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Anthony06_webWhy I Write

I would be lying if I said that I’m not bashful about creating this site.  While not necessarily shy, I only had acquaintances until 8th grade when my neighbor, Amanda Troyer, thought I was friend-worthy.  Before then it was just myself and the pages I filled. Writing is and has always been a very personal, very large part of my life.  When someone says to me “Tell me about your book(s)” or “What are your books about?” what many don’t realize is that they’re asking me very intimate details about myself.

​​No, I’m not a medium, or the captain of the Cardeau guard,​ but through these people and every other character that I’ve ever written about reside pieces of myself: past thoughts, experiences that I’ve had, and dreams accomplished or forgotten.   It’s taken me a lifetime to grow confident enough in my own works to share them with the world, and it’s taken a great deal of research and inspiration for me to enter a publishing arena in its current state, but this is the best time for me to do it.  My characters are jumping at the bit to tell their stories to other people, and I’m ready to let them.

​​I write because I enjoy to tell stories, but I also write to connect with people.  In this day and age with social media being about who you know, I actually want to know people, and I want people to know me.   Right now I’m a bartender, and I have been bartender for (oh, Christ) 7 years because I love the human interaction and because it gives me all this free time during the day to mold this career that I have been building for my entire life so that I can show people who I really am.  I would love to know you better in return.

​​I’m not asking you to buy any of my books (although sales are ALWAYS welcome :P), but I welcome your feedback so that I may continue to grow both as a person and as a writer.  If there are things you like or don’t like about this site, any of my stories, or if I unknowingly go astray, I will wish for you to tell me.  Conversations and criticisms are the only ways we grow, and I enjoy both.  That said, welcome to the new site!

 

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Project Locket Chapter 1

Posted: January 3, 2017 by: AG_Creative86

Chapter 1: Quentin

 

“I could really use you today, sis,” Quentin muttered. His trembling hands cupped her sturdy palms. Even at rest, she exuded more authority than he—a fact that echoed through the palace halls while the Queen sunk deeper into her slumber. Whispers of Quentin’s incompetence stopped anytime he drew near; servant’s faces reddened when they were caught gossiping about the need for the queen’s awakening.

He’d exhausted the people’s pity for his older sister’s condition long ago. His press conferences were met with boos. His most loyal friends distanced themselves. The people his family swore to protect wanted change.

That change appeared in a doorway, casting a shadow that negated the rays piercing through the shimmering glass. Alden was a thin man a few inches taller with influence that stretched far beyond the palace walls. His chiseled jawline hinted at the authority that Quentin’s rounded face lacked. Each line of the Alden’s crow’s feet told the tale of a different struggle he endured to rise to the head of his party; struggles that the well-bred queen’s brother had never suffered. Quentin had winced before Alden spoke as though he’d just re-encountered his schoolyard bully.

“You wished to meet me here of all places,” Alden grimaced when he saw Queen Ultania in her slumber, thinking that the wrong sibling was in the shuttle the day it crashed, along with the rest of the world.

Quentin agreed with him.

Alden walked along the walls of the Queen’s inner chamber toward the window facing the boundless waterfront. “No matter what comes of this, you must understand that I have great respect for the Donnick line. Your family has given Cardeau six generations of great kings and queens. Our city-state had little more than shacks and sand before Abraham the Second took power. Now look at us.”

Quentin didn’t have to join Alden to admire the view from the highest floor of Cardeau Palace. He’d spent months memorizing the view from Ultania’s bedside while he wished for her recovery. He watched Hela set on the vast waterfront, kissing the placid waters and casting the Cerulean Sea afire with ripples rich in rubies, crimson, and clementine. Dancing flames atop street poles illuminated the navy hues of the water and the multi-storied city before them.

Each street could tell its own tale; he could follow women, men, and children as they traversed through the markets and storefronts, briefly becoming the audience of the people he would otherwise never know.

His sleeping sisters’ chambers were the only place he could avoid being scolded by someone ordering him to do better or know something he didn’t. Ultania had the answers, as one would expect from a woman whose very name exuded strength and authority. Quentin was expected make quips and one-liners, not strategic political actions and law enactments.

“The Hela sets must be amazing from this view,” Alden barely acknowledged him. Seeing Quentin cling to his comatose sister was probably all he needed to witness. “I’ll know soon enough, I suppose.”

“The Donnicks have ruled the good people of Cardeau for more than a century. This is our home—our city-state. It does not belong to you.”

“Cardeau belongs to everyone,” Alden turned from the window and brushed his overcoat towards the edge of his shoulders. Over the breast of his silk shirt, the emblem of Cardeau was etched in silver: a diamond kite bearing the letters “F, R, E, E” in its triangular quadrants. “It’s why the representatives will be voting in a few days to change our aristocracy into a democracy. Your sister was a great ruler, but Cardeau’s oligarchy ends with her.”

He felt putrid bile form in the back of his throat at Alden’s mentioning of her, as though he was about to wretch his breakfast. “Since when have utilitarians cared about everyone?”

“We are realists,” he replied. “Our concerns are with the majority of our people. We know that our rule isn’t for everyone, but if he has the numbers and the representatives vote for a democracy, then the majority is all we will need.”

“Queen Ultania would not settle for the satisfaction of a mere majority. She, like the long line of Donnicks before her, would live by the ways of the emblem etched on your threads: freedom, respect, equality, and excellence for all. Everyone deserves the right to a life well-lived with the possibility of enrichment and prosperity. She has always offered more than a division between the eventual haves and have-nots, as promised by your party’s motto.”

“And yet there she lies, a vegetable rid of words, consciousness, and purpose. Her throne lies empty, and her people are crying out for a leader.” Alden approached Quentin and his sister’s bedside, eclipsing Hela behind his broad shoulders and heavy garbs that accentuated his prestige. “Your sister was a phenomenal ruler. She boasted more knowledge than any three men that I’ve ever met, but we live on a chessboard where the queen is out of play, and you have lost all of the other pieces.”

Quentin rose to his feet where his eyes aligned with Alden’s salt-and-pepper goatee. “I may not exude power from my pores as my sister does, but I am still a Donnick, and you will treat me with the respect I’ve earned as your home’s leader.”

“You are the last of a dying dynasty, where there are no replacements and no more chances. The Donnicks have had a great run, but their days of ruling Cardeau ended the day an air shuttle careened into hers.”

“Actually, that’s not true.” A new figure emerged from the doorway with a slim folder resting beside his hip. He adjusted his spectacles and straightened his silver vest, which bore the same emblem on Alden’s shirt. His dress shoes clacked on the marble tile as he entered the room and rays of light illuminated his feet and the bottoms of his pant legs. Each strand of his hair was glued in place, and his porcelain skin was free of blemishes and imperfections. Quentin never thought he’d be so happy to see his right hand, Advisor Thaddeus, interrupt their conversation.

The doomsday tone in Alden’s voice was replaced with a sudden uncertainty. “W—what do you mean?”

Quentin opened his mouth, but Thaddeus’ stone glare kept him from ruining his best friend’s moment. “With all due respect, both of you have got this wrong. Cardeau suffers while the throne is empty and it needs more than someone who promises prosperity for fifty-one percent of the people, but it also requires an individual with strength and the ability to make hard choices, a pair of traits that does not come naturally for all Donnicks.”

“That is why I wish for the people to decide. She is no longer fit to rule.” Alden gestured toward Ultania, who was quickly guarded by Quentin. “Most of the other city-states have already made this transition. We can remain both an autocracy by name but a democracy in action. If you wish to run against me to keep your family in charge of Cardeau, that should be your right, just as it should be my right to challenge you.”

“I am not against introducing elections for government office, I am against my sister being stripped of her position while there’s still a chance that she can wake up.”

“It’s been nearly a year,” Alden scolded. “I’m sorry, but besides you, there are no other Donnicks that can rule in her absence.”

“There… there is…” Thaddeus cut in. Glares came from both Alden and Quentin this time.

Thaddeus tensed up, suddenly petrified. Quentin reached for his friend’s shoulder, recalling his fear of public speaking and claiming the attention of rooms of intent listeners. Thaddeus was far more comfortable spending time with his nose between pages. He once hyperventilated during a speech at a gala held by the Donnick Charity Foundation, and all he had to do was introduce her highness!

With a second’s pause and strength regained, Thaddeus went on. “The Queen would not like this knowledge brought to light, but for the sake of Cardeau and the Donnick name, I fear that it’s time cast a spotlight on her youthful indiscretions.”

Quentin’s arched eyebrow was outdone by Alden’s gregarious burst of laughter. His howls were so pronounced that the younger Donnick was surprised to find Ultania still in her coma.

Thaddeus shuddered as though Death just tickled his spine, and he glazed his eyes over the Queen’s unconscious form, doing what he could to not look at her. Quentin had known Thaddeus since they studied at school together, and never had he seen him so grave. “Queen Ultania, please forgive me…” he muttered. “Quentin, I wished to never have to do this, but I have acquired knowledge that I cannot keep from you or this kingdom any longer. In her youth, her Majesty had a child.”

Quentin scowled. “Why would you mention that?”

“That’s completely unnecessary,” Alden agreed. “This isn’t new information. Her suffering was broadcast for the whole world to see. It took her years to get over such a loss.”

Both Quentin and Alden stepped toward Thaddeus, who backed up before they could circle him like newfound prey.

“I fear that neither of you knows the full story,” Thaddeus said. “Ultania was just a girl at the time… when your late father gave her an ultimatum. He pressured her with the weight of the kingdom—and she was just sixteen! No one could blame her for what she did. She had five generations of monarchs to follow. Her whole life was devoted to public service, and there were no exceptions—not even love. Not even your bastard nephew.”

Quentin felt his face melt as if it was made of wax and far too close to a candle. Thaddeus had not broken eye contact the whole time he spoke; his confession was emphasized with each word and syllable. His stern expression was unlike anything Quentin had ever seen before.

“No,” Alden retorted. “No! That is simply not true. I remember when Queen Ultania gave birth. I was at the press conference the following day when she broke down in tears and told us that he was stillborn. Women forged of iron such as she cannot break and betray simultaneously. She was embarrassed by his birth and devastated by his death. She didn’t even give him a name.”

Thaddeus handed Alden the folder in the instant he finished. Somewhere from beyond the corridors, a chilly wind blew through the palace halls and broke through the skins of the men standing over their comatose Queen.

Quentin had no words. His whole body felt tingly, as though it had fallen asleep and was woken with too many conflicting emotions to dissect and analyze. He stared at Alden’s expression while he held the enclosed folder and could see his feelings reflected in a human mirror. Could his sister have truly kept such a secret?

Alden opened the folder, and his face remained paralyzed. He spoke monotonously, examining a single document formally notarized in his grasp. “His name was Abraham Donnick… the third.” He held it up for Quentin to see as though the two were discovering an alien life form together. “And your father’s signature—I would recognize that anywhere.”

“The notarized stamp is dated the day after his birth, the same day the then Princess Ultania gave her press conference,” Thaddeus explained. “Abraham Donnick the third didn’t die at birth. King Landis had Princess Ultania give him away so that she could focus on her future as the leader of Cardeau. He assumed that the princess would birth other children at a time that would be deemed more appropriate. He… he probably didn’t expect her to have a preference toward women.”

“My nephew is alive…” Quentin thought aloud. “Thaddeus, do you know where he is?”

Thaddeus nodded. “It has taken me months to track him down, but my connections have just given me confirmation.”

Alden closed the folder and thrust it back into Thaddeus’ hands. His face looked like a geyser on the verge of erupting. “This changes nothing. All it proves is that there’s someone out there that holds a stronger claim to the throne than you, Quentin, but even so, it is a man of twenty-five who has no proper upbringing that we know of—much less any true understanding of what it takes to rule entire city-state. He has less experience than even you! With the district representatives on the verge of an almost unanimous vote to make our land a democracy, why bother holding out hope that a mere child can alter the minds of the electors and give the Donnick family a seventh generation of rulers?”

“This child is a direct descendant of Queen Ultania herself—a queen who even you respect, Alden. And even more than that, he is my nephew,” Quentin said. An unintentional smile graced his face, as though he was waking up in time to see a beautiful dawn. “We owe it to the whole world to let us see what he can do.”

Thaddeus closed the folder after leaving it open in case either man wished to examine it a second time. “When we retrieve him, if is he has even half the potential that her highness has…” Thaddeus but his lip while turning to Alden. “Would you consider allowing him a chance to rule before pushing for an election?”

