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:
Chapter 1.1: Koston
Chapter 1.2: Vila
To purchase the full book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VUGO0SQ
That said, enjoy!
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.
“Riles!” Wessena shouted toward the top of the stairs. “Riles, get down here!”
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.
“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.”
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.