Monday, July 02, 2007

Out of the Shadows: Prologue Part 2

M. B. Weston
Prologue Part 2

Davian burst through the carved wooden door, barely noticing its creak as it swung back and forth. Usually, the Treetop’s wood-paneled walls made him feel cozy and comfortable, but not today—especially since he smelled the sterile aroma of soap instead of food. He flew to the bar and hopped on a perching stool, ignoring the two merchants who strained their necks to peek at the Treetop’s newest patron. Davian glanced at Maurice, who muttered to himself as he wiped the far edge of the bar’s counter. “How many times are you going to clean this counter, Maurice?”

“’Till after tomorrow’s vote.” Maurice looked up from his wiping, startled. “Um…. You don’t usually come around this early, Seraph.”

“No, I don’t. But that’s not why you’re surprised to see me, is it?”

Maurice sighed. “No foolin’ you, now is there?” He reached under the counter and pulled out a scroll. “A cherubian came in here about fifteen minutes ago and said you’d be in. He said to give you this.”

Davian’s brow wrinkled as he took the scroll. “That’s strange. I didn’t tell anyone I was coming here. What was his name?”

“He wouldn’t give me his name. Said the message on the scroll was from someone named Cassadern.”

Davian’s heartbeat quickened, and his face turned hot. Cassadern was a seer—a unicorn who could see the future. Davian had met him, just before the Third Battle, but he had not seen the unicorn since.

“You look worried, Seraph. If this Cassadern and his loony messenger come in again, I can make sure they won’t bother you.”

Davian shook his head and pocketed the scroll, intending to read it later. “No need for that. Cassadern is just an old friend.” Davian took off his helmet and set it on the bar. “So how’s business?”

“Good, but I don’t think that’s so good.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, sir, cherubians used to come to this tavern to enjoy a good time with their friends. Now it’s just a watering hole they flock to so they can drown out that scandal you’ve been uncovering.” Maurice sighed. “Elysia may have rebuilt this city, but its residents still need repair. Your usual?”

Davian nodded.

Maurice grabbed a mug and filled it with Davian’s favorite lager—a dark brew with a splash of amber. He set the mug of honeywine in front of Davian. “You look like you could use more than one of these.”

“I could.” Davian frowned. “And maybe good many more.” He sipped the honeywine and smiled as he savored the lager’s sweet, smooth tingle. Once he set the mug down, his frown returned.

Maurice eyed Davian and yelled, “Harley!”

A skinny, freckle-faced cherubian adolescent boy with brown hair flew out of the honeywine cellar. “Yes, sir?”

Maurice pointed to the two merchants. “Go check up on those customers while I entertain the seraph here.”

Davian nodded at the boy, and Harley immediately looked at the floor. Maurice rolled his eyes. “It’s just the good Major in a seraph’s uniform, Harley. Same cherubian who used to help you switch the labels on my honeywine barrels as a joke. Now go help those customers.” Harley flew to the merchants, and Maurice turned to Davian. “Bet’cha didn’t know I knew you did that, did you?”

“I didn’t, but I’m not surprised.” Davian sighed. “Majors can have more fun than seraphs. It will only get worse after tomorrow.”

Maurice eyed Davian’s frown. “The idea of a king doesn’t thrill you, does it?”

Davian shook his head. “The senate’s proposal gives too much power to one cherubian—more than even Ezzer had. The Runes tell us we will have a king again, but I still don’t like it.”

“I think you and I are the only ones who still believe the Runes, Seraph.” Davian’s frown deepened, and Maurice raised his eyebrows. “So you think the senate’s motion for a king will pass?”

“Your guess is as good as mine, Maurice.”

“Ah, but I trust your perceptions better than—”

“You should know better than to trust my perceptions by now. All the senators who would have voted against a king were killed because of my misplaced perceptions. Because I chose to trust him.” Him was Eric, the name Davian refused to let escape his lips.

A splash of cold liquid hit Davian’s thigh, and plates, mugs, and silverware crashed against the floor. Davian turned and saw Harley standing next to the bar holding an empty tray, staring at the broken honeywine mugs and plates, looking as though he wanted to throw up. “I’m sorry, sir.”

Maurice crossed his arms. “What do you think you’re doin’? You should pay more attention, and—and you even spilt honeywine on the good seraph, here!”

Davian placed his hand on Maurice’s arm. “It’s all right, Maurice.” He hopped off the perching stool and helped Harley pick up the mess.

“It, it wasn’t your fault, Seraph,” Harley whispered.

“Now don’t you go troubling the seraph,” said Maurice. “He knows he had nothing to do with you droppin’ this. He’s just helpin’ you because that’s who he is.”