Quentin and Thaddeus stared at the man whose eyes told his whole story—both the conquests and the struggles, the triumphs and the pain—as he inspected the closed folder with an x-ray-like vision that could see the birth certificate between the manila covers. Despite running a party that fixated on only those that could benefit from them, there was a certain level of respect Alden had stored away from a familial line that had given Cardeau everything it’s grown accustomed to. But there was still his past, and the struggles that he fought tirelessly to overcome. “Abraham the third… how wise of Ultania to give him the same name as the first Donnick king. It’s as though she knew that her people would hear that name and echo the same respect for him. This news will inspire the masses and reignite the flame that was snuffed out when our queen fell unconscious. Well… I have always been a man who knows when to conquer and when to compromise. The best-made decisions, however, stem from when I’m able to do both.”

Quentin’s mouth was open for several seconds before any words escaped his lips. “I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

Alden thought carefully before replying as if he was mapping out every possible scenario in his mind before responding hastily with an answer. “Abraham the third, wherever he may be, is a young man now. If he is indeed comparable to his mother in leadership, then I will convince the utilitarian party to acknowledge him as the proper King as long as we have the ability to call for an election if there needs to be one. As the party leader, I can ensure that an election will be delayed if I am offered a seat at the table to represent my constituency. Senator Alden Illa has quest a nice ring to it. Ingrim Stalda’s seat will be made available this year. With my party’s sway and the crown’s blessing, I shouldn’t have a problem replacing him.”

“Done!” Quentin exclaimed. He thrust his hand out gregariously before he even finished the word.

Alden glanced at it hesitantly before shaking to his own terms, and Quentin’s heart sunk when he saw the utilitarian’s leader smile instead. “If this young king does exist and exudes the strength and honorability of his mother, then he should be apt to reunite this kingdom, as it had been divided throughout this past year. My daughter, Justine, and I argued over this just the other day. She believes that the utilitarians are too rash in their thinking, and suggests that uniting our party with the Donnick’s royal lineage is the best course of action.”

Quentin cocked his head. “What are you proposing?”

“How funny you say that,” Alden smiled, to Quentin’s dismay. “A proposal was my very suggestion…”

Raiden and Rexus introduction

Posted: May 25, 2016 by: AG_Creative86

Rexus-2Bposter

Raiden & Rexus

 

Rexus Poloray stood in the forest clearing and waited for nighttime sky. He wanted to think of her, but the risk of death made other memories surface.

He recalled falling asleep snuggled up to his mother one night when he was three, and waking up the next morning in a garbage can miles from home. He wandered the dirt-paved roads and endured the scorns of others while he ate crumbs of pastries from the ground. He was shooed out of bakeries and ignored by adults when he asked for help. It took him two weeks to find home and see the new couple in his family’s place. He watched from across the street in tears while a mother bundled her son in the baby blanket that once kept him warm.

The months after where like those weeks before. Evenings were spent searching for shelter while the wind whistled through the holes in his clothes. At night he laid next to other lost souls packed like puzzle pieces on the floors of abandoned homes. He fought to sleep amidst his stomach grumbles, the snores, and the smells of the dirty flesh and unwashed clothes all around him.

The plague that first winter made many familiar faces freeze over; their eyes turned milky and gray. He thought it a miracle that he survived, but that only led to more cold nights and scathing looks from the more fortunate.

Those looks provided him some solace while he waited for his answers. He hoped to see those same sneers in people if they tried stop him. It would be the last expression they ever made.

 

Raiden Arias let out a staggered breath and wiped the layer of sweat between his palms and the steering wheel. Branches and leaves smacked his air shuttle and scraped along the glass with their untrimmed fingernails.

The mist emitted by the limbs of trees grew too thick to see through. Hela’s rays cut through the breaks in leaves and provided light to guide his way, but Hela was descending and soon the moon will claim the sky and give the mist a ghostly glow. He should reach his destination before then, but that only made him more anxious.

The twin red beams of his father’s break lights gleamed through the layers of forest clouds. The pair of lights lowered to the ground until the bottom rails of Father’s shuttle kiss the dirt. Raiden was relieved that the driving portion was over but knew that he’d lose both his shield and his means of escape once he stepped out of his vehicle. His rusty skills with a gunblade gave him little confidence. He needed to become one with the forest with the dusk and the quiet as his two closest friends.

 

Rexus Poloray closed his eyes and fixated on his one glimpse of light. The light didn’t come from the boundless horizons or the neon glows of bustling city-states, but from Trista Burkins.

It took until he attended a university before he found someone interested in his story. When he finally told her, she responded with a gentle hug that closed the chasm between them and provided him the warmth he’d need to keep from freezing in the most blistering of blizzards. It was the only evidence he had to prove that his life wasn’t meant to be lived between the dusk and the darkness.

Rexus reopened his eyes. Recalling his memories stung like a red hot dagger, but what happened after was worse. Thirteen years later, he still didn’t understand. All he knew is that there will be an image revealed in this clearing at dusk and that it would get him one step closer to the reasons for why Trista is sick. A cure would invite him back into her life.

He waited and hoped that his actions for obtaining this first clue wouldn’t have consequences. He already threatened one life in exchange for hers. If he had to take one, so be it.

 

Raiden wasn’t ready to let Father know that he followed them—especially when he was instructed not to. He found another clearing a couple of hundred feet from where they parked and quietly landed on a soft pile of leaves. A pair of bushes beside Raiden’s shuttle emitted a flurry of tiny green orbs that fluttered into the air, then evaporated like dying fireflies.

Raiden stepped out onto the mossy grass and withdrew his gunblade. The pistol itself was less than half a foot in length, but when he thrust it forward a silver, three-foot-long blade shot out of it. If anything was looking for prey, he hoped to be ready for it.

He trudged through the wildberry bushes as another species of plants exhaled orbs of yellow and white. Their flickering lights paved his way. The canopy above was so thick that Hela’s rays thinned to mere strings of light.

There was no telling how far ahead Father and Hastings are, but the alcove they parked in front of made it clear where they are heading. Between a set of trees as wide as Palace walls was a pair of leaves large enough to lie across. They bent toward one another and formed an archway into another world.

He stepped forward into the darkness, feeling the bristles of leaves tickle and scratch at his ankles. His paces were slow and steady like that of a dog’s when called by an abusive owner. Somewhere from above the birds were chirping, oblivious to the quivering man beneath them. He tried to count his steps, but lost track when the flutter of wings smacked into the thick leaves of trees to his left.

He gasped and jerked simultaneously, accidentally shooting a stun orb from his blade. The yellow orb coated with lightening streaks darted north and evaporated into the leaves, casting light on a tree stump a few hundred feet ahead. Raiden got a glimpse of another stump next to the first and cocked his head. It was unusual in this part of the forest to see two stumps in such proximity. He quickened his pace and retracted his gunblade.

A pile of sludge puckered around his boots just before he reached the wooden stumps. He scowled and fought with the puddle to lift them. It was as thick as drying cement and almost won the fight, but Raiden managed to remove his feet from the muddy claws. Several plants around him exhaled another set of orbs and cast light on two other sets of footprints trudging toward the base of the stumps. The orbs lit up a whole line of them: a stairway in the middle of the forest.

 

Rexus did not like this time to reflect.

Trista refused to tell him what is wrong or how she came down with her condition. She refused to see him entirely. Still, he had to save her. He had to get that feeling back, missing the warmth that only came from humanity.

The liaison between him and the Ravens of Dusk proposed a solution, but their words were as cryptic as the actions of the Ravens themselves. It was nearly ten years since their first conversation, and in that time, he’d still yet to meet them. He knew of the Transcendence Theory, but not of what it was or how it would save her. All he knew was that this was the location of the first clue.

Even learning that was a difficult task. Aside from whatever the Ravens knew, the Conservator was one true keeper of Noreis’ secrets, and she did not like that he knew of Transcendence. Conservators kept it omitted from historical texts for thousands of years, so she was baffled when he asked her for help. He spent a month in the desert settlement with her, the Elder, and their people. His attempt at small talk with the natives was met with widened eyes and a parents’ instinctual desire to guard their children. His attempts at assimilation only proved to ostracize him further. They were not going to help him.

But everyone has a weakness.

The Conservator refused to assist him when he asked kindly, but when he threatened to rip her grandson’s heart from his chest, words spilled from her lips faster than the blood he could’ve drawn from her.

As Rexus reflected, he pondered if keeping her alive was unwise. The Conservator’s duty was to protect the secret of Transcendence, and he became her greatest enemy. He could only imagine what her retaliation would be: an army of Serenity Seekers, or perhaps just one or two that she trusted with her life. He waited behind a wall of leaves and was as fixated on the entrance to the clearing as he was on the image that will soon reveal itself.

If he got company, he could not spare them as he did her.

 

Raiden kicked off a pile of sludge and watched as it broke into fragments of mud disappearing into the nothingness below. He was easily more than a hundred feet above ground and saw no end in sight. Heights didn’t scare him, but usually he could see what was below. If he fell, the darkness would swallow him whole and he would be lost forever.

A new set of orbs cast light on a stump that was only half-visible, concealed behind a wall of emerald and crimson leaves. He sprung, plowed through it, and landed on the stump on the other side.

Raiden got a glimpse of his startled father somewhere in front of him, then nearly slipped forward over the edge of the stump. He put his hands out to balance himself as the arches of his feet teetered between the wooden platform and a shadowy grave.

“Ray!” Father exclaimed. He rushed to the edge of the crisscrossing tree limbs that supported him and Hastings.

Raiden waved his arms backward as his heart raced wildly, but he knew he could do it. His heels felt wood beneath them, and he safely scooted backward. “Whew.”

“Ray,” Father’s tone switched from shock and worry to parental and foreboding. It reminded Raiden of the time he was caught stealing chocolate-covered blueberries from the market. He never forgot the look of shame engraved on Father’s face. Father must have known that, or else he wouldn’t have given him the same look then. “Ray, what in Noreis—”

“Don’t even, Dad,” Raiden snarled. “I’m Riles’ father just as you are mine. You would do everything you could if someone threatened my life, so why do you think I’d act differently?”

Father’s once blue eyes faded to a time-withered gray. “I should never have told you.”

“Arias’,” Hastings said with a scowl on his face and hands on his hips. “We still have a little way to go.”

Hastings had been Father’s partner in the Serenity Seekers for three years. Raiden wanted to like him, but he was too close to Raiden’s age to keep Raiden from thinking that Hastings might have been the son that Father wished he had. Father was vocal in his wanting Raiden to join the Seekers. It nearly broke his heart the day Raiden told him that he wanted to work as a tour guide for the Tri-City Forest instead. Hearing about Father’s missions with Hastings caused Raiden to wonder if he made the right decision—especially now.

“Father, what has Rexus been told about Transcendence? What is it, even? How much did she tell him when he made that threat?”

“Walk and talk, guys,” Hastings grumbled, turning away from them. He watched his footing as he alternated between the tree limbs. Hastings seemed numb to the sizable drop that could spell death should he misstep and fall.

Raiden cautiously eyed the crisscrossing limbs that his father and Hastings stood on. They were two curiously large platforms of wood that formed a double helix and traveled through another sheet of leaves. He leaped onto one of them with ease and found himself looking up at Father yet again.

Father followed his partner before he finally answered his son’s question. “Your mother told me all that she could about it: Dusk of the Eternal, Dawn of the First, Three and Three, the Second reveals the Third. As for what all of that means, I’m not sure that even she knows entirely. Either that or, despite a thirty-year betrothal, she still doesn’t trust me.”

“You were only married for eighteen of those years.”

“She will always be my wife.”

“You haven’t spoken to the woman in almost a decade.”

Father quickened his pace to catch up with his partner. “Say what you will, but you were too young to fully understand the circumstances surrounding our separation.”

“I wasn’t too young. She was too absent.”

“That woman will always be your mother. She did what she thought was best for everyone.”

“She did what was best for her.”

Hastings groaned and rushed ahead, but Father stopped moving.

“Your mother is a complicated woman. Do I believe in every choice that she’s made? No, but I understand why she did it. You would have never met your wife if she hadn’t, and you wouldn’t have that beautiful son to go home to. It was the right thing to do back then, just as her telling me about Rexus’ threat was the right thing to do a couple of days ago. Let’s do what we came here to do, then go back home.”

