CHAPTER 33 – II
Tomorrow (and a bit after)
Avril approached the Champion tomorrow. They approached them bearing gifts. ‘They’ because there were two Avrils, and ‘them’ because each was contacting a different Champion. The gifts were volumes of books: the collected histories of the Vicars Salamander, the order that dedicated itself to all things relating to the dual Champions of mankind and earth. Compiled over millennia, they were disparate tales, facts, dates, names, events, conjectures, hearsays, and firsthand testimonials. They laid out all that was known of this most mysterious of secret realities. The raw material was staggering in its scope. The most prized volumes of the collection were the succinctly summarized accounts pieced together by none other than Victor Strife.
Lineal Champions of History was a masterwork of erudition, obsession, consolidation, and an exquisite ability to weave a narrative. Its author, Victor Strife, had mentored both Aricame and Stievo, not to mention Aricame’s mother, Carenf. His mercurial motives were finally laid bare when he brought the two Champions together in 1945 to kill Geryman (Stievo’s father) and then to battle each other. Strife had wanted to bring about the greatest war that was ever waged – a competitive spectacle unimaginable in history. In a sense, he succeeded, leading to the current future moment. But it cost him life at that very moment of initiation when Aricame eviscerated him on the spot for the role Victor played in his own daughter’s (and Aricame’s lover’s) death.
With that background, the Champions looked upon their new benefactor with much trepidation. The Avrils were both slightly above average in height, yet built as if chiseled from marble, possessing pharaonic facial features and eyes that could pierce a diamond. They were physical specimens that would strike fear into the hearts of the most steely-nerved outlaws…yet they were the ones quivering in their sneakers as they spoke to the Champions.
The Avrils told of how Victor had instructed his fellow VS members to take their books, destroy their compound, and go into hiding in the event of his death. When Victor was rightfully deemed to have been executed by Aricame and/or Stievo, the rest of the shadow cult sprung into action. Over the decades that followed, the surviving members lived as sleeper cells spread out across the globe, watching the ongoing Championship conflict and updating their historical materials when new information was unearthed. Fearful of what either Champion might do to them and their treasured histories, they remained steadfastly separated and silent…until now.
As each Avril explained, the leader who had taken over for Victor Strife was a woman by the name of Udef. She had directed the VS membership to remain unseen, not to approach the Champions for fear that they might eradicate the surviving VS members and, much worse, destroy all the records that they had compiled. Her edict held until her recent passing as a result of the respiratory pandemic that had recently swept the globe (which the VS believed was a direct byproduct of Cai-Ream’s asymmetric warfare against Aricame). Upon her death, the two Avrils assumed leadership of the VS. Having meticulously uploaded their precious history books into the digital realm (both on the light and the dark web) they were now reasonably certain that their life’s work would be safe. What was left was to resume the project that had started a century ago: arming the Champions of Light and Dark to compete at their greatest potential, and to watch the Great Game unfold. It was to this desire that they felt honor-bound to bring to fruition, for their former leader, Victor Strife. That wily bastard’s legacy lives on!
Word is bond
From present day and times long gone
Code that spawned
From need to push and carry on