I woke up in what looked like an incredibly large and luxurious apartment. I expected that I would have at least an awful headache, and probably be sore all over, but I felt fine, almost like that night had never happened at all.
"Oh, good, you're awake," came a heavily computerized voice from a speaker in the ceiling. "I'd like to ask you a few questions. Please answer as honestly as you can, and then you'll be released." It was only then that I realized the room didn't have a door. How was that even possible...?
Even if there was no door, I knew I had to get out somehow. Whoever this was might ask me about the Sanctuary, and what would I say? What would I say to any question, for that matter? I couldn't trust a voice that sounded like it had been autotuned at least 1000 times over under any circumstances, especially with no context for the situation and while locked in a room with no door. So I did the logical thing; I jumped out the window.
I figured the glass would be difficult to break, so I got a running start and flung my entire body into it, using air to give myself a little extra speed. Even then, I barely managed to break through. It was about three stories to the ground- which was lucky, as the building was actually about 60 stories tall- and I used the air to break my fall. I still landed somewhat roughly because my control of the air was far from perfect, but it only took a moment for the shock in my legs to fade and then I was running.
Samantha Bliss was waiting for me when I reached the Sanctuary, and the moment she saw me she stood and began to apologize, but I cut her off immediately. At the moment I wasn't interested in what had happened last night after I blacked out, or who it was that had tried to question me. From the moment I woke up there was only one thing I could think about.
"Change of plan," I said once I had silenced her, "We're not going to kill him."
"I assume you mean Niccolo Croatoan?" She questioned, her tone as even as always, and I nodded. "Why?"
"I've gathered some new intel," I explained, "And I think we can stop him without killing him now. If we can keep him alive, I think we should. For one thing, I'm sick of people dying, and for another, he could be an incredibly useful ally if we got him to join our side." She remained expressionless, but I was pretty sure she was skeptical.
"What makes you think we would be able to-" She started.
"Just listen," I cut her off, "And don't say anything until I've finished. The target's discipline is to steal true names. We knew this already. What we did not know are the disadvantages of this seemingly flawless discipline. First, a bit of background.
"True names are not just the source of magic. If they were, only mages would have them. They are also closely tied to a person's personality- their identity as an individual. That means that when the target steals a name, he is stealing not only the power but also the personality of whoever he stole it from.
"Previously he would never have dreamed of killing anyone- let alone wiping out entire cities- but very early on in his life as a mage he was thrown into a life-or-death situation involving more people than just himself, and in self defense he ended up stealing the name of a cruel and twisted mass-murderer. Of course, that meant he absorbed the person's personality as well, so his own identity became exponentially weakened."
I had captured her attention now, but I couldn't tell if it was because she was starting to understand what I was getting at or just because she would obey any order I gave her. It was probably a mixture of both. I kept on with my explanation, determined to make her see the potential of this situation.
"Another important thing to note is that each time the target steals a name, his ability to steal the entirety of the name decreases slightly. The first few names he took were all from the criminally insane. Therefore, even though later on he took to stealing the names of people with incredible integrity, their personalities had little to no effect on him and he remained sadistic, only finding joy in pain and death.
"However," I continued, "Currently, he is only killing large amounts of people because Mevolent knows his true name, and is using it to control him. While this has caused us no little amount of pain and casualties, we can also use it to our advantage. Because his own name is being used to control him, the target's own genuine personality is unintentionally being forced to resurface for the first time in centuries." Now she was starting to connect the dots, and I grew excited, feeling for the first time in the war that maybe I would accomplish something.
"If he keeps alternating between the thoughts of the people he has stolen from, his own thoughts, and the thoughts that Mevolent is creating within him, eventually (sooner rather than later, it seems) his mind will burn and he will die. But if we can somehow seal his true name before that happens, we can break Mevolent's control over him and preserve his natural personality." I finished, searching her face for some reaction.
"Everything you're saying makes sense, but can we really pull this off? And how do you know that this information is even accurate?" Samantha questioned, quite rationally.
"I know it's accurate because I saw it all in his memories. And I know they weren't falsified. In fact, I'm willing to stake my life on it. Sealing his name will be difficult, but I think it will actually be easier than trying to kill him anyway, and certainly no more dangerous." She sighed, as though anticipating weariness. Then, after a moment, she responded,
"Then I suppose I'll begin searching for ways to seal a name. Find him if you can, and see if you can predict which city he'll strike tonight." I was already turning to leave again when she added, "And Aretha? That person who tried to kidnap you is a world famous detective who was sent to investigate the disappearances in random cities. I suspect you only escaped because he wanted you to. And he doesn't know about magic, so we want to keep him in the dark as long as we can. Be careful not to get caught again, or we might never get you back."