At last, Father said something he agreed with. Raiden followed in his footsteps without saying another word as they walked forward and jumped from one intersecting limb to the next, trudging deeper into the dark side of the rain forest. Father’s mentioning of that woman also served as a rarely wanted distraction. Even then, Raiden didn’t know who he was angrier with: Rexus, or the Conservator.

 

Rexus’ stomach churned when he heard the men coming closer. His question was answered, and he knew that he made the wrong decision. Killing the Conservator would have only ended one life. Her corpse could not communicate to others the location of the first clue, and he would be there waiting without the worry of company. There were at least two distinct voices, though he couldn’t make out their words.

He could only imagine who she was sending to their deaths. He strained his ears for clues and caught a couple of key phrases, but it is the word ‘Arias’ that told him what he didn’t wish to hear. The Conservator chose to keep this a family matter. It was his benefit and his disadvantage.

Rexus had to find the Conservator’s weakness before using it against her. Just days before he made the threat, he peered through the dense trees and into the kitchen window of a family of four eating dinner at the table (as he’d heard that families do). The eldest was a man in his mid-forties who wore his Serenity Seeker uniform, which was decorated with medals that gleamed in the candle light. The Seeker’s son and grandson were captivated by his latest stories while the son’s wife had to keep reminding them to eat their dinner.

The grandson was an adorable miniature version of his father. Rexus knew that the boy was the solution to his problems with the Conservator. He could have left after a single glance, but he remained a shadow of the trees and watched this family eat and laugh and love.

He spent the rest of dinner with just a wall and a few trees between them, witnessing a parallel world that he could only dream to be a part of.

The Serenity Seeker and the grandson drew most of the attention at the table, but Rexus was most focused on man called Raiden, who filled the gap between their generations. Rexus doubted that Raiden’s life was devoid of hardships, but that didn’t stop the envy from seeping through his pores.

Rexus prepared to draw his blood-colored blade as he shook off the memories of that night and their dinner. He hated himself more now than ever. If he killed the Conservator, those dinners would still happen. He didn’t, and the lives of the Arias men were to be snuffed out like the candles that cast light on the center of their table.

 

Raiden walked and listened.

“The first clue is ‘Dusk of the Eternal,’” Father said. “Your mother explained that there’s a clearing somewhere in the depths of this forest where the orbs emitted by the plant life have generated the same sequence for thousands of years. Twice a year at the time of dusk they reveal the collective image of the location to the ‘Dawn of the First.’”

“Did she—” Raiden stopped talking to hoist himself onto a slippery limb that curved upward at a steep angle. “Did she tell you what ‘Dawn of the First’ meant?”

“No, but she did say that ‘Three and Three’ meant that the clues are separated in a sequence of three days. Three days from now, at dawn, the second clue will reveal itself.” Father’s face soured as if he’d just bit his tongue and tasted blood. “It won’t come to that. We’re putting an end to this tonight. Others may come to learn of Rexus if we don’t—or worse, about the Transcendence Theory.” Father once mentioned that not even the monarchs or the Serenity Seekers could know about the theory, which would have baffled Raiden if he didn’t have other things on his mind.

Hastings disappeared through another wall of crimson leaves in front of them. Raiden didn’t notice until he emerged through them. Even in the dark, Raiden could make out the glow in Hastings’ widened eyes.

“Is that it in front of us?” Father asked.

Hastings waited for them to cross over the last set of limbs to reach him before he said anything. “I think so. Galen, you should have a look.”

“All right then,” Father said as he brandished his gunblade. He thrusted forward a three-foot blade of shimmering blue. It was as beautiful as it was dangerous. To even slide one’s fingers along the edge would make them bleed. Riles tried once. Father never withdrew it in front of him again.

Hastings muttered “It’ll be dusk soon” before trudging back through the wall of leaves and withdrawing his blade.

Raiden grabbed for his gunblade and thrusted it forward, being extra-careful not to lose his footing and slip over the edge. The dull silver of his blade didn’t capture the light like his father’s.

Father grimaced at the sight of his son’s gunblade. His burning eyes revealed a desire to argue Raiden’s following them, but he was left with no time to dissuade Raiden from going. He resigned to saying, “Just stay behind me and you’ll be safe.”

Raiden obeyed, and the two followed Hastings through the wall of leaves ahead.

 

Rexus watched the men survey the clearing. Several tree limbs served as walkways and formed a near-perfect circle a few hundred feet in diameter. Other limbs intersected the circle with spirals that traveled down all the way to the ground and continued up as high as the treetops where Hela was all but an afterthought.

The ground was littered with tens of thousands of bushes breathing out millions of lights that flickered up toward them in an ever-changing canvass that painted their surroundings. Unlike the lights along the tree stumps, the orbs were all shades of greens and blues and reds and every other hue along the color spectrum. It was so blindingly bright that he was almost distracted from the men in front of him.

He watched Raiden try to make out designs in the lights as they floated toward the treetops. They were random colors that lacked patterns or unison. There was no commonality in the lights as they shimmered around them—much less a clue.

Raiden’s father pointed upward. “Let’s head to the treetops. We’ll get the best view there and a good vantage point on Rexus.”

The Seeker they called Hastings turned toward the spiraling tree limbs and led the way upward as Raiden’s father followed right behind him. Raiden remained in the back and tried to focus on his footing. Raiden was by far the most uncertain about being there and repeatedly looked behind his back. Rexus knew that he was the easiest target.

 

Raiden eyed the entrance to the clearing as they traveled up fifty feet, and then a hundred more. Down below, the orbs were too small and too many to identify anything more than swirls of colors merging and blending with one another. They were too random to be considered “art” by any definition of the term. Still, he knew that at any moment they’d—

“There,” Father pointed toward the center of the room. The bushes emitted a new sequence of orbs that shot up toward the canopy. The orbs swirled like rotating pixels. Each floated upward at a different pace coming closer and closer together. The orbs in this sequence were predominantly shades of blue, brown, and green. The closer they fluttered together, the more of an image they revealed. For the slightest of seconds, all of the orbs came together in cohesion to formed a quick, clear image. It was the portrayal of a landscape from a time long ago: six rivers crisscrossed one another and nearly formed a hexagon. Along the edges of the image were plains and hills, while a ground covered in shimmering blue and silver crystals and caught Raiden’s attention the most. Before he had time to think about what he witnessed, the orbs parted and continued swirling upward at different speeds and faded before hitting the treetops.

“That was Kalia,” Father said. “Not as we know it today, but what it looked like then.”

“That cluster in the center,” Raiden muttered.

“I saw it too,” Father said.

Hastings sighed. “If that was the clue, then Rexus missed it.”

Raiden felt the blood rush to his face. “Unless he’s already here.”

 

Rexus pondered letting them live. He was so lost in his thoughts that he never considered remaining hidden the whole time they were there. He didn’t have to take a life.

The idea was short-lived. They knew of the next clue, which meant that they would be in Kalia. Here he had the advantage. He made a mistake by allowing the Conservator to live. He couldn’t repeat his errors.

He swallowed the distaste that bubbled on his tongue and raised his gunblade toward them. The first shot he fired nearly ripped his heart from his chest.

 

Raiden saw another cluster of orbs forming, bursting with shades of orange, yellow, and red. They engulfed the three men in their blazing bright hues and made it almost impossible to see the scorching sphere of fire coming toward them.

Crack!

Hastings clutched his chest as the flames ate through his uniform. He screamed as the flames swallowed him whole and he fell from the limbs before Father had time to reach for him.

“Hastings!” He yelled helplessly as his partner and friend vanished through the next cluster of orbs.

Crack!

The second ball of fire cruised through the flame-colored orbs and headed toward Father. Before Raiden got a word out, Father flung his blade forward and sliced it in half. The flame broke to specks and sprinkled like dust until they vanished in mid-air.

Rexus glared at them through the clusters of floating orbs. His tattered coat swayed at his feet. He was easily the size of Father, if not larger, and pointed his blood-colored gunblade in their direction. Another fireball emerged from the pistol’s mouth.

“Ray—duck!” Father yelled.

Raiden dropped to his knees as a ball of fire sailed overhead. It slammed into the leaves behind him where the fireproof dew extinguished the flames.

Father bolted around the semicircle of limbs in Rexus’ direction, absorbed in the same rage that brought Raiden there. Rexus rushed toward him like a racehorse with graceful, wide strides. Both men met in the middle of the clearing and engaged in a flurry of blows. Flashes of red swirl all around Rexus, but Father was just as fast. Father’s shimmering blue blade met every one of Rexus’ attacks and broke through the fiery orbs that tried to devour him.

Father repeatedly swung at Rexus, coming down on him with heavy, powerful blows. Each swing was precise and lacked hesitation. His blade was a sharp extension of his arm, pummeling Rexus with blow after mighty blow. Rexus hit the blade with a loud clang but nearly lost his footing when he stood astride the limbs of the helix. Both men planned their attacks four or five slashes ahead as the surrounding colors made them appear like two harrowing flames lashing out at one another.

 

Rexus used his might and fury, and the Seeker had to jump back. He was on the Seeker and swung with a bottled rage meant for many others. His blade resembled a blood-colored viper and struck at the Seeker with a hissing metal tongue. The Seeker’s blue blade hurdled through the sea of flames to block Rexus, but then Seeker backed up again and kept an eye on the awkward L-shaped walkway behind him.

Rexus saw an advantage.

 

Raiden ran forward through the clusters of orbs and broke through the patterns as if he was bursting through a liquid canvass. The orbs flecked away and gave him a clear view of Rexus and his viper-tongued blade. He pointed his gunblade toward Rexus and started shooting balls of fire through the plethora of glowing orbs.

Rexus spun backward to dodge Raiden’s attacks with ease. He side-stepped past one fireball and sliced two more in half without breaking his stride. The remnants of embers extinguished at Rexus’ feet, skirting around his worn out coat.

Father struck at Rexus, but Rexus was ready for it and smashed his gunblade downward. He drove it deep into the wood, nearly severing the limb entirely.

Raiden rushed them and leaped diagonally across the L-shaped limbs. He landed directly behind Rexus.

 

Rexus flung his blade at Raiden before he could strike and Raiden gasped as the viper’s tongue tried to slice through him, stopped only by his dull silver blade. Raiden lacked the strength of his father and looked at Rexus as though he was a monster, not a man. His eyes bulged, and he knew that he’s made a fatal mistake by attacking Rexus. It’s a battle he cannot win.

“Ray!” Father yelled. He shook his gunblade free from the wooden limb and revealed his weakness in his frantic tone.

 

Raiden barely dodged Rexus’ advance and struggled to stay on his feet as the limbs twisted and contorted behind him like snakes trying to curl around his ankles.

Rexus jumped high into the air and well over Raiden’s head. He had little time to react before he felt Rexus’ boot pound against the small of his back. The pain coursed through his vertebrae and he fell forward, tripping over a small branch. He couldn’t maintain his balance and tilted toward the swirls of colors covering the ground. As he plummeted, he felt a strong hand grasping at his leg.

Raiden gasped as he watched his gunblade fall into the glowing abyss below. He dangled upside down for second until he heard his father’s voice.

“Raiden!”

He twisted his body to get a glimpse of Father clutching his leg. Galen Arias looked helpless for the first time in his life. He never thought he’d such an expression on the man who used to check his room for monsters at night. Father’s mouth was wide open, but he was too horrified to utter another sound.

Rexus stood over Father as his executioner. He plunged his gunblade through Father’s chest, and it broke through both sides of skin with little effort. Father’s grip gave way, and Raiden freefell down through the millions of orbs. The little lights floated upward, concealing the small openings through which the sky could be seen.

 

Rexus grabbed the Seeker before he dropped and laid the dying man on the tree limb that would mark his death bed. The Seeker shivered as the blood left his body and allowed for the cold to come in. He looked upon Rexus with glossy eyes as though he couldn’t tell who saved him from the fall.

The Seeker quivered in Rexus’ arms, but Rexus could think of nothing to say that would bring this man any solace in his final moments. All he could think of was that dinner table and the two men that would absent at the Arias family’s next meal; the lives he claimed to save the woman he loved. He thought that taking a life would be harder, but he felt as numb toward murdering a human being as he did when crushing a fly.

“You shouldn’t have come,” Rexus muttered, though he didn’t know if he was speaking to the Seeker or himself. “I never wanted to kill you. I never would’ve harmed your grandson.”

The Seeker struggled to find a reply, but the blood trickling from his lips stifled his response.

“Yours death are not without reason,” Rexus said. “Her life is worth a thousand of yours.”

