blinding, golden light which illuminates all of Sunset Valley as though it were daytime. The wake created by her transit is so significant, that it causes the clouds to part, and a thunderous noise of indescribable quality and volume to erupt from the point of her appearance.
 
She’d had a singular objective in mind during the course of this amazing display of power – to find a boy named Adam. Leaping before looking is nothing new for her and her kind. Call it a genetic flaw. They had been well known for their deep-seated empathy and overly-demonstrative theatrics. Unfortunately, this flaw is immediately exposed upon her appearance.
 
Before she can inhale her first breath of Sunset Valley air, Hendrake materializes between her and the burning estate. She recognizes it immediately. This is the same evil presence that had tormented her inside the cave as a baby (see chapter 8.8). It evokes an immediate, gut-wrenching sense of dread. Her scream is drowned out by the rumbling echoes of the earth-shaking fulmination that had followed her appearance.
 
Kacey hadn’t prepared for this kind of reception, so she stands frozen in indecision, uncertainty, and fear. Then she screams again. The creature produces a blade, as rolling echoes from the shock-wave that had accompanied her arrival continue to spread across the valley. It seems possessed of the malevolent intent to wield the weapon with deadly force.
 
This is insane. No more than twenty seconds has passed, and already her life is being threatened. Kacey’s mind searches for some kind of escape. But before the beast can take a single step forward, there is a loud WOOSH! and a violent flash of steel from behind it. Hendrake’s head falls to one side, and his body to the other.
 
After a moment, Kacey breathes again, still wearing a mask of terror and panic. Eventually, she removes her eyes from the slain creature at her feet. A spirit stands where the monster had fallen. It too, is holding a dangerous looking blade. The spirit is barely cohesive enough to maintain itself, let alone heave a weapon. Kacey jumps nervously when the thing falls and clatters loudly onto the flagstones.
 
Kacey takes a few seconds to absorb the chaotic environment. She had leapt from her spot in Nowhere, the instant she’d heard Adam calling out to her. She’d actually scared herself with the method in which she’d travelled here. Before she could process what she had done, some monster from her past appeared and tried to kill her. Then a ghost with an axe cut its head off. Oh yes, and the Barimen Estate is buring to the ground. Having took mental inventory of the situation, Kacey finds herself wanting to go back to Nowhere.
 
She regards the unusual spirit as it tentatively and cautiously approaches her. It stops only a few feet away. It stands without moving, presumably studying her. Honestly, it is difficult to determine exactly what the spirit is doing, with it being in such bad shape.
 
Anticipating her question regarding its identity, the remnants of Reid Kimura speaks to Kacey for the first time in many, many years. His voice has the quality of crumbling, rusted metal grinding in her mind; as though every word further disintegrates his corroded form. Fresh tears spring from her eyes from this new shock.  She speaks his name in a nervous whisper; verbally acknowledging that he has just saved her life.
 
Reid’s barely visible apparition regards the buring estate. He warns that there is not much time before Hendrake reforms. He will return sporting a much more resilient body. Adam still lives, inside the inferno. He estimates, somewhat wryly, that it would probably require something on the scale of a volcanic eruption to actually kill either she or Adam using fire. Kacey thinks back to the terrifying experiments Reid had subjected her to as a teen. She shudders involuntarily. As though reading her thoughts, Reid changes the tone and instructs Kacey to call out to Adam with her inner-song.
 
Kacey’s eyes dart back between Reid and the buring building. She’d been here only a few moments, and already so much has happened. Her confusion is staggering. But one thing remains clear. She came here to find Adam. She feels herself being lifted, both metaphorically and physically, as her voices emerge like never before. It is a rapture unlike anything she has ever experienced.
 
From within the warm, radiant light generated by her angelic form, she sees Reid; as whole and real as he has ever been. She smiles. Kacey gently whispers her unconditional forgiveness for everything he has ever done to harm her. Clearly, this was unexpected for him. She hardly remembers ever seeing Reid smile, even when he was a young boy. But the expression on his face now, is one of pure, disarmed joy.
 
Her musical voices continue to call out to Adam. But they also seem to sooth Reid’s torment. She goes on to explain that obtaining her forgivness is unimportant. She continues, reassuring him that true forgiveness is never out of reach; and the gift of perfect love will always be given freely. All he must do is just simply, and unconditionally, accept it into his heart.
 
After a moment, Reid closes his eyes. Then, what little bit of him there is remaining, shimmers peacefully out of existance.
Is he dreaming?
Her voices, they sound so close. Is he dead?
 
Adam opens his eyes, coughing smoke and soot out of his inhuman lungs. The heat in the cellar should have been sufficient to not only kill him, but to reduce his body to carbon. Kacey’s voices wrap around him, giving him the drive he needs to free himself. He struggles briefly and realizes that he is pinned beneath tons of burning rubble.
 
Then he makes another realization… it’s Kacey …she’s HERE!

Chapter 9.10 – Nowhere

Every relationship she has ever known during her curiously long life, has resulted in nothing but grief and pain.
 
There was one exception. At seemingly random intervals, a boy would appear to her in place of David, or occasionally, his offspring. The boy seemed to defy the rules of reality. His name was Adam, and he was the same as her. She’d cried for nights on end, thinking about him; wondering who he was, and why they couldn’t be together.
 
