THE ELYSIAN CHRONICLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS
Prologue Part 1
. Maurice wiped the Treetop Inn’s bar for what felt like the fiftieth time that day. The lacquered counter already sparkled, but Maurice preferred wiping to gazing across the quiet tavern full of empty tables and booths that should have been full of large parties of happy, boisterous patrons talking or playing jalonga. The usual twinkle in Maurice’s brown eyes had dimmed, and the smile that used to greet all of his customers—even his least favorite—had disappeared. Maurice figured his smile would stay in hiding for quite some time.
. A drop of sweat trickled down Maurice’s cheek and into the folds of skin between his chin and neck. He glanced across his tavern again and shook his head. Even though the sweltering weather kept him from lighting fires in the fireplaces, his Treetop Inn still felt cold. He filled two mugs of honeywine and flew them to two textile merchants, who were talking quietly at a booth. He forced a smile. “How are you fellas doin’ this fine day?”
. “I’ll be better once the senate votes in favor of a king tomorrow and the people start buying cloth again,” muttered one of the merchants. He raised his mug to Maurice and took a gulp of honeywine. The other merchant raised his mug in agreement.
. Maurice hid his frown. Scandal after scandal had characterized the late prime minister’s term, souring the Elysian people on the democratic process. Most of the senators were now urging a vote to eliminate the office of the Prime Minister and reinstate a monarchy, which they believed would help Elysia win the Tri-Millennial War against the mornachts. Although Maurice understood the Senate’s logic, he disagreed with their timing, and he especially disagreed with the Senate’s choice for king. “People will start buying again,” Maurice said. “With or without a king. It’ll just take time.”
. “Ah, but it will take less time if we’ve got a king, and my family needs food,” said the first merchant.
. “No argument there,” muttered Maurice. He wished otherwise. “Now, you two don’t hesitate to call me if you need anything.” Maurice returned to the bar, grabbed his rag, and began furiously wiping the tables.
. The Treetop’s door swung open and shut, and Maurice felt a brief chill flow into the tavern. A tall cherubian dressed in white robes and a white cloak flew inside. The stranger kept the cloak’s hood pulled over his head, hiding everything but his nose and graying goatee. He flew to the bar and crossed his arms.
. “Good day, stranger,” Maurice said. He strained to catch a peek at the stranger’s eyes but saw only a shadow. “I assume you’ll be wanting a place to stay tonight.”
. “I need no room.” The stranger’s voice rang clear and strong. Stronger than most cherubians nowadays, thought Maurice. The stranger reached inside his cloak and pulled a scroll out of his robes. “Seraph Davian will be arriving in less than half an hour.” He handed the scroll to Maurice. “Give him this.”
. Maurice frowned, caring little for the visitor’s curt tone, and wondered how this stranger knew Davian’s comings and goings. “If you’re that sure he’s coming, you might as well wait for him.”
. “I’m short on time.” The stranger turned to leave. “Make sure Davian gets that scroll.”
. “What’s your name so I can tell the seraph who this scroll came from?”
. The stranger looked over his shoulder at Maurice, and Maurice finally caught a glimpse of his eyes—bright blue eyes with pupils that resembled a multi-pointed star instead of a circle. “My name is of no consequence. Tell him that the message on the scroll is from Cassadern.”
. Maurice raised his eyebrows. “Cassadern? That doesn’t sound like a cherubian name.”
. “It isn’t. And I have a message for you, Maurice. You will see Davian’s face again after today. When you do, do not hesitate to give him what he asks.” With that the stranger spun around and flew out of the Treetop, leaving Maurice staring at him openmouthed as the door swung back and forth.
. The summer sun’s rays bounced off the crystal Palace of Ezzer that sat atop the trees in the center of the city, illuminating the charred trunks and branches burned during a fire that had occurred during the Third Battle for the City of Ezzer only three months earlier. Posh, upper-class cherubian shoppers, politicians, and businessmen dressed in their finest shimmering robes talked and laughed with each other, but their eyes betrayed fear, possibly of Elysia’s future economic welfare.
. The talking continued until a clean-shaven cherubian with short, brown hair who wore a black breastplate and a silver kilt barged out of the palace’s gates. His sea-green eyes flashed with anger, and his lips snarled, accentuating the scar on his chin. A four-pointed seraph star dotted the tip of the cherubian’s helmet, and a ring of white metal on the fifth finger of his right hand flashed in the sunlight. As he flew, Elysian citizens on the streets stopped and stared. Women blushed. Children watched with wide eyes. Men tipped their hats, and soldiers tipped their helmets as he passed. The seraph nodded back, silently wishing he could fly the streets of the City of Ezzer in somewhat anonymity the way he could before the Third Battle.
. “Are you all right, Seraph Davian?” asked a herald, who sat next to a blond boy in a light-green robe.
. Davian took a deep breath and forced himself to smile. “I’m just fine today, young man.”
. The blond boy whispered something to the herald.
“Ask him, not me,” said the herald. The boy shook his head and turned red. The herald sighed and turned to Davian. “My brother wants to know why you aren’t wearing any of your medals.” The boy hid his head behind the herald’s back.
. Davian knelt on one knee and looked around the herald so he could see the boy’s eyes. “I don’t wear my medals because I don’t like them clinking against my breastplate, letting the mornachts know I’m coming.”
. The boy nodded and took a deep breath. “Did you really kill all of those mornachts during the Third Battle?”
. “Of course he did,” said the herald. “Seraph Davian saved the City of Ezzer.”
. Davian shifted his weight. He hated discussing the Third Battle, and he especially hated people referring to him saving the city. “The army of Elysia saved the city, lads.” He patted the young boy on the head. “Lots to do today. No time to rest.” He continued flying, trying to avoid eye contact with anyone else.
. A breeze blew through the city, temporarily cooling it off and making the blackened trees sway. Davian hated the trees; they reminded him of how his best friend, Eric, had formed a conspiracy of soldiers and tried to take over Elysia’s government. Eric and his soldiers joined forces with the mornachts, Elysia’s enemies, and attacked the City of Ezzer. They assassinated most of the senators and military officers. Eric himself slaughtered the Prime Minister, High Seraph Octirius, and Arch-Seraph Zephor, Davian’s close friend and mentor.
. At least it doesn’t smell like smoke anymore, Davian thought to himself. Finally, three months after the Third Battle, the smell of damp soil after the morning rain had replaced the smell of burnt wood. Pale green leaves—leaves that usually showed themselves in early spring—also started poking their way through the blackened branches, making the city look as though it was covered in green mist. Only one tree in the City of Ezzer, the tallest and oldest tree, had retained its large, pre-battle leaves. The Treetop Inn, a tavern made of wood darkened with age and stained glass windows that had warped over time, lay nestled in the top of that tree, and Davian headed directly for it.
To Be Continued in M. B. Weston’s Out of the Shadows: Book II of the Elysian Chronicles....
For more information on my novel, A Prophecy Forgotten: Book I of the Elysian Chronicles, and my upcoming novel, Out of the Shadows: Book II of the Elysian Chronicles, check out my website at http://www.elysianchronicles.com/.