Rexus closed his eyes as his actions began to sink in and that half-empty dinner table grew more vivid in his mind. That family in that parallel universe was forever destroyed, and his only chance in honoring their deaths was to reanimate their dinner table with a family of his own. That was the only logical solution. These deaths would not be in vain, and now there was no one to stop him from going to Kalia for the next clue.

The man in his arms stopped moving.

 

Raiden groaned.

He knew the noise came from him, but he didn’t know how it was possible. He looked around at the orbs that were still floating towards the canopy. He didn’t know how long he’d been out—much less how he managed to survive a three-hundred-foot fall. He started to move and felt the pillows of leaves give way, dropping him another two or three feet onto the hard surface below.

The plants and bushes were so thick that they broke his fall. The bright lights surrounding him made him delirious, but he didn’t feel pain. Nothing felt broken, and nothing was numb.

Raiden rolled over and got to his feet. He dusted off his shirt and checked for scrapes and scratches. A few cuts on his forearms formed a map of his battle scars, but beyond that he was astoundingly fine.

“Father!”

He rushed toward the edges of the clearing and found several tree trunks that had a series of limbs that intertwine with others. Raiden hugged the tree with the limbs that were closest to the ground and began hoisting himself up, grabbing at whatever small limbs and branches he could find along the way. His forearms started to bleed, but he ignored the pain. He had to get back to where Father was as quickly as he could. He needed to know if he was still alive.

He wrapped his arm around closest tree limb that started up the walkway and balanced his body until he was able to push comfortably himself onto it. He rested for a second, then got to his feet. The limbs grew wider and more stable the higher up they were.

He started to run. The pounding of his feet echoed in the clearing as the orbs in the center flickered upwards with the serene colors of springtime. He made one full rotation around the spiral, then another, and a third. He was losing his breath, but he didn’t care. None of that mattered if he could still save Father.

He caught a glimpse of a shimmering blue gunblade from across the way, and then the silhouette of a body with a hand dangling over the edge.

“No…”

He didn’t hear his footsteps as he ran toward the motionless figure. He couldn’t feel himself breathe. All he could think of was Father’s helpless expression as he held Raiden by his leg.

He reached Father and rolled over his lifeless body. There was a blood stain on his chest where the blade broke his heart, and for a moment all Raiden could think about was one of the last things father said to him. Stay behind me and you’ll be safe.

This is my fault. This is my doing. I should have stayed behind. It would have been Rexus lying here. Not you…

He was completely lost, like a young child who loses the grip of a mother’s hand in a roaring crowd. He didn’t know of a life without Father. They were always together. He was the constant. He was his confidant, his protector… his best friend.

The lights reflected off of Father’s gunblade like the final spotlight at the end of play, drawing Raiden’s attention away from his father. He paused for a second, but knew what he had to do. He grabbed the hilt of the shimmering blade and claimed it as his own.

“No one threatens my son and lives,” Raiden told himself through lips dampened by two streams of tears. “No one…”

 

 

The Selene Experiment

Posted: March 4, 2016 by: AG_Creative86

If you are looking for some indie author gems, this is a good one. Here’s my review of it:

“Books like The Selene Experiment and authors like Wendy will eventually take phrases like “stories with a strong female lead” and absorb them into more deserving the phrases like “stories with a strong main character.” Giffen paints a beautiful picture with her words and tells an intriguing and unique story. It’s different from anything I’ve ever read or heard of before, and it’s difficult to predict what will happen next–and I was wrong on multiple occasions! I’m very excited to see what Wendy Giffen has in store for us next. This was a real treat to read.”
http://www.amazon.com/Experiment-Adventure-Pa…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

Enemies, Fate or Survival – One Woman holds the KeyThe new Science Fiction Adventure Romance series by Wendy C Giffen reveals a genetic link with…
AMAZON.COM

Season 6 is coming…

Posted: March 3, 2016 by: AG_Creative86

The show’s creators tell Jim Windolf about the series’s rocky start and the worrisome problem on the horizon.
VANITYFAIR.COM|BY JIM WINDOLF

The Night Circus

Posted: March 2, 2016 by: AG_Creative86

Just read this and loved it! If you’re looking for beautiful prose and a world you could get lost in and never want to come out of, this is the book for you!

Slight spoiler:

My one and only criticism is that the reason for why this whole world was created in the first place lacked a purpose. The story itself is incredibly romantic (setting, dream-like imagery, the characters and their ideologies), but in function there were some basic flaws in the “whys” of the matter. However, I read the last 300 pages from 11pm-4am the other night so obviously it wasn’t a deterrent for me!

http://www.amazon.com/…/…/B004J4WKTW/ref=dp-kindle-redirect…

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le…
AMAZON.COM

Sansa nearly spills the beans

Posted: March 1, 2016 by: AG_Creative86

Not really much of a spoiler… though the Lady Stoneheart joke had me for a second!

http://www.ew.com/…/02/28/sophie-turner-game-thrones-spoiler

Sophie Turner just accidentally dropped a big Game of Thrones spoiler on the Oscars red carpet. While being interviewed on the E! News preshow…
EW.COM

World of Dusk: Raiden Chapter 1

Posted: February 29, 2016 by: AG_Creative86

dreamstime_l_14923491

Raiden

Raiden let out a few steady breaths and wiped the layer of sweat that amassed between his palms and the steering wheel. The mist grew too thick to see through as it was exhaled through the trees that blocked his path. Their branches and leaves smacked his air shuttle and scraped along the glass with their untrimmed fingernails.

Without the shimmers from the forest lights, only the rays of Hela through the breaks in leaves guided his way. However, Hela was descending and soon the moon would claim the sky and give the mist a ghostly glow.

The twin red beams of his father’s breaklights gleamed through the layers of forest clouds. Raiden proceeded slowly as the beams sunk from twenty feet above the ground until the bottom rails of Father’s shuttle kissed a clearing of dirt. Raiden was relieved that the driving portion was over, but knew that once he stepped out of his vehicle he’d lose both his shield and his only means of escape. His rusty skills with a gunblade gave him little confidence, so Raiden’s only chances of surviving would be to become one with the forest with the dusk and the quiet as his two closest friends.

His shuttle floated in the sea of thick gray mist two stories above the forest floor. He wasn’t ready to let Father know that he followed them—especially when he was instructed not to. He found another clearing about a couple hundred feet from where they parked and quietly landed on a soft pile of leaves. A pair of bushes beside Raiden’s shuttle emitted a flurry of tiny green orbs that fluttered into the air, then evaporated like dying fireflies.

Raiden speed-walked through the wildberry bushes as another species of plants exhaled orbs of yellow and white. Their flickering lights paved his way while the canopy above was so thick that Hela’s rays were thinned to mere strings of light.

He reached his father’s shuttle faster than he’d anticipated. There was no telling how far ahead he and Hastings were, but the alcove they’d parked in front of made it clear where they were heading. Between a set of trees as wide as palace walls were a pair of leaves so large that Raiden could have laid across them, spread his limbs, and still wouldn’t have been able to touch their veiny edges. They bent toward one another and formed an archway into another world.

Raiden crossed under them and found that the angled trees no longer allowed for Hela to seep through. Father and Hastings could have been within an arm’s length and he wouldn’t know it. Something else could have been just as close.

Raiden withdrew his gunblade. The pistol itself was less than half a foot in length, but when he thrust it forward a silver, three-foot-long blade shot out of it. If anything was looking for prey, he’d be ready for it.

He stepped forward into the darkness, feeling the bristles of leaves tickle his ankles and amplify his anxiety. His paces were slow and steady like that of a dog’s when called by an abusive owner. Somewhere from above the birds were chirping, oblivious to the quivering man beneath them. He tried to count his steps, but lost track when the flutter of wings flew around the thick leaves of trees to his left.

He gasped and jerked simultaneously, accidentally shooting a stun orb from his blade. The yellow orb coated with gyrating streaks of lightning flew north and evaporated into the leaves, casting light on a tree stump a few hundred feet ahead. Raiden got a glimpse of another stump next to the first and cocked his head. It was unusual in this part of the forest to see two stumps in such close proximity. He quickened his pace and retracted his gunblade.

A pile of sludge puckered around his boots just before he reached the wooden stumps. He scowled and fought with the puddle to lift them. It was as thick as drying cement and almost won the fight, but Raiden managed to remove his feet from the muddy claws. Several plants around him exhaled another set of orbs and cast light on two other sets of footprints trudging toward the base of the stumps. The orbs lit up a whole line of them; a stairway in the middle of the forest.

He hoisted himself onto the first one, which came up to his waist. The rest of the stumps weren’t as steep, but he had to jump onto them and hope that his strides were large enough. The second stump was just a foot higher and a few feet away. The one he stood on was large enough for him to get a running start, so he backed up to the edge and darted forward, leaping onto the second stump and sticking the landing with ease.

The next several wooden platforms proved to be just as easy to navigate. Some even had tiny plants on the ends of the stumps emitting orbs of light and revealing a path to the top. He kicked off a pile of sludge that had built a small mountain at a platform’s edge and watched as it broke into fragments of mud disappearing into the nothingness below. He was easily more than a hundred feet in the air and saw no end in sight. Heights didn’t scare him, but usually he as able to see the ground. If he fell, the darkness would swallow him whole and his body would be lost forever.

A new set of orbs cast light on a stump that was only half-visible, concealed behind a wall of emerald and crimson leaves. He stopped just before it. With a deep breath he sprang, plowing through the wall of leaves before him, and landing on the stump on the other side.

Raiden got a glimpse of his startled father somewhere in front of him, then nearly slipped forward over the edge of the stump. He put his hands out to balance himself as the arches of his feet teetered between the wooden platform and a shadowy grave.

Ray!” Father exclaimed and rushed to the edge of the crisscrossing tree limbs that were supporting him and Hastings.

Raiden waved his arms backward as a means of pushing more of his weight onto the stump. His heart raced wildly, but he knew he could do it. He wasn’t about to fall to his death before learning why Rexus Poloray threatened his son’s life.

His heels felt wood beneath them and he safely scooted backwards. “Phew.”

Ray,” Father’s tone switched from shock and worry to parental and foreboding. It reminded Raiden of the time he was caught stealing chocolate-covered blueberries from the market. He never forgot the look of shame engraved on Father’s face. It was a shade of disappointment that he never wanted to see again. Father must have known that, or else he wouldn’t be looking at him the same way now. “Ray, what in Noreis—”

Don’t even, Dad,” Raiden snarled. “I’m Riles’ father just as you are mine. You would do everything you could if someone threatened my life, so why do you think I’d be any different?”

Father’s once blue eyes faded to a time-withered gray. “I should never have told you.”

Arias’,” Hastings said with a scowl on his face and hands on his hips, “We still have a little ways to go.”

Hastings had been Father’s partner in the Serenity Seekers for three years. Raiden wanted to like him, but the man always seemed full of himself. He was also far too close to Raiden’s age to keep Raiden from thinking that Hastings might have been the son that Father would have preferred. Father always wished that Raiden had joined the Seekers. It nearly broke his heart the day Raiden told him that he wanted to work as a tour guide for the Tri-City Forest instead. Hearing about Father’s missions with Hastings caused Raiden to wonder if he had made the right decision.

Father, this morning you mentioned that Rexus threatening his life in exchange for information about Transcendence. What about it?”

Walk and talk, guys,” Hastings grumbled, turning from them. He continued to watch his footing as he alternated between the tree limbs. Hastings seemed numb to the sizable drop that could spell death should he misstep and fall.

Raiden eyed the crisscrossing limbs that his father and Hastings were standing on with caution. They were two curiously large platforms of wood that formed a double helix and traveled through another sheet of leaves. He leapt onto one of them with ease and found himself having to look up at Father yet again.

Raiden fell in line with Father, who had begun to follow his partner when he finally answered his son’s question. “Your mother told me all that she could about it: Dusk of the Eternal, Dawn of the First, Three and Three, the Second reveals the Third. As for what all of that means, I’m not sure that even she knows entirely. Either that, or, despite a thirty-year betrothal, she still doesn’t trust me.”

You were only married for eighteen of those years.”

She will always be my wife.”

You haven’t spoken to the woman in years.”

Father increased his pace to catch up with his partner. “Say what you will, son, but you were too young to fully understand the circumstances surrounding our separation.”

I wasn’t too young. She was too absent.”

Absent, yes, but that woman will always be your mother. She did what she thought was best for everyone.”

She did what was best for her.”