She’d heard his angelic voices, singing out to her from somewhere in the cosmos. She responded, hopefully and excitedly, in hopes that they would find each other. But then his voices stopped singing to her (or, perhaps, she’d stopped listening for them). She fought desperately to find Adam; to discover where he had called her from. Her final conclusion was equally confusing as it was disheartening. He was Nowhere.
 
Having no better options remaining, she set out (somewhat defiantly) to find out where, in Nowhere, he was hiding. And that is how she reached this place. Should such a place even exist? As it turns out, it does exist. It is a place where there are no relationships; and thus, no pain. In fact, it is a place where there is nothing; only the soft, steady beat of her heart and the rhythmic tides of her breathing. That, and an endless, empty, and desolate wasteland.
 
She had successfully found Nowhere.
 
She has spent a hundred years here alone, or possibly more (time is a difficult thing to measure in Nowhere). There is no warning when, from out of somewhere, something drifts quietly past her in the same manner a soft breeze would transit though an open window. It invokes a sensation akin to panic. And she flinches. This is the very same thing she has sought to escape. But it has found here, nonetheless.
 
The appeal is almost completely undetectable, at first. But in a place where there is only nothing, not even the smallest something can be ignored. It is imperceptible, yet concrete enough to demand notice. She reluctantly emerges from her perpetual meditation; a self-imposed emotional purgatory from which she has little chance (or desire) of ever emerging.
.. PAIN …
 
The walls she had built protecting herself, crumble easily against the sudden, unstoppable surge of the stuff. Oddly, it is not that quiet whisper of pain that had succeeded in breaching her defenses. It is her own suppressed, compressed, and pressurized emotions that burst forth and make quick work of tearing down her carefully built fortifications.
 
This leaves her a trembling and sobbing mess. It is an agonizing and unpleasant thing to witness. But thankfully, she is Nowhere.
 
Something unusual stirs within the settling dust and rubble of her freshly ruined certitude. She hears Adam’s sweet, angelic voices calling her name again, and it immediately quiets her suffering. Stifled sobs escape from deep within her gut, causing her to breathe in little gulps. After all this time, Adam had never stopped calling her. Under better circumstances, she would smile. But the words she hears him speaking produce only a meek and indecisive frown.
 
Kacey …I need you…

Chapter 9.9 – Inferno

It is a universal truism that any confrontation in any schoolyard, will immediately attract a throng of vocal and rebellious kids itching to see a fight.
 
And when this fails to happen one afternoon after school, Adam realizes there is something very, very wrong. Adam had been discussing his birthday with friends after dismissal.
 
It took less than a minute for them to scatter after Noah overheard this, and pushed his way through; leaving he and Adam face-to-face, alone in the schoolyard. It was as though Sunset Valley had held its breath. Not a bird was left chirping, and not a bug was left buzzing.
 
The air of impending hostility surrounding Noah’s threat could not be ignored; Enjoy the ashes, freak; it’ll be the only thing you’ll have left to inherit.
 
Now, in the present, Noah’s dangerous words immediately awaken something latent from deep within Adam’s being. Clarity finally emerges from the obfuscated muddle of useless questions paired with irrelevant answers. The problem, it seems, is that Adam had been asking questions which were where bound within the context of a human sim’s observable domain. But Adam is not a human sim.
 
It is during this moment, in which Adam sees into his brother’s hateful heart. Noah’s cruelty has become a tangible and real thing. It manifests in the form of a creature that now calls itself Hendrake. But it is no singular beast or being. It is the cumulative amalgamation of arrogance and narcissism, jealousy and avarice, greed and gluttony, fornication and sodomy; from all beings across all times.
 
It is the spirit of hubris and insolence. But it had not always been so potent as it presents itself now. Over time, too many sims had opened their hearts to it’s enticing seductions and sinister perversions. Once it finally grew strong enough, it desired a way to demonstrate its contempt.
 
Adam’s ancestors had been peace-loving and gentle. Forged via the same incomprehensible force that had willed the universe into existence; they had been blessed with gifts to travel anywhere and to any time; for the purpose of spreading the message of perfect love throughout the universe. Hendrake commanded the Legion that destroyed the home of Adam’s ancestors, effectively silencing their voices for many eons.
 
This is the threat Adam now confronts. Noah had killed Flora. He had done it to evoke the emotions that would give Hendrake a toehold into Adam’s psyche. The intent is clear. Hendrake wishes to crush whatever remnants stand in his way of changing the universe to fit its corrupt vision. Adam and Kacey pose a direct threat to any further progress. It will leverage any means possible to finalize his and Kacey’s mutual oblivion; even if it means destroying everything – just as it had done to the Garden countless ages ago.
 
Adam emerges from the revelation feeling sick to his stomach; with panic welling up inside his throat. In conflict, there often comes a time when diplomacy no longer follows the path to resolution. He now realizes that what has come to pass is unavoidable. The time has come for him to pick up the shield and sword; and fight.
 
South Sim Beach is the one place where Adam can always escape the taint of Noah’s wretched presence.
 
Adam had been the one to suggest surprising Amber with a visit for his birthday. He’d managed to convince Luke and Makayla, after reminding them that Amber hadn’t seen the girls since they were babies. They weren’t necessarily opposed to going on the trip. But they are understandably concerned about leaving Noah alone at the estate. Adam inevitably wins the debate with the observation that Noah will do whatever Noah wants, whether they are there or not.
 
