165 The Realization of Markus Rellen
The meal he had been given was a rather surreal experience for Markus. While he ate, his mind was constantly going over what had brought him to this point in life. He was only 21 years old, and had caused his fair share of trouble in his days.
He had always been a snotty little shit, not caring about the consequences of his actions, but always being in the shadow of his older brother, he had actually been rather reserved. There were a few lines that Markus had never crossed, namely **** and murder, and there was a good reason for that.
He had witnessed his brother cross those lines on many occasions, leaving a path of destruction and ruin in his wake, and as a result Markus had developed an aversion to it. His personal crimes were more on the lines of theft and extortion, never straying all the way into the bounds of debauchery.
This was all unconscious at the time, he really didn't realize that he was deliberately avoiding things due to his subconscious desire to be as different from his brother as possible. Cornelius was stiff, strict, uncompromising, and ruthless, so Markus had grown up trying to be the opposite. He hadn't really done a very good job of that though.
That was mostly because of one thing, Cornelius's talent, the unnerving ability to take control of anyone weaker than him, twisting their thoughts and actions while they never even realized they were being controlled. Looking back now it all was clear to Markus, but back then his violent mood swings, unstable temper, and occasional destructive rages had all been something caused directly or indirectly by Cornelius's talent.
Markus had been a man of two minds, one side was his true nature, desiring to be different and free, the other side a hungry beast of his brother's design that tried to consume and use everything and everyone. These two sides had been at war inside his mind for as long as he could remember, and he had never realized that it was his brother's doing.
Perhaps it was a combination of Markus's dislike and rejection of his older brother, and them sharing the same blood that caused it all to come to a head when it did. Regardless, Markus had been seen as a loose cannon, unstable in mind because of it all.
For Markus, it all started to implode the day he first met the mysterious ethereal beauty that now held him captive. It had been a normal day in Colten, but the Seeker Vekt that had been with him had detected traces of a Harmonic Heritage carrier in the city.
That was when Cornelius's control started to manifest itself, driving Markus after the woman with little regard to anything else, culminating in the showdown by the crater where he had lost her. Markus had been trapped inside his own head the whole time, watching his own actions through a delirious fever dream, trying to break free of the control, but unable to do so. His mind had been turned into a battlefield, his brother's control trying to choke the life from his own free will, turning him into an unwilling puppet.
When he had seen her face for the first time right before she dropped over the cliff that fateful night, the control his brother had on him had started to crack. His own talent had manifested in that moment, burning her image into his mind as the inclusion of a third element into his internal struggle started to give his free will a stronger foothold against the control.
When his brother had returned, he had been considered useless, a failure for not capturing the Harmonic Heritage carrier, and as a result the control on him had weakened further. But Markus could not deny the thoughts and words he had spoken at the time, it had been his voice and thoughts after all.
Behind the veil of control his brother had pulled over his head, some part of him had wanted to possess and control the mysterious beauty that had haunted his dreams. Part of him had wanted to take his brother's place as heir of the Rellen family and become the most powerful man in the north. That was part of the reason his brother's control had been so effective. It had taken something he had desired and used it to control him.
But, there was still the other side of him that hated the thought of becoming his brother, of being like him, desiring power to the extent of utterly consuming everything and everyone he came into contact with. Deep down he wanted nothing to do with that maniac.
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What had finally allowed him to overcome his brother's control and break free was when he overheard his brother giving out orders to bring out their sister from imprisonment. Not only that, he was calling the subordinate nobles to bring their Kreppelins together to form an armada. Then, his own talent had been copied by his brother's subordinate and with that, they had a way to track their target.
All of this had been swirling around his mind like black thoughts, assaulting his sanity and driving him nearly insane. The only thing that had helped was the image of her face still in his mind, pure, ethereal, and thanks to her image, he was able to finally break free of his brother's control, gaining back his free will.
After escaping from his home and nearly two months of travel, following her trail with his talent, he had found her at last. He had not expected to survive the encounter, but here he was finishing a meal that she brought him. He had come to warn her, to tell her to run, and he still didn't even know her name.
He was jolted from his thoughts when the door suddenly slid open and she walked back in to the room. She saw that he had finished eating and handed the plates to someone waiting outside, then pulled in second chair, closed the door, and sat down across from him.
For a few minutes they just sat there looking at each other. Markus was unsure what she wanted from him, but simply looking at her face was like sunlight to him, so his mind was at ease. She on the other hand was impossible to read. Her exotic features betrayed no emotions, and despite her expressive eyes that were staring directly into his soul, he could not sense anything from her.
"So, this armada coming for me... tell me about it," she demanded, her voice quiet, yet unyielding.
Markus jumped a little when she spoke, almost like he had been poked in the side. So she wanted to know her enemy? It made sense to him now. She had kept him alive to get information out of him. That was fine. if she wanted information, then that's what she'd get. He would hold nothing back from her. After all, there was no lost love between his brother and him, and if he could keep her out of Cornelius's hands in any way, he would do so.
So he told her everything he knew; the number of Kreppelins in the armada, how they were built, size, troop capacity, weaponry and attack range, everything he knew was given to her. Then was the information he knew about Cornelius, their sister, and as many of the high-ranking fighters he could remember.
Hours later, she stopped asking questions and sat there for a moment staring at him. Markus could guess that she was trying to gauge the validity of the information. He was not exactly a credible source, and all she knew of him was that he had chased her and attempted to imprison her against her will. The story about him being under Cornelius's control could be a hoax after all, and she had no way of knowing for sure. All Markus could do is hide nothing, looking back into her emerald eyes with as much conviction as he had left.
Finally she stood up to leave, seemingly deciding she had heard enough. As the door opened with a hiss, Markus jolted to his feet and called out to her.
"Wait! What... what is your name?" He stammered as she looked back at him.
For a moment he thought she would just walk out with no response.
But then she spoke, her voice ringing through his mind like silver bells.
Her name was Zoey.