“I, I mean, the Third Battle,” said Harley as Davian placed the last shard of ceramic on the tray. “It wasn’t your….” Harley’s voice trailed off. He picked up the tray and scampered into the honeywine cellar.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into him,” said Maurice as he watched Harley shut the door. “Been shaky ever since the Third Battle.” Maurice turned back to Davian. “He’s right, though. It wasn’t your fault. You trusted your friend. No crime in that. Sometimes, the people we’re closest to can fool us the best. Eric had all of us fooled—not just you. And you just remember that the rest of us are still alive because of you. I’ve heard that at least a third of the Senate—possibly more even—are trying to name you king instead of—”

“I’m no king, Maurice.”

“Well you’d make a better one than—”

Davian held up his hand. “A few senators already mentioned it to me, and I told them the same thing. I don’t want the crown. I belong in battle. Not wasting away on a throne.” Davian rubbed the seraph’s star on his helmet. He frowned and turned the helmet around so the star faced away from him. “And I certainly don’t belong inside the palace researching a battle I should never have let happen.” Davian had spent every available minute of the past three months investigating Eric’s conspiracy, all while the mornachts were taking advantage of Elysia’s weakened forces in the south. I should be fighting mornachts instead of us. Davian took another swig, set his mug down, and sighed.

Maurice grabbed Davian’s mug and refilled it. “Well, let me tell you, there’s a lot of folks around here, myself included, who don’t exactly feel safe knowing that you’re here while all the lieutenants Salla promoted to seraphs are out there organizing the fighting. Bad use of resources if you ask me.” He set the mug in front of Davian. “You should ask High Seraph Salla to let you go back to battle. Especially since the two of you are finally getting along.”

Davian lifted an eyebrow and took a quick sip of honeywine. He and Salla were the only high-ranking officers who survived the Third Battle. Salla became high seraph over all of Elysia’s military, and he promoted Davian to arch-seraph. The two of them had vowed to work together for the good of the nation, but those peaceful days only lasted six weeks.

“Oh. So that’s what’s bothering you,” said Maurice. “Things are back to normal again between you and Salla.”

Is it that obvious? Davian thought as he took another gulp of honeywine. Indeed, he had stormed into the Treetop just after Salla informed him that his patience with Davian’s investigation had worn thin and warned Davian that he would assign him to another project if he failed to turn up any new evidence. That prompted Davian to let a few of his feelings escape, and the two had engaged in their most bitter argument ever. Davian set the honeywine mug down and wiped his mouth. “You have the best honeywine in all Elysia, my friend.”

Maurice laughed. “And you still don’t lie as well as the Tree did.”

“No one could hide his feelings as well as Zephor.” Davian hopped off the perching stool and grabbed his helmet. He glanced at the seraph’s star and frowned again. “The only thing that keeps me from going crazy as I rot away in that palace is my promise to Zephor on his grave that I would track down his killers.”

“Oh, that you’re doin’, sir. The magistrate’s just letting them go on petty loopholes—and don’t you go thinking that the rest of the country hasn’t noticed. We have. I’m hearin’ people talkin’ about it daily. It frustrates us just as much as it frustrates you.” Maurice sighed. “I guess that’s one of the reasons the rest of them are clamoring for a king. They just want the politics to stop.”

Davian donned his helmet. “Politics never stop Maurice.” Only Davian knew that Salla was actually the force holding the magistrate at bay. Davian suspected Salla hesitated to file charges against the powerful senators, officers, and businessmen on Davian’s list of traitors. “Just keep the honeywine flowing, Maurice. And if you’ll excuse me, I have a policy meeting I have to attend.”

Davian flew out the tavern door and stood in the shade of the Treetop’s porch. He reached in his pocket and fingered the parchment scroll from Cassadern, wondering why the unicorn would choose to send him a written message through a cherubian. He pulled the scroll out and opened it. The time we talked about is almost at hand. Do not give up your faith or your hope. The message sent chills down Davian’s wings. The Runes’ Book of Prophecy foretold of an evil cherubian dictator who would rise to power and enslave Elysia. Davian leaned against the balcony as the exact words from the Runes ran through his head. During a third battle for the crown city, there shall be a great tragedy. The public will cry for change, but the one who answers it will not be the one the people thought. “The great tragedy was the death of our leaders,” Davian whispered. “And the public is crying for change.” He groaned. How could I have missed it? Just before the Third Battle, Cassadern had even told Davian that the dictator would soon arise. But how soon? wondered Davian. And who is he?

“Um, excuse me, uh, Seraph?”

Davian turned around and saw Harley looking his feet. “What can I do for you, young man?”

Harley wrung his hands. “Are you still investigating that… the Third Battle, sir?”

Davian gave Harley his full attention. “I’m still investigating.”

Harley glanced back and forth. His hands started to shake, and his voice fell to a whisper. “I need to speak with you, sir. Now.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Please.”

To Be Continued in M. B. Weston’s Out of the Shadows: Book II of the Elysian Chronicles

Click here to read the more of the prologue & first chapter:

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