Seeing no benefit in giving Hendrake and Noah an easy target, Adam pushes his family through space-time. The resulting car trip to South Sim Beach is reduced to something approaching instantaneous. The bold move provokes unhappy protests from both Luke and Makayla. Adam hides the true reasoning behind his actions, and assures them that they did not really want a twelve hour road trip with two very energetic girls and one very uptight teen. Besides, it gives them twelve more hours to spend with Amber.
 
With Wendell’s recent passing, Amber had been alone inside her mission-style home on the beach. They’d both understood that the age difference between them would eventually play out in this way. But it still hasn’t been easy for her. Needless to say, she is thrilled to see her son and his family.
 
 —
 
They spend a couple days (and many, many, many simoleons) visiting Magical Mouse Land, then hang out together at Amber’s beautiful beachfront home. Adam spends quite a bit of time visiting the same spot where he and Flora had made out a few years ago. Here is where he apologizes to her, and promises that her death will be vindicated.
 
On the night of his birthday, Adam is treated to a surprise party courtesy of Amber and her long list of friends. When bedtime arrives for Grace and Joy, Adam follows Amber and the party to a local club. Although he is not feeling terribly celebratory, he plays along; knowing that both Luke and Makayla will enjoy being back in their comfort zone after all the party guests leave.
 
He spends the next few days meeting new sims and building friendships.  Amber, meanwhile, does her best match-maker routine, and introduces him to a number of her younger, single friends. Adam does his best to relax and enjoy the company. But an unconscious timer in his head continues to tick down. To what? He’s not entirely certain.
 
On more than one occasion, he’s been obliged to tell those young ladies who ask, that he’s already in a relationship. At least that’s the conclusion he has finally reached.
 
Kacey has occupied his every waking thought since before Flora’s death. How could he possibly commit to a relationship when another woman has already captured his heart? It’s such an unusual situation, to be completely enamored with a woman who may not even exist. If he could only just reach out to her… if only there was some way to find her…
 
It’s all the more reason to put an end to Noah and Hendrake. Adam silently steps out of Amber’s beachfront home, late one evening, while everybody is asleep. There is no time to explain; no time to say goodbye.
 
The only thing there is time for now, is avenging Flora’s death and ending the hunt; one way or another.
 
An unoccupied squad car parked haphazardly in front of the estate, predicates the presence of trouble, even before the ripples of displaced space-time fade from around Adam’s form. The driver’s side door has been ripped off of its hinges, and smashed through the front windshield. He hesitantly checks for survivors, then breaths a sigh if relief when he finds the front seat empty. His solace does not last long, however. Barely audible screams, from both a man and a woman, emerge from inside the darkened estate.
 
 —
 
An orange flicker from deep within the structure, ignites a gruesome scenario in Adam’s head. Noah’s unexpected voice startles Adam, and he whips around, reflexively taking a defensive posture. Noah is standing only a few feet away, where there had been nobody standing only seconds beforehand. He mockingly offers his brother with a vulgar birthday greeting, then chastises Adam for ruing his plan to roast Makayla and her brats alive. Then he smiles and boasts about his own masterful creativity for substituting the Flaumels.
 
The way he sees it, Adam has two viable choices. He can stay and attempt to pulverize his naughty brother, who may just decide to burn down the adjacent mansions if he’s left to his own devices. Or he could save the Flaumels, who will surely be burned to death in a matter of moments inside the inferno that now rages unchecked through the estate.
 
Acrid, black smoke has invaded the otherwise pleasant evening air. Adam shakes his head in disbelief. This is almost too crazy to be real. Contributing to the surrealism, is Noah’s sinister taunting. He recounts with exacting minutia, his sexual encounter with Flora on the bluff the night she vanished. Then, as though it were still part of his encounter, Noah describes with unimaginably vivid and gory detail, the process of ending her life. It was, in Noah’s words, delicious.
 
Shock and fear, coupled with his overwhelming desire to rescue the Flaumels, douses the sickening sensations of rage and grief that Noah has exposed; after reaching in and ripping them out of Adam’s gut. Using his painful emotional response as fuel for his determination, Adam launches toward Noah, baring his teeth and growling like a feral beast. But no physical contact is made. Adam disappears mere inches away from his brother.
 
Adam has learned that entering the space-time continuum has some parallels to diving into a swimming pool. One can interface with it smoothly, injecting into the medium with very little disruption. One may also cause tremendous disruption when interfacing with the local space-time; or as it’s called colloquially in swimming terms – “doing a cannonball”. This causes no more damage to space-time than a cannonball causes damage to the water in a swimming pool. Anybody close enough to the event, however, is sure to feel the aftershock.
 
Waves of inter-dimensional disruptions wash completely over Noah, who is both unprepared and unconditioned to this kind of disorientation. He falls immediately to his knees and begins retching from the experience, then mercifully falls unconscious as his inadequate sensory facilities become overstimulated in an attempt to understand and interpret what had just happened.
The estate’s interior has taken on a hellish quality. Blackened remains of furniture glow orange where greedy flames consume any remaining fuel before leaping to its next destination. Adam shifts from room to room inside the massive structure. Explosions shake the besieged building, simultaneously breaching previously unharmed sections of the home, and adding fresh accelerant to the raging inferno. Noah had worked hard to assure that nothing remained standing. Adam shifts from room to room, narrowly escaping explosions and the collapse of weakening supports.
 