Hastings groaned and rushed ahead, but Father stopped moving.

Your mother is a complicated woman. Do I believe in everything that she did and the choices that she made? No, but I understand why she did it. You would have never met your wife if she hadn’t, and you wouldn’t have that beautiful son to go home to. It was the right thing to do back then, just as her telling me about Rexus’ threat was the right thing to do a couple days ago. Let’s do what we came here to do, then go back home.”

At last Father said something he agreed with. Raiden followed in his footsteps without saying another word as they walked forward and jumped from one intersecting limb to the next, trudging deeper into the dark side of the rain forest.

The first clue is ‘Dusk of the Eternal’,” Father said. “Your mother explained that there’s a clearing somewhere in the depths of this forest where the orbs emitted by the plant life have generated the same sequence for thousands of years. Twice a year at the time of dusk they reveal the collective image of the location to the ‘Dawn of the First’.”

Did she—” Raiden stopped talking to hoist himself onto a limb that curved upward at a forty-five degree angle. “Did she tell you what ‘Dawn of the First’ meant?”

No, but she did say that, if we were unsuccessful here, the ‘Three and Three’ meant that the clues are separated in a sequence of three days. That three days from now, at dawn, the second clue will reveal itself.”

Raiden bobbed his head. “And then ‘The Second reveals the Third’ means that the second clue would lead us to a third clue?”

It won’t come to that. We’re putting an end to this now. If we don’t, others may come to learn of Rexus—or worse, about the Transcendence Theory.” Father mentioned that not even the monarchs or the Serenity Seekers could know about the theory, which would have baffled Raiden if he didn’t already have so many other things on his mind.

Hastings disappeared through another wall of crimson leaves in front of them. Raiden didn’t notice until he emerged through them. Even in the dark, Raiden was able to make out the astonishment on Hastings’ face.

Is that it in front of us?” Father asked.

Hastings waited for them to cross over the last set of limbs to reach him before saying anything. “I think so. Galen, you should have a look.”

All right then,” Father said casually as he brandished his gunblade and thrust forward a three foot shimmering blue blade. The blade was as beautiful as it was dangerous. To even slide one’s fingers along the edge would make them bleed. Riles tried once. Father never withdrew it in front of him again.

Hastings withdrew his as well. Hastings’ blade was as green as a forest and, though not as bright and Father’s, it was just as deadly. Not wanting to waste another second, Hastings muttered “It’ll be dusk soon” before trudging back through the wall of leaves.

Raiden grabbed for his gunblade and thrust it forward, being extra-careful not to lose his footing and slip over the edge. The dull silver of his blade didn’t capture the light like his father’s. Hastings would probably scoff when he saw it and make him feel like less of a man.

Father grimaced at the sight of his son’s gunblade. His burning eyes revealed a desire to argue Raiden’s following them, but he was left with no time to dissuade Raiden from going. He resigned to saying, “Just stay behind me and you’ll be safe.”

Raiden obeyed and kept five paces behind Father, and the two followed Hastings through the wall of leaves ahead. More tree limbs that served as walkways before them and formed a near-perfect circle four hundred feet in diameter. Other limbs intersect their circle with spiral the traveled down all the way to the ground and continued up as high as the treetops where Hela was all but an afterthought.

The ground was littered with tens of thousands of bushes breathing out millions of lights that flickered up toward them in an ever-changing canvass that painted their surroundings. Unlike the lights along the tree stumps, these orbs were all shades of greens and blues and reds and every other hue along the color spectrum that he could imagine. It was so blindingly bright that he found himself distracted from the fact that Rexus would soon be there as well, if he wasn’t already.

Raiden tried to make out designs in the lights as they floated up towards the treetops. Father said they’d be sequential, but if there was a pattern that they were meant to reveal, he didn’t see it yet. He wondered what it would portray when Hela finally set.

Father pointed upward. “Let’s head to the treetops. We’ll get the best view there and a good vantage point on Rexus.”

Hastings turned toward the spiraling tree limbs and led the way upward. Father followed right behind him. Raiden remained in the back and tried to focus on his footing, but was more concerned with keeping an eye out on what was going on behind him. If Rexus were to show up from below, he would be the easiest target.

He eyed the entrance to the clearing as they traveled up fifty feet, and then a hundred more. Rexus could slink through the leaves at any moment. The thought distracted Raiden from acknowledging of how high up he was. Down below, the orbs were too small and too many to identify anything more than swirls of colors merging and blending with one another, too random to be considered “art” in any definition of the term. Still, he knew that at any moment they’d—

There,” Father pointed toward the center of the room. The bushes emitted a new sequence of orbs that shot up toward the canopy. The orbs swirled like rotating pixels. Each floated upward at a different pace coming closer and closer together. The three stopped climbing to see what was rapidly approaching them from below. The orbs in this sequence were mostly earth tones. There were still traces of vibrancy, but colors were predominantly shades of blue, brown, and green. The closer they fluttered together, the more of an image they began to reveal. And then, for the slightest of seconds, all of the orbs came together in perfect unison to form a quick, clear image. It was the portrayal of a landscape from a time long ago; there were six rivers that criss-crossed one another, at one point almost forming a hexagon. Along the edges of them were plains and hills, while the center of the image was of a ground covered in shimmering blue and silver crystals. Among all of them, there was one in the very center that seemed to shine the brightest. Amidst what must have been several million orbs, the cluster of that hundred or so was what caught Raiden’s attention the most. Before he had time to think about what he just witnessed, the orbs parted and continued swirling upwards at different speeds, and finally faded before hitting the treetops.

That was Kalia,” Father said. “Not as we know it today, but what it looked like then.”

That cluster in the center,” Raiden muttered.

I saw it too,” Father said.

On the other side of Father, Hastings sighed. “If that was the clue, then Rexus missed it.”

Raiden felt the blood rush to his face. “Unless he’s already here.”

The three absorbed the eerie silence as another cluster of orbs was beginning to form. This time they were bright and in shades of orange, yellow, and red. They flickered upward and engulfed the three men in their blazing bright hues.

Crack!

Hastings clutched his chest as a flurry of flames shot up from it. “Ackkk!” He screamed in agony, but before he could do anything he was engulfed in a fire that couldn’t have come from the orbs.

Hastings!” Father exclaimed. He attempted to pat the flames off of his partner, but when Raiden got a glimpse of Hastings’ wide-eyded look of horror, he knew that it was too late. Hastings fell from the limbs, completely devoured in flames and vanishing through the next cluster of orbs.

Crack!

A ball of fire cruised through the flame-colored orbs and headed toward Father. Before Raiden could get a word out, Father flung his blade forward and sliced it in half. The flame broke to specks upon contact and vanished in mid-air.

As the orbs passed, Raiden got a look at a man with dark hair from across the clearing. Even from a distance he could tell that this man was about the size of Father—if not larger. Rexus wore a tattered sepia-colored coat that swayed around his feet. He held his blood-colored gunblade in their direction and shot another fireball from the pistol’s mouth.

Ray—duck!” Father yelled.

Raiden dropped to his knees as a ball of fire sailed overhead and slammed into the leaves behind him. If they were anywhere else in the world the leaves would’ve gone ablaze, but the trees of the forest had long ago coated themselves with a watery sap that made them fireproof. The whole world could go up in flames and the Malysai rain forest would remain intact.

Father bolted around the semicircle of limbs in Rexus’ direction. Rexus rushed toward him like a race horse with graceful, wide strides. Both men had their gunblades outstretched and met in the middle of the clearing to engage in a flurry of blows. Flashes of red swirled all around Rexus, but Father was just as fast. Father’s shimmering blue blade met every one of Rexus’ attacks and countered them.

Father’s eyes were wide and desperate as he gripped his blade and Raiden knew immediately that Father was too wary of his presence.

I shouldn’t have come. He’s nervous. I’m a distraction.

Another series of red, orange and yellow orbs floated towards the treetops. The colors surrounding the men made them appear as if they were two harrowing flames lashing out at one another. Rexus hit the blade with a loud clang but nearly lost his footing when he stood astride the limbs of the helix. Father started swinging at Rexus, coming down on him with heavy, powerful blows.

Come on, Father. Come on!

Raiden blinked with surprise at how fast Father was. Each swing was graceful and lacked hesitation. He had planned his attacks four or five slashes ahead. He was a giant and his blade was a sharp extension of his arm, pummeling Rexus with blow after mighty blow.

Father swung again, but this time Rexus used his might to slam into it with his red blade and Father had to jump back. Rexus swung at Father furiously. His blade resembled a blood-colored viper and struck at Father with a hissing metal tongue. Father’s blue blade hurdled through the sea of flames to block Rexus, but he backed up again keeping an eye on the awkward L-shaped walkway behind him.

Raiden clutched his gunblade and ran forward through the clusters of orbs surrounding him. He broke through the patterns and images they portrayed as if he was bursting through liquid canvasses. The orbs flecked away, giving him a clear view of Rexus and his viper-tongued blade. He pointed his gunblade toward Rexus and started shooting balls of fire through the plethora of glowing orbs.

Rexus blocked Father’s blows, then spun backward to dodge Raiden’s attacks with ease. He side-stepped past one fireball, and then sliced two more in half without breaking his stride. The drying embers while the viper-tongue seemed to hiss with victory.

Father struck at Rexus, who blocked it, and then both twisted their blades downward. Rexus pushed down on Father’s gunblade and drove it deep into the wood, nearly severing the limb entirely. As the two leaned toward the ground, Raiden rushed them. He leapt diagonally across the L-shaped limbs and landed directly behind the man who threatened his son and fought his father.

Rexus flung his blade upwards and swung at Raiden before he could strike. Raiden gasped as the viper’s tongue went to slice through him and blocked it with his dull silver blade. Rexus’ blow felt like it came from a monster, not a man.

Ray!” Father yelled as he shook his gunblade free from the wooden limb below.

Rexus swung hard at Raiden again and again. Raiden felt as if he was being attacked with a wall of cement and backed away. He struggled to stay on his feet as the limbs twisted and contorted behind him.

Father prepared to attack Rexus from behind, but Rexus was ready for it and jumped high into the air and well over Raiden’s head, leaving Father to swipe at nothing. Rexus landed behind Raiden and kicked him in the small of his back. Raiden felt the pain course through his vertebrae and fell forward, tripping over a small branch. He lost his footing and stumbled forward, over the edge. He couldn’t maintain his balance and tilted toward the swirls of colors covering the ground. As he dropped, he felt a strong hand grasping at his leg.

Raiden gasped as he watched his gunblade fall into the glowing abyss below. He dangled upside down for second and heard Father’s voice.

Raiden!”

Raiden twisted his body to get a glimpse of Father clutching his leg. In that moment, he saw Galen Arias look helpless for the first time in his life. He never thought he would see that expression on the man who used to check his room for monsters at night. Father’s eyes were bulging and his mouth was wide open, but he was too horrified to utter a sound.

Rexus stood over Father like an executioner over a man with his head in a guillotine. He plunged his gunblade through Father’s chest and it broke through both sides of skin with little effort. Before Raiden could scream he felt Father’s grip give way and he went freefalling down through the millions of orbs. The little lights floated upward, concealing the small openings through which the sky could be seen.

There was a groaning sound. It came from him, though he didn’t know how it was possible. He looked around at the orbs that were still floating towards the canopy. He didn’t know how long he’d been out, much less how he had managed to survive a three-hundred-foot fall. He started to move and felt the pillows of leaves give way, dropping him another two or three feet onto the hard surface below.

The plants and bushes were so thick that they broke his fall. It was a struggle to see with the overwhelming bright lights surrounding him, but he didn’t feel like he was in a lot of pain. Nothing felt broken, and nothing was numb.

Raiden rolled over and got to his feet. He dusted off his maroon-colored shirt and checked for scrapes and scratches. A few cuts on his forearms formed a map of his battle scars, but beyond that he looked astoundingly fine.

Father!” He gasped.

He rushed toward the edges of the clearing and quickly found several tree trunks that, collectively, had a series of tree limbs that intertwined with others. Raiden hugged the tree with the limbs that were closest to the ground and began hoisting himself up, grabbing at whatever small limbs and branches he could find along the way. His forearm started to bleed, but he ignored the pain. He had to get back to where Father was as quickly as he could. He needed to know if he was still alive.

