He'd found the one. Lucian just knew it. The Chosen. The one who would hear his thoughts. The one who would set him free.
The centuries that had passed no longer mattered. Revenge no longer mattered. The thousands of minds he had touched no longer mattered. Only the one. The Chosen.
He focused his thoughts, drew them out and sharpened them, sent them flying with the accuracy of an arrow. They hit their mark, pierced the mind of the Chosen, plunged deeper, deeper. He must be certain. He released the barb.
If he could have sweated, he would have. If he could have gritted his teeth, he would have. If he could have clenched his fists, he would have. The Chosen were so difficult to touch.
He braced himself; he knew what would come. Pain, blinding, maddening pain, shot through his thoughts. But Lucian was ready; he was prepared. He'd done this so many times. Too many times.
The first time he'd found the Chosen, he'd nearly lost control, overwhelmed, suffocated by the intensity of the pain. He'd almost died. But he hadn't. He'd held on, rode it out. The pain had crested. Had receded. His thoughts had touched the Chosen.
Only to be ejected, spewed out, thrust forth. Again and again, over the centuries, he'd searched and found. And failed. Again and again. So many times. Too many times.
This time would be different. This time he would speak, and the Chosen would hear. He would speak, and the Chosen would listen.
The pain was so strong this time. His thoughts felt bruised, beaten. But the barb was set deep; he would not fail. He let the pain wash over his mind, and it was almost pleasure, so great it was. Surely this was the one, thought Lucian. The one, the Chosen, who would free him.
There were so few now. In his time, a thousand years ago, the Chosen had been almost as plentiful as other men. Centuries ago, when he'd begun his search, there still had been so many, too many. He'd missed some, he knew. Now, there were so few, too few.
It didn't matter. This mind, this Chosen, was the one. Here was a mind perhaps to rival his own. The pain built and built and still did not crest. It was a fortress of pain, a mountain. Lucian held on.
And abruptly it ended. The wave of agony he had clung to bottomed out. He fell, his thoughts flailing wildly, without an anchor, adrift. He almost died.
But he didn't.
Gently, so gently, he whispered into the mind of the Chosen. "I've been searching for you for such a long, long time." There was no answer; he seemed to be swimming in a void. "Please, you must answer me," he said, trying to keep the desperation out of his thoughts.
A glimmer, a spark, a glint, shone through the darkness as from a great distance. "Please." Brighter now. Closer. "Please." Blinding, hot. "Please."
He was answered.
"No, no, no, oh gods, what is happening, no, oh gods, no," the Chosen screamed.
And Lucian was alone with his thoughts.
For another thousand years? For eternity?
He wanted to feel. He wanted to see. He wanted to hear. He wanted to smell, and taste, and touch. To be free.
He could. He would! He had only to release his body from the power of his mind. He would feel. He would see and hear and smell and taste and touch. For precious moments, perhaps minutes, he would be free.
Then he would die.
The process begun a thousand years ago would at last be completed. He would die. The intentions of his judges, his executioners, would be fulfilled. He would die.
Lucian collected his thoughts, smoothed them, ordered them. Once again, he began the search.
He had only to be patient. He had only to find the one.