His chest burns from inhaling poisonous smoke and the exposed parts of his body are badly burnt. If he lives through this, he may never be the same again. He had been through many rooms in the estate, but there are still many more he has not checked. Sadly, there is still no sign of the Flaumels. If he has any hope of saving them, he must think like his twisted brother. Noah would hide them where they would likely be able to survive the longest, but with the least opportunity for escape.
 
The cellar…
 
Heat from the massive hellfire above has turned the cellar into a roasting pit. He sees the Flaumel’s remains, where they had died embracing each other.
 
A profound sensation sweeps over Adam. It is a mix of grief, sadness, rage, and disgust. A conversation he’d once had with Mr. Flaumel springs into Adam’s mind …entire families had died
 
Before Adam can pull himself away, an explosion rocks the cellar. It had detonated directly above him, and it sends burning support beams and building material showering down.
 
His injuries are grievous. Is this how it ends? Noah wins? As the heat and smoke finally overcome his consciousness, Adam’s thoughts fade to a sentiment he’d been feeling for years, but had been unable to form into words; until now.
 
Kacey… I need you…

Chapter 9.8 – Hendrake

The warehouse has seen a considerable uptick in activity since Corwin’s destruction, and the subsequent release of a creature that had been unwillingly bound to him.
 
The creature has since taken on a more sim-like appearance, but is no less unnatural now, than it was the day Noah first saw it. It has provisioned itself a name – Hendrake.
  
Noah smiles broadly when Hendrake compliments the elegance with which he had implemented his assigned task. It was nearly flawless. And, as promised, the power he seeks will continue to be portioned out to him. There is, of course, the small matter of a cleanup job that had been required at the beach.
 
Noah understands the consequences of gambling with such high stakes. Fortunately, he had been prepared for this turnabout. Feigning over-confidence, Noah laughs out loud and points a finger toward Hendrake. If anything, he had rendered the service of arranging both entertainment and a meal for Hendrake’s greedy minions. THEY should be indebted to HIM.
 
After a few seconds of tense silence, where the temperature in the room raises some twenty-five degrees, a booming laugh erupts from the creature. It continues for some time; until a vile grin appears on Hendrake’s somewhat sim-like face. He mockingly congratulates Noah for acquiring his first debtors; observing that he has a very innate business sense for these types of “transactions”.
 
Noah smiles wearily and nods. He is rather good at what he does. But he has outgrown the name Noah, and whatever moronic principle it is supposed to invoke. He has a much better, and more appropriate name in mind; and it takes into consideration his long-term “revenue growth plan”. He’d even had the courtesy to draw it out of the same source material. Another booming laugh erupts from Hendrake.
 
The name slobbers greasily off Hendrake’s gross lips, with an edge that punctuates its intended malice …Caine.
 
There is an old adage stating that “nothing happens in a vacuum”.
 
Noah had been released from the hospital after having been treated for a concussion, a broken clavicle, broken nose, fractured jaw, two dislocated shoulders, and temporary crowns to replace his missing teeth. Doctors thought he’d been hit by a car. Those who witnessed the affair, would likely attest that Noah probably would have been better off, had it only been a car.
 
Even so, it may be somewhat shortsighted to assume that Noah was completely unaware of the power he was provoking.
 
From the very beginning, he has displayed great proficiency at manipulating sims and finding opportunity in the most mundane situations. Never, has he once shown any regard for caution. Perhaps he had speculated that Adam would ultimately show restraint, and was willing to endure some measure of physical discomfort. But it does leave one glaring, unanswered question – what could he possibly hope to accomplish?
 
Mack and Evelyn Flaumel had witnessed, firsthand, Adam’s transformation. There is no explaining that away. Luke and Makayla cement their friendship with the Flaumels based upon this revelation. They openly share their grief over Flora’s empty casket funeral. A monument is placed inside the Barimen family cemetery as a memorial celebrating the vivacious, young girl. And while it may be a reminder for the others; for Adam it represents a challenge. He’s not quite sure how, but he will make this situation right.
 
Since that day, there have been many conversations with Flora’s parents regarding Adam’s uniqueness. At times, Adam is keenly aware of their unspoken questions regarding his origin; and whether it is within his power to bring Flora back to them. It is completely understandable to Adam how they may have come to this conclusion. To spare them the agony of speculation, he takes the time to gently explain that he’s no different than any other kid in that regard. The truth, is that he doesn’t know, exactly, who he is or where he came from. What he does know, is that he may the last living member of his species.
 
As the weeks and months progress, Noah continues plaguing the family with his psychotic games; pitting the Flaumel’s suspicions of his criminal activities against the good Barimen name. There is nothing like a good dose of paranoia and subterfuge to ruin perfectly good friendships. Noah watches, with pure entertainment, as the details around Flora’s disappearance slowly begin to materialize and raise difficult questions. Had Adam not pulled his “guardian angel” act in front of the Flaumels, they might have eventually accused the silver-haired freak of killing their daughter. From Noah’s perspective, it’s just as well. He continues a mocking campaign of smug indifference while police gather enough information to loosely implicate Noah in her disappearance, but not nearly enough to indict him.
 
