Joshua said it best - we needed to understand the extent of Mabus' fist strike and the clock was counting down to the Second Wave. Checked out a lead that didn't pan out. Searched the woods in the dark, but it was a trap -- the Gua came after us - a fleet of assassins targeting us with laser tags. We split up, lost Joshua in the dark. Eddie fell behind me and then there was a blinding flash of light.
And suddenly, I wasn't in Kansas anymore - it was some kind of void, howling snarls echoed throughout the place. Walls of crystal, maybe ice. Could hear Eddie calling for my help in the distance and then suddenly there was "another me."
That same "other Cade" who rescued me from the Gua as a child - the first time they messed with my head. The quatrain which lead us to that discovery said "When twice three years and twice again, find secret skill in darkest hour. 'Tween bless'd and cursed, a third will come, or worlds consumed in battles fire." This other Cade appeared as my "adult self" then -- couldn't be sure it was the same guy, this could've been a Gua trick.
Gun flew out of my hand; he was using some form of telekinesis. The twin told me he'd be back someday - now he was. Said he was there to prepare me for the fight of my life.
His name was Xevallah and I believed he was the so-called "third" from the quatrain.
If he had a skill to teach me he needed to be quick about it - Eddie and Joshua were out in the real world being hunted by the Gua. The Second Wave was happening in less than a week. Xevallah's timing couldn't have been worse.
He arranged some strange stones in a circle at the center of the void. Told me there was nothing I could do for my friends, I just needed to pay attention to him and my surroundings. Asked me if I would risk what he had to teach me to save one man's life? He was talking about Eddie, damn right I would.
Xevallah said I was safe within the circle, outside were my fears, my demons, and my nightmares. Big deal, my life had been a nightmare for the past three years. I wasn't afraid.
And then he said something that really got my attention - I had the power to save Eddie AND stop the Second Wave. Didn't know what being in this void could teach me but figured I'd give Xevallah the chance to explain. He said I would gain insight into myself. Screw the self-help; I needed practical tools, a way to beat Mabus - a way to save Eddie!
Xevallah said my perceptions would be brought to life in this place and only when I understood those perceptions would I be able to proceed. Then he started taunting me about the Raven Nation, said I'd let my army go. That I'd failed, let the Gua proceed to the "eve of their invasion." Things got ugly, pulled a knife on Xevallah, told me I needed to learn to respect the teacher and took my weapon away. Then he gave me his bio.
He was from a place called Arkipova, a lush planet like earth. It was destroyed by a Gua invasion. He was one of the only survivors. He'd survived despite the odds, just like me. To Xevallah, the Gua were trying to hurt my "warrior spirit" - to drain the fight out of me. They'd killed Hannah to distract me, let me expose experiments even taken Jordan just to fuel my capacity for anger - Xevallah felt that hurt my development as a warrior.
He took me to a place far away with a tap of his staff. It was his home, or so I thought. Looked like a wasteland. Using anger as a weapon resulted in the destruction of his planet, wanted me to understand the futility of my rage. Almost thought he had a point, but then I heard Eddie in the void - he sounded terrified. Xevallah cautioned me not to step outside the circle but my friend needed me.
Eddie wasn't out there - terror was. I was hunted, helpless, hated the feeling - reminded me of the Gua - they killed my wife and I couldn't stop them. But Xevallah didn't think I should hate the Gua for killing humans - it was simply their nature. Nothing I could do could change that. He had to be wrong, they were predatory but that wasn't an excuse!
Xevallah wanted me to let that go. He said hate and anger were an "impediment to the warrior." Hating the Gua couldn't change anything for Xevallah and it wouldn't for me. Hadn't I already avenged Hannah by killing the Acolyte who murdered her? That was true --fine. But there was still the little detail of the aliens trying to take our planet from us - I couldn't forgive them that.
He gave me a test. Controlled my anger, passed. My reward was a rock from the circle - it absorbed into my hand. Xevallah told me to revel in it, save questions for another time. He gave me something to eat and drink, was unlike anything I'd ever tasted. Didn't surprise my host, said I'd just eaten the blood and heart of a great Gua warrior. Was sick - worse than I've ever felt before. Threw up my guts, wretched over - Xevallah said I was reacting to the essence of the warrior - that the illness would "purify" me.
Started having visions - there was a hammer in the fabric of the void. The image was whoozy but it seemed familiar - like the weapon we'd used against the Gua a few weeks ago - the one we'd uncovered in the dig in the bus graveyard. Felt like hell, passed out.
The sunofabitch had poisoned me! The Sensei disagreed, said the Gua had poisoned me, slowly but surely over the past few years -- now he'd cleansed me of that poison. Told me the hammer was the key. It would be of practical use in the final battle. Finally, something I could understand, something I could really use.
Next test came up quick. Xevallah wanted me to put my hand in the flame of his staff. Didn't think so. But he was driving his words home - asked me if I had forgiven the Gua for killing Hannah? Told him no way. He told me the weight of the past would prevent me from winning. The way to victory was to be free of those events - I had to let go.
I couldn't. I failed.
We were running out of time, Xevallah insisted I work harder ... if I didn't, the earth would go up in flames.
But how could I ever let what had happened to my friends go? The innocents, Hannah, Jordan ... I could never forgive the Gua for what they'd taken from me.
But I wasn't gonna let them win either.