He wrapped his arm around closest tree limb that started up the walkway and balanced his body until he was able to comfortably push himself onto it. He rested for a second, then got to his feet. The limbs grew wider and more stable the higher up they went. He started to run up them. The pounding of his feet echoed in the clearing as the orbs in the center flickered upwards with more vibrant colors and designs. He made one full rotation around the spiral, then another, and a third. He was losing his breath, but he didn’t care. None of that mattered if he could still save Father.

He caught a glimpse of Father’s shimmering blue gunblade from across the way, and then the silhouette of a body with a hand dangling over the edge.

No…”

He didn’t hear his footsteps as he ran toward the motionless figure. He couldn’t feel himself breathe. All he could think of was Father’s helpless expression as he held Raiden by his leg.

He reached Father and rolled his lifeless body over. There was a blood stain on his chest where the blade broke his heart, and for a moment all Raiden could think about was one of the last things father said to him. Stay behind me and you’ll be safe.

This is my fault. This is my doing. I should have stayed behind. It would have been Rexus lying here. Not you…

His vision become blurry amidst a sea of tears. He no longer knew what to do, or even how to get back to his shuttle. He was completely lost, like a young child who had lost the grip of a mother’s hand amidst a roaring crowd. He hadn’t known a life without Father. They had always been together. He was the constant. He was supposed to always be there for him.

The lights were reflected off of Father’s gunblade like the final spotlight at the end of play, drawing Raiden’s attention away from his Father. He thought for a second, and then knew what he had to do. He grabbed the hilt of the shimmering blade and claimed it as his own.

No one threatens my son and lives,” Raiden told himself through lips dampened by streams of tears. “No one…”

Why I Write

Posted: September 29, 2015 by: AG_Creative86

author pic

I would be lying if I said that I’m not bashful about creating this site.  While not necessarily shy, I only had acquaintances until 8th grade when my neighbor, Amanda Troyer, thought I was friend-worthy.  Before then it was just myself and the pages I filled. Writing is and has always been a very personal, very large part of my life.  When someone says to me “Tell me about your book(s)” or “What are your books about?” what many don’t realize is that they’re asking me very intimate details about myself.

​​No, I’m not a medium, or the captain of the Cardeau guard,​ but through these people and every other character that I’ve ever written about reside pieces of myself: past thoughts, experiences that I’ve had, and dreams accomplished or forgotten.   It’s taken me a lifetime to grow confident enough in my own works to share them with the world, and it’s taken a great deal of research and inspiration for me to enter a publishing arena in its current state, but this is the best time for me to do it.  My characters are jumping at the bit to tell their stories to other people, and I’m ready to let them.

​​I write because I enjoy to tell stories, but I also write to connect with people.  In this day and age with social media being about who you know, I actually want to know people, and I want people to know me.   Right now I’m a bartender, and I have been bartender for (oh, Christ) 7 years because I love the human interaction and because it gives me all this free time during the day to mold this career that I have been building for my entire life so that I can show people who I really am.  I would love to know you better in return.

​​I’m not asking you to buy any of my books (although sales are ALWAYS welcome :P), but I welcome your feedback so that I may continue to grow both as a person and as a writer.  If there are things you like or don’t like about this site, any of my stories, or if I unknowingly go astray, I will wish for you to tell me.  Conversations and criticisms are the only ways we grow, and I enjoy receiving both.  That said, welcome to the new site!

Chapter 1.3 — Raiden

Posted: August 11, 2015 by: Anthony Greer

A couple of announcements before jumping into this chapter:
1. The full novel: “The Raven of Dusk: Transcendence” will be available for $.99 for a week, starting tomorrow.
What makes THIS promotion extra special is that this novel will the featured book of the day for one of the biggest online sites there is: www.ereadernewstoday.com. The last time I did a promotion with them, I put up The Messengers for “free” and nearly 4,000 copies were downloaded (and that wasn’t a book of a day promo. People had to sift through the site for that one!). There are several other sites that will feature “The Raven of Dusk: Transcendence” later in the week, and I’ll list them as they go.
2. Book 2: “The Raven of Dusk: Children of the Rain” is available for pre-order now and will be released on 8/20. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B011VEB9QC
3. Since I’m posting the first full chapter of RoDT, I’m going to start adding links to previous chapters. And here they are:

Prologue: Raiden 
Chapter 1.1: Koston
Chapter 1.2: Vila
To purchase the full book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VUGO0SQ

That said, enjoy!



Raiden

Raiden made sure that his suit was assembled and hung up in the closet when he’d gone to bed the night before. If that morning was like the last, he wouldn’t want to get out of bed until he didn’t have a choice.
Hela was shining through the opening in the curtains and directly over his eyes. It gave him a rough idea of what time it was. He was surprised that Wessena didn’t already wake him. She probably didn’t know what to say. Today wasn’t going to be a fun day for either of them.
He rolled out of bed and headed for the shower, trying to ignore the mild headache he’d forced upon himself. He and Wessena drank a lot the night before in honor of his father. She out-drank him of course, but he still tried to keep up. He found himself drinking the water in the shower while bathing in it. His mouth was so dry that his tongue nearly stuck to its roof. He knew better than to not drink water before sleeping, but last night he didn’t care.
Raiden winced when he went to scrub his forearm. The cuts he’d gotten from the fall still hurt, but they were likely to heal within a couple of days. He told the Seekers that he received them while trying to find Father’s body. He said that he received a message from Father while he was already in the District of Shadows and then went looking for him. He mentioned that Father told him about a man named Rexus Poloray, but he said nothing about the second clue or where he would be the following morning. Rexus threatened Riles’ life and murdered the man he loved most. Raiden wanted him dead, and he was going to see to that personally. Father telling him that the Serenity Seekers needed to be left in the dark further justified his actions.
He left the bathroom and walked across the room wearing just his towel. He was more lean than muscular, just a stick figure in comparison to his father. Galen had been a peacekeeper for the world, so bulking up was part of his job description.
Moments later he faced himself in the mirror, dressed in all black and white with a cyan vest and cuffs that matched the iciness of his eyes. It was a little too colorful for a funeral, but he didn’t own a black vest, nor did he have the time to buy one. He fussed around with his sable hair, but didn’t know how best to arrange it. He usually left it unkempt and free to do whatever it wished, but was that appropriate for the occasion? Eventually he gave up on it and headed downstairs.
“Those can go on the table, and that can go on the desk in that corner there,” Wessena said to a pair of men as they entered the house. One was carrying a bouquet in each hand, while the other was holding a heavy basket full of food. They’d been receiving gifts ever since the night before. Being a high-ranked Serenity Seeker had bought Galen Arias a lot of prominence.
Raiden noticed the wine glass in Wessena’s hand as he walked down to the main floor. How was she drinking again already? This was an impressive feat—even for her!
“Ray,” she said between sips. “I was just about to wake you. We’re leaving shortly. Are you really going in that?”
Raiden ogled his wife’s attire. She was dressed more appropriately, sporting a long black dress and a golden chain necklace that his father had once given her for her birthday.
“I wore this on our wedding day,” Raiden replied.
“Hardly the same occasion, Ray!”
“Sorry, I—” he stopped talking while he unbuttoned the vest and placed it on the arm of the brown shaggy couch in front of him. “Better?”
“Much better.” Wessena placed the empty glass on the end table beside her and gazed into the nearby mirror to double-check her hair. Some of it was pinned backward, while the rest draped over her shoulders. Her golden brown locks contrasted with her dress, but went with her necklace quite nicely.
“Where’s Riles?”
“Riles!” Wessena shouted toward the top of the stairs. “Riles, get down here!”
There was no response.
One of the movers reentered the house with another bouquet.
“Sheesh,” Wessena muttered. “Do you want to get your son?”
“Sure,” Raiden said. He headed back up the stairs while his wife poured herself another glass and started dosing out another round of orders.
Riles’ room was at the end of the hall, which in reality was only about the length of the kitchen, but that morning it seemed much further away. The door was cracked open, but he couldn’t see Riles inside. The boy hadn’t left his room much since he’d received the news. Raiden wanted to be there for him, but he was barely consolable himself. He knew that this was one of those moments where he’d need to be a good father, but he didn’t know the first thing about how to handle this situation. He didn’t have the tone that Father had; that hint of certainty in his voice that made Raiden know that everything would get better. Riles would have to settle for whatever consolation Raiden could provide; the understudy of a real father.
He propped the door open and saw Riles sitting at the foot of his bed staring blankly at the wall. He was fully dressed in a suit much like Raiden’s, with hair just as messy. He was the spitting image of Raiden twenty years before, and bore the same expression of confusion and helplessness on his face. He had a black shoebox tucked underneath his arm. He hoped that Riles knew better than to bring toys to a funeral, but the boy had never known of hardship, nor had he ever lost anyone.
“It’s time, kiddo,” Raiden said in the doorway.
Riles’ bottom lip protruded. He grasped onto the shoebox with his tiny hands and his eyes started to water. He turned around and plopped himself down on the bed.
“Hey,” Raiden entered his son’s room and sat on the bed next to him. If he was to watch Riles cry over Galen, Raiden couldn’t guarantee that he’d be able to hold it together. He tried to think about how Father consoled him when he was sad. He could try and emulate him, but he could never live up to the standard. “Hey… C’mon buddy. Don’t cry.”
“I…” Riles tried to speak between staggered breaths. “I don’t understand. What do you mean we’ll never see Grandpa again?”