In the midst of all this, another cruel pattern has emerged. Noah had always hated Makayla more than any other sim, dead of alive. He finds new and inventive ways to make her life miserable. As a result, the pregnancy is plagued by many visits to the hospital, stemming from complications connected with hypertension and stress. Both her body and her state of mind suffer under the strain of his intangible assault. Just simply by showing his great enjoyment whenever she experiences these painful and frightening episodes, he’d succeeded in intensifying the situation.
 
Her pregnancy may have been difficult, but it was the childbirth that had actually put Makayla’s life at risk. Thankfully, Luke and Adam are both able to breathe a sigh of relief when they visit her in the hospital, proudly holding her twin girls. Both girls bear a striking resemblance to their mother. Joy had inherited her father’s blue eyes and features. Grace’s features clearly come from Makayla. Both girls possess their mother’s dark skin and hair.
 
Noah’s voluntary absence from the celebration welcoming his sisters home, provokes a good bit of animosity. So be it. Anything capable of generating happiness in the lives of the three people he hates most, amounts to nothing more than fodder for him to create more misery for them down the road. He’d allow them their little bit of “joy” and “grace”. But one thing is certain; it won’t last forever.
 
The presence of Joy and Grace at the estate, evokes a spirit that had been missing for generations. The home now bristles with excitement and energy; and the girls somehow manage to dispel the wards of misery that Noah had erected.
 
They grow quickly, and also quickly assimilate the dynamics of the situation between Noah and the rest of the family. It gives the appearance that the girls have managed to put Noah somewhat off balance. But appearances can be deceiving. Noah, who has taken to calling himself “Caine”, may have the rest of the family fooled, but Adam suspects there is something very ominous behind his recent quiet spell.
 
The frequency of Adam’s “interactive” memories involving Kacey has greatly increased, as though they are somehow inversely proportional to Noah’s angst. Most of them are very fleeting; where they are able to only exchange yearning glances before it is over. Adam still does not fully understand what triggers them. All he’s been able to deduce, is that Noah is somehow pivotal to the process; though he can’t imagine why.
 
There is one common theme binding these memories all together, however. When he sees Kacey, he does not need to speak for her to understand the message. It is the same dire warning that Anna had given to Adam the night she died; …run …and hide.

 
Adam has never actually met Kacey; and yet he cannot stop thinking about her. He also cannot stop thinking about Flora, but for an entirely different reason. They’d been dancing together that entire evening, along with Makayla’s family. Actually, they were having more fun together than ever before.
 
But then she started putting her hands where they didn’t belong; and pressuring him, almost relentlessly, to take her somewhere private. He pulled her aside and tried to explain his feelings. But she stormed off angrily before he could finish. He was going to go after her, but it was late and they were both pretty upset; so he just went back to dancing. Looking back, he should have gone after her.
 
Then there was the night he attacked Noah. Unfortunately, Adam doesn’t remember much of anyting about it. All he remembers is that awful moment when he’d grasped that Noah’s insolence was actually a  veiled admission of guilt. Adam lost any sense of restraint or self-control. He could have easily killed is brother.
 
But something very unusual provided a rather unique intervention. He had been transported into another memory. It was much more realistic than anything he had previously experienced. This memory was not about David. This time, he had been completely transported into Hope Barimen. And as far as he can tell, he’d saved Hope’s life; and quite possibly, his own?
 
There is something more about the episode that has been bothering him, as well. While he was gone, some part of him had remained here, in Sunset Valley. The problem is, he does not know what part of him that was. Was it emotion? Instinct? …revenge? If for no other reason, Adam has avoided even the smallest pushes through spacetime. What if he did hurt Flora, and just doesn’t remember doing so?
 
One fact remains crystal clear. Flora is gone. And whether it was directly responsible, or not; his breaking up with her that night, had been the sole catalyst for her disappearance. And he will regret it until the day he dies.

Chapter 9.7 – Retribution

Author’s note: This post depicts situations and imagery that some readers may find unsettling. Please read at your discretion.
 
Makayla has been keeping a little secret.
 
Actually, it hasn’t really be that much of a secret at all. Evidently, everybody except Adam had already figured it out weeks ago; even his girlfriend, Flora. They all enjoy a good laugh when the dumbstruck expression of awareness first appears on Adam’s face. Then his cheeks turn bright red after he grasps how, exactly, Makayla came to be pregnant.
 
Makayla mercifully ends his discomfort with a maternal hug, then invites him to say hello to his sisters. The plural usage of that noun causes Adam’s eyebrow to jerk upward. And it elicits another round of laughter from his family. Twins have been relatively common in the Barimen bloodline; so again, it’s not much of a surprise.
 
With the mystery behind Amber and Wendell’s surprise visit solved, Adam is able to relax a bit. Evidently, Luke and Makayla had been waiting to announce the pregnancy before exchanging their marriage vows in a private ceremony. With Adam having finally caught up to speed, they waste no time, and set the big day for the upcoming weekend.
 
Luke had been an only child, so his extended family consists only of Amber and Wendell. But Makayla’s family is a different story entirely. With her parents, sisters and brother, and all their children present at the estate (plus Flora and her parents), it feels like half the sims in Sunset Valley are in attendance. Makayla’s mother, Lisa, had been best friends with Amber growing up. Technically, Amber is Lisa’s niece. They’re only hours apart in age, and they’ve always acted like sisters (see Chapter 6.20).
 
Makayla visited the estate often as a child, and had played with Luke many times. She’d even danced with him at his teen birthday party. They have always been close friends, and would inevitably end up hiding out together at parties, away from the larger group of revelers. Oddly, she’s helped Luke navigate his romantic relationships on more than one occasion. She is Luke’s best friend, the mother of his unborn daughters, and now the woman he will happily grow old beside.
 
 —
 
 —
 
The wedding party carries on throughout the evening, with Adam enjoying a rare gathering of family and friends. He has always been a very outgoing sim, so he spends a lot of time socializing with Makayla’s numerous nieces and nephews.
 
It was never his intention to ignore Flora. Regardless of his intention, Flora becomes very upset with Adam for not registering her not-so-subtle hints to go outside and make out with her. Eventually, Adam takes Flora’s hand, somewhat impatiently, and they sit together at a table near the buffet.
 
Noah gleefully watches this drama unfold. The lovebirds have not been the same since their tropical vacation together. The music blaring inside the estate’s lounge is far too loud for Noah to hear what is being said. Thanks to a few neat tricks he’s learned recently, he does not need to hear. Adam is telling her that he wants to just be friends with her. She is his best friend, and doesn’t want to complicate that with all the physical stuff (Noah finds this particularly interesting).
 
He is quick to act when Flora storms off, red-faced and humiliated. It is exactly the opportunity he has been waiting for. Noah intercepts her before she is able to locate her parents to convince them that it is time to leave.  Flora’s father had been carefully watching him throughout the party. But after a few hours, and a few cocktails, and some very close dancing with Mrs. Flaumel, he has become sufficiently distracted.
 
Some weeks ago, Noah had stumbled upon a very startling discovery regarding Adam’s origins. As it turns out, his silver-haired freak of a brother is incredibly valuable. He’d realized this information after making the acquaintance of a rather impressive monstrosity. It had promised a reward beyond anything Noah had ever thought could be possible. There is one slight problem, however. Collecting his reward will require delivering his brother’s corpse alongside that of the only other creature in the universe like him. But first, she must be found. And for that to happen, Adam must be properly focused. It just so happens, that he’d recently earned a few fancy tricks to assist in that endeavor.
 
Noah slides slyly up beside Flora and slips his arm around her waist. She levels a warning glance toward him; which conveys the ultimatum that either he removes his hand, or she will remove it for him. He steps back and raises the offending extremities innocently into the air. Noah smiles; wickedly flashing hypnotic green eyes
 
Flora pauses for a moment, seemingly entranced, then reaches out to move the hair away from Noah’s face. A smug smile appears on his lips. Even this small taste of power is intoxicating.
 
Noah nods, then replaces his arm around her waist.  He carefully leads Flora into the courtyard, where they slip unnoticed through the back gate, then down the bluff to the rocky beach below.
 
Noah returns a short while later, alone. He mingles with the guests in the same manner he had done all night; creeping out the old men, and ogling inappropriately at the beautiful women. For all practical purposes, it’s as though he had never left.
 
Police and volunteers scour the area for weeks before the search for Flora is finally abandoned.
 
Mack and Evelyn Flaumel have come to grieve, and break the news to Adam. The Flaumels have grown very close to Luke and Makayla during this time. The Barimen estate had poured nearly limitless funds and resources into the unprecedented search effort. But it’s as though Flora has completely vanished. They’d even expended their search to nearby towns and cities, to no avail. Noah, of course, understands that no body will ever be found.
 
Not wanting to seem rude, Noah offers his condolences to Flora’s parents. And then to Adam. It really is a shame that his girlfriend’s disappearance had spoiled Makayla’s honeymoon. Perhaps Adam should pay closer attention the next time a hottie wants to get funky with him.
 
It is all Luke and Mrs. Falumel can do to restrain Mack from causing grievous bodily harm to Noah. A furious, and very pregnant Makayla snaps an order at Noah to apologize. He responds with a vulgar, two-word directive and begins to walk away, chuckling quietly to himself.
 
The adults do not have the same success restraining Adam. A burst of blazing, golden light erupts from him; and he descends upon Noah with supernatural retribution. The stunned adults can do nothing but watch.
 
Michael is not stopping this time.
 
Broken bones grind together with every slight movement, causing Adam to double over in agony. Hope cannot do this alone. Michael will kill her. They must push through the pain together; and escape (see Chapter 4.19)
 
Adam gingerly lifts Hope to her feet. Michael has already started moving in for his next strike; possibly a killing one. Michael is fast and unbelievably strong, but it does not matter. Adam meets him half-way and deflects the drug-fueled assault with his own unnatural strength, countering with a crushing blow to Michael’s midsection. Michael roars in rage as he circles back to bear down on the frail, teenage girl. A straight-leg kick to the jaw hurts Hope more than it does Michael. But it gives them the few moments needed to escape.
 
Hope is out. Adam takes control and directs her broken and naked body down the stairs, where he ploughs into Michael’s brother. Richard is trembling with fear, but is somehow still functional.
 