Raiden never fully explained the concept of death to his son. He never thought he’d have to. “Grandpa… He had to go somewhere. He needed to go on another mission.”
“But he never said good-bye.” Riles eyes grew red and puffy. The brightness once within them had become dull and gray.
“He didn’t think he had to. But…” Raiden had to catch his breath. He didn’t know what he could say to make Riles feel better. If he did, he’d be telling himself the same thing. “Even though he didn’t say good-bye, he loved you very much. You know that, right?”
Riles nodded and clutched onto the shoebox even tighter. He hugged it like he’d hug a stuffed animal, which only served to make Raiden more curious.
“What’s in there?”
“Grandpa’s figurine.” Riles had a collection of Serenity Seeker action figures. Every time Galen came to visit them he’d bring Riles a new one. The boy had full sets of the latest editions of figurines from Malysai, Barencos, and Meniffa, and at least four or five from every other city-state. “I named them all after famous Serenity Seekers,” Riles went on. “This one is his. I had a full set of ones from Malysai, but without Grandpa it’s not complete anymore.”
“Riles…”
A tear slipped by Riles’ left eye. “Grandpa will want this one. It was my favorite… It’s the best.”
Raiden had no idea what to say to that. He stood over Riles while the boy continued to cry and clutch onto the shoebox, unable to say a word.
Raiden let Riles take the shoebox to the funeral with him. The boy clutched it in his hands tightly while he stood at half Raiden’s height. Wessena took to Raiden’s other side and held his hand during the ceremony.
Galen Arias couldn’t have been buried in a more serene space. The funeral was held twenty minutes north of the rain forest in a clearing large enough for just under a hundred graves. The entrance was marked off by a small wooden gate, while stone walls and shrubberies three feet high made up the other boundaries. Greens were emitting orbs of white along a tiny stream on the right side of the cemetery. The trees beyond it disembogued a light mist that Hela shone through, covering the ground in the yellows and whites of an eternal dawn.
Nearly fifty Serenity Seekers were present for the funeral. All of them stood in formation behind the Arias family, and every one of them was in uniform: gray pants and a black vest with six lines of zippers forming a ‘V’ over the chest, and the small emblem of the Seekers over their heart. Around their waists were utility belts which bore their guns and a gunblade holster. It was customary to be in uniform during a fellow Seeker’s funeral, or so Raiden was told.
The priest in front of them had been giving his sermon, but he’d be just as effective if he’d said nothing at all. Raiden watched him speak and he saw his lips move, but didn’t think about the words that were coming out of them. His thoughts were too wrapped up in the casket in front of him and the man inside who’d soon be lowered into the ground.
Raiden thought about the day before his sixteenth birthday, when he and Father left the desert sands that marked the only home he had ever had, and consisted of the only people he had ever known. It had become just him and Father, and was for a long time after. They spent the better part of a year driving around in that air shuttle, looking for the perfect new place to call home. There were days where they hadn’t interacted with another soul, and there were parts of the world Raiden would never have thought to have existed. Looking back at their journey into the unknown, he’d realized then that those were the happiest times in his life. Now those memories were his, and his alone.
Riles squeezed his hand. The sermon was concluding, and they’d be saying their last good-byes.
Raiden accompanied the rest of the guests in reciting the closing prayer. He repeated after the priest, but he failed to ponder the words that slipped passed his lips. His focus remained on the casket, and the thought of the dinner he meant to make for Father after Rexus Poloray was dealt with. Their table would never be set for four with Galen in mind again.
He’d yet to confess to anyone that he was there when Father had died. He didn’t want to let that out yet, nor did he want to admit his role in Father’s death. All he proved to be was a liability in Galen’s mission. If he had never followed him into the depths of the forest, Father would never have needed to save him from falling. His decisions were what brought Father to an early grave. He was going to need to make it right; he needed to complete what Galen had set out to do.
When the prayer ended and the priest stepped away from Father’s casket, Riles let go of his hand and approached it. Wessena went to grab him, but Raiden gently touched her shoulder and shook his head.
Riles stepped forward alone through the traces of the yellow mist with the shoebox in hand. His tiny body just barely stood over the black casket. He stalled for a moment. All Raiden could see was the back of his head, but he had a good idea of what Riles w doing. Galen failed to say good-bye to him before he left the other morning, but Riles wasn’t about to do the same. He placed the shoebox on top of the flat center of the casket.
Raiden stepped forward and put his hands on Riles’ shoulders.
“Good-bye, Grandpa,” Riles said.
Father’s coffin began its slow descent into the ground.
The events of the day had taken a toll on Riles, who fell asleep shortly after dinner. Wessena had been cleaning and organizing flower arrangements ever since they’d gotten back. “So many baskets,” she kept muttering to herself.
She popped open a third bottle of wine in the kitchen, but Raiden didn’t bother to protest. He never vocalized how much he disproved of her drinking, and this wasn’t the night to start. He had other things on his mind.
Wessena started washing dishes in the kitchen and he continued think about his plan. Father’s gunblade was already in the air shuttle. Once she went to bed he would slip out. Kalia was across the Tri-City Forest. He could get there in just a few hours, which gave him more than enough time to wait out Rexus. The next morning was the third dawn. Dusk of the Eternal, Dawn of the First, Three and Three… Tomorrow morning is the dawn of the third day. Rexus must be taken care of.
The noise of the faucet stopped. He saw Wessena dry her hands in the kitchen and take another sip.
“I’m surprised your mother wasn’t there today.”
“I’m not,” Raiden said. Why would she have been? She’d missed so many other important family occasions.
Wessena entered the room, kissed him on the cheek, and sat beside him. The two watched the air shuttles blaze by outside of the gigantic window that marked the fourth wall of their living room. The walkway that gave them access to the rest of the block was lit with green and orange bulbs intertwined like a pair of dance partners and wrapped around the bannisters of pathways that paralleled their block.
She put her hand on his cheek and gently swiveled his face toward her, commanding all of his attention. “I’m so, so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. You didn’t kill him.”
“He was your father. You loved him more than anyone.”
“No. Not anyone.” He leaned forward and met her soft lips with his own.
She kissed him back with a pair of moist lips still wet with wine and draped her arms over his shoulders. She rested her head on his chest and he felt her silky hair as he brushed it with his fingertips. He wished he felt more than he had for her at that moment, but he couldn’t take his mind off of the gunblade and his plan.
They laid there for a few moments on the couch. Wessena had begun to lightly snore. He wasn’t surprised in the least that she was tired. She’d been up before Hela that morning trying to make last-minute preparations for the funeral. She didn’t want him to be forced to do it, which was sweet of her. She had always been sweet as long as she was sober.
“Come on,” Raiden nudged her. “Let’s get you to bed.”
She lifted her head up and wiped her eyes. Even though they were open, he could tell that she wasn’t really there. Her body rose from the couch and she sleep-walked up the stairs. He kept close behind her in case she tripped and fell. Halfway up the staircase, he’d taken a glance at their wedding photo from eight years before. She’d worn a long-flowing white and blue gown, and he was in the suit he gone to the funeral with. They were both so young. His face was thinner and his eyes were much brighter. Her hair was big and bushy, and her whole face lit up as if it was truly the happiest day of her life.
Raiden couldn’t help but smile. He never expected to marry at such a young age. After all, he had moved to Malysai to escape that fate in the first place.
Wessena lead them to their bedroom where she stepped inside. Their bed was already made; a boxy silhouette in the darkness. He stalled at the doorway while she took off her dress and slid under the covers. It wasn’t until then that she noticed he wasn’t there.
“Aren’t you coming to bed?”
“Not just yet, my love. I’ll be there in a few minutes.” The words cut into him as he spoke them. He didn’t like lying to her, but he couldn’t tell her that this might be the last time she’d see him alive. It was too hard to think about.
Wessena took his words to heart and rolled over and returned to sleep.
I don’t have to do this. He thought to himself. He didn’t know if the threat of his son’s life was legitimate. It could have been something Rexus had said just to get answers. Killing an eight-year-old hardly seemed like part of a master plan.
And Riles had just lost his grandfather. Was the risk of leaving him with an alcoholic worth his desire for vengeance? Why hadn’t he just gone to the Serenity Seekers, even with Father’s insistence that they not learn of the Transcendence Theory? Neither Father nor he knew of it themselves! Why had he been so dead set on taking care of this himself? He realized that his grief was making him nonsensical, but as such thoughts came to him, he remembered the look on Father’s face before Rexus had plunged a blade through his chest. Anger returned to him and he knew that he had to be the one who would kill Rexus. It was the only way to make things right.
He closed his bedroom door and trudged across the hall toward Riles’ room. He cracked the door open and saw that Riles was still asleep. Raiden tip-toed over to his bedside and knelt beside him as he slept. He kissed Riles’ forehead. Riles muttered something, but he shushed him. “It’s okay. Go back to sleep.”
Riles didn’t give an audible response.
Raiden brushed Riles’ bangs from his face and watched him sleep for a few more minutes. Leaving him would be the hardest part of this whole trip. He needed to be back by the morning before Riles woke up. He didn’t want his son to wake up without his father, like Raiden was going to have to do for the rest of his life.
As he watched Riles sleep, he recalled what he had said to his father’s lifeless body after their battle with Rexus. “No one threatens my son and lives,” Raiden whispered. “No one.”
Raiden returned to his feet and guided himself toward the door.
“Are you gonna say good-bye?”
Raiden gasped. He thought for sure that Riles was asleep. Did he overhear what Raiden had whispered to him?
Despite muttering those words, Riles didn’t seem to be awake.
Raiden took a long, deep breath, and then responded. “No son. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Promise?” Riles’ lips moved, but his eyes were still closed.
“Yes, Riles. I promise.”