He haphazardly covers Hope with one if his jogging suits while Michael quickly recovers. Richard instructs her to run while he does is his best to provide a distraction. Richard will be beaten to a pulp, but Adam does not argue. He slams the back door open, then sprints; with every agonizing stride sending searing pain throughout Hope’s body.
 
He runs for a long time, until finally, he is exhausted. Hope’s pain is his own. And there is something more… Hope is pregnant. The tiny sim had only just been conceived days ago. He must decide whether it is safe enough to make the transition. There is no telling what damage Michael has done; and no telling if the child will survive …or if Hope will even live through the night.
 
It is too dangerous to move Hope’s body any farther. But if he does not, she will very likely die here. In a final act of desperation, Adam cries out for help.
 
He sits alone, attempting to subdue the pain; for how long , he is not sure. The fight to stay awake against nausea and fatigue is not going well. It is a fight he will eventually lose. Fortunately, somebody arrives. Is it Michael? His recognition of shining, silvery hair and glowing blues eyes is instantaneous. He reaches out to Kacey in an effort to thank her, but he cannot speak.
 
 —
 
He must make the transition now, before it’s too late…
 
Adam breathes heavily and looks upward toward the four adults standing awestruck and horrified around him.
 
His hands are wet, and he feels the weight of something heavy in his off-hand. The smell of blood is unmistakable. He releases Noah’s shirt collar, and deposits an unconscious Noah onto the floor with a dull thud. Adam frowns. He’d been kneeling over his prone brother. Blood is dripping from his knuckles, and flowing out of Noah’s mouth and nose.
 
Adam falters as he stands, his wobbly knees nearly giving out from under his weight. He doesn’t remember anything. His throat closes when he tries to speak. And it generates only a sick, choking sound. After swallowing nervously, he calls for an adult; any one of them, to do something.
 
Noah needs an ambulance.
 
Sometimes, when the moon is just right, the sound of Flora’s aroused exhalations may still be heard; rising softly from among the rocks and waves below the bluff.
 
And if the wind is blowing in from the sea, an observer might distinguish them steadily intensifying to a gentle, yet stirring pinnacle.
But then the rhythmic beat of the waves upon the rocks abruptly stops, and the wind from the sea falters, then ceases; so all that remains is a completely still and dead silence.

Chapter 9.6 – Nephilim

Wendell and Amber surprise their teenage visitors with news that they’ve decided to follow them back to Sunset Valley, and stay at the estate for an extended visit.
 
This unexpected change upsets Flora, as she had likely been planning to repeat her attempts at diversionary tactics on the way home. Flora spends some time pouting as they head out on the road. But Adam manages to snap her out of it by recalling the highlights of their trip.
 
He says nothing about the memory he’d experienced while they were making out on the beach. It felt like he’d been away with Kacey for an hour. But in reality, he had zoned out for only a few seconds. Still, it was difficult to ignore the emptiness he felt at the pit of his gut about Kacey. Is it even possible to fall in love with a memory? Any excitement Flora had generated, instantly evaporated along with the memory. Adam was successful with a smooth recovery, by asking if Flora was prepared for the possible outcome of risky woo-hoo.
 
After cheering up, she giggles and thanks him again for the amazing vacation. Still, a few times on the way home, she attempts to steer the conversation toward planning when and where they can try it again; along with the proper safeguards. Finally, Adam explains that his beliefs revolve around waiting for marriage. At first she laughs, thinking he’s joking. But when she eventually realizes that he is serious, Flora changes the topic with a sly grin. She promises that  when the time comes, he’ll eagerly change his mind.
 
Flora’s parents (Mack and Evelyn Flaumel) had met while serving together on the Sunset Valley police force. They immediately hit Adam with a line of questioning when he delivers Flora home.
 
It feels like an interrogation at first, but they eventually lighten up, and he agrees to stay for supper. By the time the meal is finished, her parents are both satisfied that nothing had happened that wasn’t supposed to happen. This leads Adam to believe that the Flaumel’s are acutely aware of Flora’s somewhat carnal curiosity.
 
Before dark, Adam sits with Mr. Flaumel on the simple back patio. He thanks Adam for taking care of his daughter and being a man of his word. Fully expecting a lecture about keeping his hands to himself, Adam is surprised when the topic of conversation changes to Noah.
 
Police have been watching Noah closely in connection to a string of arsons. Actually, they were worse than arson. Someone had taken the time to transform a number of homes into elaborate death traps. In some cases, entire families had died. The problem, is that they only have a few inadmissible leads, but no tangible evidence linking him to the crime.
 
Adam sits silently pondering Mr. Flaumel’s words. This drastically overshadows any anxiety he’s been feeling about Flora. The episode with Kacey had provided some clarity in that regard. He understands now, that he values Flora more as his best-friend than girlfriend. Flora doesn’t invoke the same flutters he feels in his gut when he thinks about Kacey. But that’s hardly important now.
 
 Entire families killed …for what?
 
Gigantic creatures had ripped through fractures in spacetime, with help from an apostate who had been seduced by the promise of limitless wealth and power.  There was no warning. There was no mercy. The great tree of life, which had stood for eons, was being sieged. They swarmed like locust upon the Garden, leaving nothing but destruction in their wake (See Chapter 8.38.??).
 
The Nephilim had arrived.
 
A short time before the attack, a young girl had appeared in the Garden.  She possessed shining, golden hair and glowing blue eyes. Her magnificent, angelic wings burned with the brightness of the morning sunrise. She was powerful and mysterious; a harbinger among the Harbingers. She’d found a spot within the branches of the great tree, where the tiny, formless offspring of their kind lie incubating. She sat silently and expectantly; her shining, golden hair waving in the foretelling wind, and her glowing blue eyes fixed on some unseen subject.
 
Those glowing eyes filled with tears as the assault began. She vanished as quickly as she had come, taking the only things she was able to carry. A seed. And a branch of the great tree where she had gently transferred two of the formless offspring. Those two, a male and a female, would be the only survivors; and the last of their kind.
 
Adam frowns, staring intently at Mr. Flaumel. Then, after a long time, he quietly offers whatever assistance he is able to provide.
Corwin Bariman has been a very naughty ghost.
 
These must be lean and desperate times for the spirit, for him to make such a daring move. Noah had quietly listened to what the spirit had to say regarding Adam. But Noah was far more interested in what the Corwin didn’t tell him. For example, why would a ghost be so concerned about a silver-haired freak?
 
It had taken quite a bit of research, but Noah has gained a great deal of insight about his very distant ancestor. Now what he needs, is insight into why Corwin had come to him in the first place. After gathering a few “tools”, Noah cheerfully begins to walk out the front door. He frowns when he sees the unmarked police cruiser parked across the street. They’re not going to make this very easy.
 
Noah smiles, waves, then ducks back into the estate. He uses a back entrance, then darts down the bluff to the beach. He can see the cops running down the bluff to catch up to him. Noah laughs, finds cover in some thick underbrush, then disappears into the woods. It is fairly late when Noah emerges again near the warehouse.
 
Corwin was wise to avoid the graveyard. Inside the warehouse, his remains could easily stay hidden, virtually forever. But Noah possesses a secret weapon. His grandmother had documented, with amazing detail, her own experiences at the warehouse (see Chapter 8.4). Evidently, Corwin had stolen a valuable portrait of his son, Julian. Amber wrote about her frustration regarding this one, unsolved mystery. Why had Corwin placed the stolen painting in such a random location?
 
Noah suspects that it was not random at all.
 
The warehouse sees little use these days. It is still the hangout of choice for Sunset Valley’s scaled back criminal underworld, but huge sections of it remain unused. Noah creeps through areas that likely had not been occupied by a living sim for decades. It is a maze of crates and dilapidated equipment. Fortunately, Amber had conveniently written down the exact location where she had found the painting (Chapter 7.97.10).
 
Noah smirks when he reaches his destination and spots a mundane-looking crate. Without hesitation, Noah begins to rig the crate with an explosive device. He fully expects resistance, and had prepared himself for an appearance by Corwin.
 
But the fury with which the spirit rages onto the scene had not been anticipated. His startle reflex nearly makes him drop the device; a mistake that would likely have likely seen him joining Corwin in the afterlife. After the initial scare, Noah ignores the raging spirit. And when he is finished, he takes a few steps back.
 
He speaks simply and calmly, demanding to be told everything. Having no recourse, Corwin’s spirit complies. Noah listens for a long time, digesting a tale that seems too impossible to be true. Noah mercilessly presses every scrap of information from the ancient remnants of a man who, in life, was possibly more evil than he. Corwin has manipulated many sims in an effort to destroy Adam…
 
Reid Kimura: unbelievably intelligent, wickedly malicious, and wildly insane. He could have easily killed both fugitives, but insanity overpowered reason.
 
Ali Zalne: Allowed his lust for revenge and penchant for sadism to obscure his mission to destroy the entity.
 
Jon Buford: Brilliantly evil, and relentlessly meticulous. His perfectly detailed plans should have succeeded. And yet, they did not.
 
Michael Nava: Too stupid to see the opportunity he was given, and too preoccupied with hedonistic gratification to have been successful.
 
Khaliq Hasan: Nearly succeeded, but also nearly destroyed all of reality in doing so.
 
Brandon Logrus: Soulless, and so corrupted by decadence that he had ceased being human at all. He was slain by his own considerable arrogance.
 
Finally, the most recent sim; quite possibly the most petty and useless of them all, too worthless to be regarded by name. He’d killed his wife and only child in a bid for power. And in the end, he lived among the rats thinking he would escape his fate.
 
Noah would be an addition to this list, if Corwin were to have his way. Noah’s face becomes a grim and sadistic mask. Now Corwin will be the final entry. He squeezes mercilessly for the last remaining bit of missing information… WHY?
 
Corwin hesitates a moment too long. Noah triggers the device without so much as an instant of hesitation. It explodes, rocking the warehouse and creating a shock wave that sends Noah sailing across floor.
 
Corwin’s only anchor to this world was his urn. With it destroyed, he has nothing to resist the inescapable torrent that now carries him greedily toward eternal damnation. The scream he emits is not a thing that any living sim should be subject to. And still, Noah smiles.
 
A moment later, it is silent again; and the unspoken answer to Noah’s question stands, revealed, upon the very same spot where Corwin was destroyed. This was highly unexpected.
 
Noah stands and sizes up the gigantic, demonic figure towering fearfully above him. Resisting the urge to panic and run, he speaks to the creature with the voice of a sim who has come unhinged…
 
Now we’re finally getting somewhere…