Chapter 1.2 Vila

Posted: August 4, 2015 by: Anthony Greer


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Vila

The line to the Well of Repentance was ridiculously long that morning. Vila had to walk parallel to it on her way to her district office, watching the faith-filled Hennians and Trewanians stand in line for their moment at the Well. Each of them clutched onto a piece of paper that they had written a confession on; each of them hoped that they’d be forgiven upon casting it into the eternal flames. Hennians and Trewanians traversed across the world to reach the Well to relinquish their sins. Vila’s office was but a five minute walk to the Well. Not once had she ever cast a word into the flames.
Two pairs of violet eyes made contact with hers as she walked. A Hennian and a Trewanian in line must have recognized her and then turned to converse with one another.
“Is that Representative Vila Pirral?” The Hennian asked the Trewanian, placing all four of her arms on her hips. Her blue, scaly skin was mostly concealed in the large brown mioghi furs she wore.
“I think so,” the Trewanian replied as she looked down at her Hennian friend. For Trewanians, looking down at other creatures was a way of life. The average height for them was over seven feet, which was a major contrast with the Hennians, who were commonly the same height as humans.
The female Hennian gazed up at her Trewanian friend. The Trewanian’s skin was light green. If the creatures weren’t so brute they would look sickly. “I hear she doesn’t pray at Temple.”
“I hear she doesn’t pray anywhere.”
“What I do and don’t do is none of your concern,” Vila snarled as she passed. “Good day, ladies.” She didn’t hear the rest of their conversation. She didn’t care to.
Vila took a left on the dirt-paved road and examined the two rows of tan adobe homes and offices. Most of the buildings were dome-shaped, while others were in the form of pentagons or hexagons with Hennian or Trewanian kanji written on them in black and gold. She walked between the buildings as several air shuttles flew overhead.
Her telecom vibrated in her pocket. She reached for it through her heavy mioghi furs and withdrew the device, a slender black object no larger than a pen with several buttons on it. She pressed the leftmost one. A holographic screen appeared with a list of e-mails on the left, video messages on the right, and a 4×4 inch screen in the center. The screen was usually blank, but this time it read: “New Video Message from Arowden Knownthey.”
Vila put it away quickly and continued toward her office. Whatever Arowden had to say, it was best that she watch it in private. He was most likely freaking out again and she had too much going on that day to put any effort into calming him down. She reached her office and scoffed at the faraway line to the Well before stepping inside.
Despite housing the office of a district representative, Vila’s building was far from impressive. The waiting room was home to a couple of chairs on one side, and on the other were desks where her two Hennian assistants were often busy at work. Of her two employees, so far only Dane had arrived that morning.
“Good morning, Vila,” Dane said without taking his eyes off of the telescreen in front of him, typing with all four of his hands.
 “Big day today,” she said as she headed toward her office.
He glanced over at her as she walked passed him. “Excited?”
“I’m more anxious than anything. This could make a lot of waves.”
Dane smiled. “What about your rule hasn’t?”
Vila nodded. It was common knowledge that she was quite possibly the most liberal of the Hewenian government officials. Some claimed that she was a heretic. Others believed that she’d never even read the ‘Book of Gods’, the text that every believer in Hewenia followed. She never revealed if they were right or wrong. Her beliefs were her business and no one else’s.
“I’ll be rewriting my speech,” Vila said. “I’ll send you a draft in an hour.”
“I look forward to reading it,” Dane said gleefully. He seemed far more thrilled about the legislation than Vila was that morning. Then again, he wasn’t the one that had to give a speech and face the scrutiny of her more devout constituents while she pushed for the Separation of Religion Act. If only one fanatic interrupted her speech by setting a picture of her ablaze, it would be a successful afternoon.
Vila stepped inside her office. Unlike most of the offices of government workers, Vila’s was nearly a replica of her living room. Given the ratio of time she’d spent there as opposed to her home, it felt appropriate. She bypassed her all-too-comfy sofa and approached her desk: a long, sleek, and polished auburn piece of carpentry, and as beautiful as it was powerful. She sat at it and withdrew her telecom. She had to watch Arowden’s message before starting her draft. She wouldn’t be able to focus otherwise.
Arowden’s pale green face appeared on the screen. His violet eyes gazed right through hers and he spoke with conviction and solemnity. “Hey you… I couldn’t sleep last night. Actually, I haven’t really slept well these last three nights.” He was on the verge of tears already.
“Ugh… Here we go,” Vila muttered. She crossed both pairs of her arms and continued to watch the message.
“I know that you’ve got a lot going on, but I still don’t understand why you’re doing this. You can’t have much more time left, and we haven’t talked about how we’re getting out of here yet. You’ve got what—another week? Maybe two?”
Vila frowned.
“I know you must be scared,” Arowden looked as if his skin was replaced by brittle lime-colored glass. “I am too, my love, but you can’t avoid me much longer. We have to talk about our exit strategy. The only chance we have is to disappear. I know it’s scary. I’m scared too… Please get back to me.” A second later, the screen was black and the words ‘End of Message’ appeared in bold white letters.
Vila let out a long sigh and stared down at her blue scaly skin and toward her stomach, which was heavily covered in furs. Arowden was right. They needed to leave Hewenia before their child came to term. The words etched in gold above her door (which she covered up with a landscape painting of the Cavian Mountain Range long ago) served as a constant reminder to the bleak reality of her situation.
“The greatest sin of all is for a Trewanian to love a Hennian, and for a Hennian to love a Trewanian in return. Such a love will bring about a child of mixed breed—and with the child bring about the destruction of the Trenthean and Henthean ways of life.”
Vila wished that she hadn’t watched his message before starting on her new draft. Nothing was more distracting than the thought of her doomsday child. She wished he hadn’t said anything at all. She’d contact him later that day, after her speech was done.
She put away her telecom and turned on the telescreen at her desk. She opened up a new text document and wrote ‘My Speech’ at the very top. This would be the fourth draft of her speech. She could’ve pulled up one of the first three versions for inspiration, but it wasn’t necessary. She’d known all three of them by heart. The words ran through her head when she sat alone in her office, and she continued to mumble them in bed while Arowden would cling to her with both of his arms, fast asleep. Neither of the three versions seemed perfect, and she was running out of time.
She placed her fingers on the keyboard below and paused.
Come on, words. Come on…
A pop up appeared on the bottom right corner of her telescreen. She highlighted it and saw Dane’s face appear. “Representative.”
“What is it, Dane?”
“You have a visitor.”
If it was Arowden, she’d be pissed. “I don’t wish to speak to anyone right now. You know how important today is.”
“I do, but she’s come a long way—and you did schedule a meeting with her.”
Vila cocked her head. “Her?
“The potential intern.”
Vila smacked her top two hands on the desk. “Are you kidding? I specifically remember telling her that I had to reschedule.”
Dane’s face turned from the screen. “I—Miss!”
Vila almost rose to her feet when her door opened. “Excuse—” she gawked, suddenly finding herself unable to finish her sentence.
A girl appeared in her office and shut the door behind her. She stared at the representative with a pair of emerald-colored eyes. Her hair was a dark brown with lighter highlights and came down to the tips of her shoulders, attempting to round out her otherwise hard face. She wore a shirt as blue as the sky and an expression of determination that overshadowed her timidity. What should have surprised Vila was that this girl couldn’t have been older than fifteen, but what actually baffled her was something she didn’t predict.
“I’m sorry in advance for barging in here. I did see your message, but I didn’t want to be canceled on again,” the girl said quickly. She clutched a portfolio in her left hand. “My name is Eliza Bennihan, and I would like to be your intern.”
Vila opened her mouth.
Eliza stepped forward. “I know you have a busy day today with writing a speech and all before your legislation comes to a vote, so I’ll try and be as concise as possible.”
Before Vila had time to react, Eliza was already sitting at her desk, sliding her portfolio across the table. “You’ll see there that I have three years of experience in Larcos on Representative Gerald’s campaign. He wrote me a lovely letter of recommendation. I started working for him as just an errand girl—I often took time between classes to do lunch runs for him and his staff and tried to provide whatever political insight that I could. Of course, it was hard to get adults to listen to a—then—twelve-year-old girl, but after I got him to read a draft of a speech I wrote for him, he chose to use it and coined some key terms that allowed him to get re-elected. By fourteen, people on his campaign were doing lunch runs for me at school and I was asked to stay on as a shadow to his campaign manager. Then my father’s job transferred him to Kalia and my parents weren’t fond of me living on another continent and forced me to go with them. How are you today, by the way? It’s quite beautiful out—you’ve picked a wonderful day to push for the Separation of Religion Act.”
“You’re a girl,” Vila muttered.
Eliza glanced down at her still-developing breasts, which were mostly concealed within her dress shirt. “That is a true fact, yes.”
“I mean, a human girl.”
“Of course I am.”
Vila turned off her telescreen. This girl was even more of a distraction than Arowden! “I wasn’t expecting you to be a human girl.”
“Ohhhhh,” Eliza bobbed her head slowly. Strands of her hair swayed with her. “You were expecting me to be a Trewanian or a Hennian—like yourself. I get it now.”
Vila went to sneer, but stopped herself.
“Is something wrong? Actually, don’t answer that. I just barged into your office and sat here without asking, so of course there is, but since I’m now sitting here and you’re obviously taking a break from your speech, can we do this interview?”
The word “no” wouldn’t escape her lips.
Eliza took Vila’s non-responsiveness as a ‘yes’ and began. She pointed to her portfolio and opened it. “So on the first page here is my resume. As you can see I am about to graduate from Haddenford Secondary School in Kalia two years before most of my peers. I’m looking to get into the Barencos Advisory Academy in a few months—and I’ll be sixteen by then so it’s the earliest that anyone can get in. My marks are all perfect, and below that is my list of job titles during my time with Representative Gerald’s campaign.”
Vila turned the page and saw the letter of recommendation written by the representative. She skimmed through it, making note of phrases like “incredibly bright” and “strong-willed” as she went on. She turned to the next page and saw another letter, this one from the Dean of Students at her old school in Larcos.
“Even though I’m a human, as you’ve cleverly pointed out, I am quite educated in the Hewenian ways of life. I’ve read the ‘Book of Gods’ in both of its original languages, and am fully educated about the origins behind the Well of Repentance, the nightly Ceremonial Circles, and I know much about your city-state’s brief, but impressive history. I can also name all of the monarchs that this city-state has had in the last hundred years both chronologically and alphabetically. Would you like me to—”
“No. No, that won’t be necessary. I believe you,” Vila said. She continued to scroll through the pages of Eliza’s portfolio. She found herself unable to not at least examine what this girl had accomplished. Only a particularly ballsy individual would ever storm a representative’s office in search of a job. Most would have sent Eliza on her way, but she got the inclination that the girl knew that she was doing the right thing by ignoring the rules. “I’m noticing that you have great grades and some valuable skill sets, but I’m not seeing too many extra-curricular activities. Why didn’t you partake in student government or other leadership classes?”
Eliza bit her lip. It was the first time since she’d barged in that she hesitated to speak. “Truthfully?”
“Well I wouldn’t want you to lie to me.”
“I don’t really get along well with most people.”
“How so?”
“I’m socially awkward.”
“Really?” It came out more sarcastically than she’d intended.
“I don’t really like what most kids my age like. Boys are troglodytes and sports are good for exercise but they don’t excite me. I’m not into games or make-up or dresses—my mother picked this outfit out for me. She picks out all of my nicer clothes. When I dress myself the gay baristas at the café by my house tell me that I hurt their eyes, which is disconcerting because now one of them is blind. I don’t care about fashion though. I like to read, I like to learn about government, and I love to watch videos of the senate when it’s in session. I’m a little grateful that the Monarchical Board meetings aren’t televised. If they were, I don’t think I’d get anything done!”
“So what do you do with your friends? Do you… have any friends?”
“I’ve had several friends!” Eliza protested.
“Had?”
“Yes—three! There’s Sally, but she hasn’t spoken to me since we were four. Then there was Tamika, but she found better friends. My last one was Aurelia, who was my best friend until last year when she called me a bitch.”
“Why did she say that?”
“Did you read the opening line to the letter of recommendation from the Dean of Students at my old school?”
Vila returned to the third page of the portfolio and read the first line of the letter Eliza referred to. “Eliza Bennihan is a very astute and driven individual.”
“He said that I am ‘astute’ and ‘driven’.”
“Yeah, so?”
“That means I’m a bitch.”
Vila closed the portfolio and placed all of her focus on Eliza. “That’s hardly a selling point for an internship interview.”
“In most cases, no, but I think that you’ll find them to be some of my more likeable qualities.”
“Being a bitch?”
“No, being astute and driven. You’re a pioneer in this city-state. At the age of twenty-seven you are not only one of the youngest representatives to ever get elected, but you did so successfully on a platform completely devoid of religion. That is unheard of in this city-state! I’m not saying that following the ‘Book of Gods’ is a bad thing. I’m simply stating by your essentially replacing the word ‘religion’ with ‘culture’ and—thus implying that you believe in a separation of church and state—was genius. Not even the conservatives or the fanatics made too much of a fuss about it.”
“Well, I’d like to think that I’m right,” Vila said with the traces of an unintentional smile. “Our forefathers created the city-state of Hewenia so that Hennians and Trewanians alike had a place to gather and celebrate our culture. There are a lot of commonalities in our respective religions that intertwine with our culture, but the two remain mutually exclusive. And I’m twenty-nine, by the way.”
“Yes, but you liked it when I said you looked twenty-seven.”
“You said that I was twenty-seven, not that I looked it.”
“But you do look it.”
“Oh. Well, thanks.”
Eliza smiled slyly and clasped her hands on Vila’s desk. “When I found out that I was being moved to Kalia, I instantly knew that I wanted to work as your intern. I find you to be a very fascinating individual and if my career path could emulate anyone’s, I would want it to be reminiscent of yours. You’re a strong woman; you’ve stuck to your guns and you remain unrelenting and unmatched. As your intern I would do my best to continue to keep you guided in that direction. I’m excellent as a speech writer and I’m proficient in social and global media. I’m also not afraid to ask you the hard-hitting questions that you’ll sometimes need to be asked.”
“You have more than up-sold yourself,” Vila said.
Eliza’s whole face lit up the way most girls would if the loves of their lives had just proposed to them. “That said, I respect you and hope that you will consider me as a candidate for internship. I can start tomorrow—or right now even. I can make my parents understand.”
Vila smiled, but the smile was short-lived. “Miss Bennihan—”
“Eliza.”
“Eliza,” Vila sighed. “I’m sorry, but this just isn’t a good time.”
Vila had never known what a person looked like while having their soul crushed until that moment. Eliza’s eyes welled up, but she knew that the girl was going to do her best not to cry. Even so, part of Vila wanted to cry for her.
“You’ll… You’ll like me,” Eliza said in a voice just a hint above a whisper. “I know you will.”
“It has nothing to do with that.”
“I know that I’ll stick out here, but that’s always been one of my strengths. Frankly, that’s been one of yours as well.”
Vila felt a kick. She clutched onto her stomach and saw Eliza’s eyes divert toward it. She removed her hands quickly and placed all four of her palms down on the table. “I’m sorry. You are a very convincing young woman, but soon I will be too busy to advise anyone.”
“You’re pregnant.”
“What? No!” Vila said all-too-quickly. “I’ve got a lot going on. And even if I did bring you on as an intern, you won’t get into the Barencos Advisory Academy. Good grades and two letters of recommendation from government officials won’t be nearly enough. You need in-school experience, and, not to offend your lineage, but over ninety-five percent of students accepted into that academy come from families that are respected world-wide, like the Xeras’, or the McKellas, or the Donnicks. If any of the Bennihan’s had ever been involved in a political sphere, you would’ve led with that.”
Eliza frowned, but understood. Vila was relieved. Hopefully the girl wouldn’t make that accusation again. Vila had managed to go nearly her full three month term without anyone noticing the very small bump over her stomach. She couldn’t let this fifteen-year-old kid blow her cover.
“Hey—look at me,” the representative said in the voice that she had practiced to use on her child one day. Eliza obeyed. “If you want your career path to emulate mine, you won’t let rejection get to you. I once had to work under a religious fanatic for university experience because no one else would have me. I had to write propaganda pamphlets and keep my opinions to myself for a year. Right now you strike me as the type of girl who could never do that, but—”
“Funny; you strike me as a woman who never did.”
Vila bit her lip. “A little bit of humility might do you some good, Eliza.”
“Look at me,” Eliza retorted while she, too, examined herself. Her confidence continued to wane. “Think about what I’ve just told you and everything that I’ve accomplished in just the last three years.”
“I can’t deny that it’s impressive—”
“Think about what my life must be like beyond that portfolio. Think about my peers or my family. The kids at school write me off as a freak and my mother so desperately wants me to be normal that she refuses to see everything that I am and can be. I know a thing or two about humility. I eat my lunch in the library surrounded by a scattered pile of open books. Then I silently have dinner across the table from my mother, who just stares at me and hopes that she’ll eventually find a conversation topic that will pique both of our interests. I took a huge risk by even coming here. If you send me on my way, I’ll be devastated.”
Vila reached for Eliza’s hands and held them with a firm, yet gentle grip. The suddenness of Vila’s actions caught her by surprise. Before she knew it, she was speaking in a much softer, more soothing voice than she’d used a long time. “You will leave here, and it will be devastating. That much is true. But if you are truly like me, you will find another way to get what you want. I am certain that, for you, the solution is out there. It might not be where you thought it would be, but you will prevail, and you will eventually get to where you want to go. I have no doubt of this.”
The girl remained silent, fixated on every word that Vila had said to her.
“Now, if you will, I have some work I must attend to, and you have another representative to start admiring. Good day, Eliza Bennihan.”
Eliza bit her lip, but respected Vila’s decision enough to not waste any more of her time. She withdrew from her seat and picked up her portfolio. “Good day, Representative Pirral. And good luck with that speech… and with your child.”
“I’m still not pregnant,” Vila said. She returned to her telescreen and purposefully kept her eyes away from Eliza.
She could feel it in her bones how much Eliza wanted to refute her, but the girl said nothing. Vila pretended to read her blank screen until Eliza finally gave up and left the room. When the door shut behind her she reached for the telecom in her pocket. No, she couldn’t look at Arowden’s message again. She had a speech to prepare and a political career to continue.


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