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First pages

Chapter One

Trystan

They’re going to kill me.

The snap of his shoes against the teak floors of The Scales beat in time with Trystan’s rapid fire heartbeat as he raced down the hall. He was as disappointed in himself as his mother surely would be when she heard of his tardiness. Instead of spending the past weeks preparing for the trial, he’d spent the past days in a boozed stupor at the insistence of some of his more disreputable acquaintances.

However, he bore the brunt of the blame for his poor choices. With more weighing on his mind these days than, perhaps, ever in his life, Trystan had taken the path of least resistance. Today he’d have to suffer the consequences.

Massaging his temples to clear it of the throbbing fog of a hangover, he sighed in relief as he reached the door to the courtroom. The Silvers moved in shifting patterns around him, one team of guards handing him off to another. Trystan rarely did anything significant enough to require the presence of the Royal Guard, which one of his ancestors had thought it clever to designate as ‘Silvers’. It was needless to say this was a day of significant note for Trystan.

“All rise for Prince Trystan Sterling!” One of the guards called out, and the gathered assemblage rose to their feet, a wall to wall audience filling the cavernous gallery of the High Tribunal. Twelve onyx columns stood loftily at the periphery of the space supporting the relatively simple stonework of the high, arched ceiling. Rows of mahogany benches line the aisle which stretched from the door to the large desk at the center-front of the room.

Collecting himself, straightening his back and lifting his chin, Trystan marched as regally as he could manage down the aisle toward the podium as he’d seen his father and mother do before. This was, however, his first time attending court proceeding as a Regent Administer. Queen Amelia had insisted in the most explicit of terms that he attend in her place and under no circumstances was he to shirk this responsibility. Unwilling to risk worsening her grave state, Trystan obliged her dutifully.

Last night did very little to assuage his concerns over his qualifications to Administer for these proceedings, though that wasn’t necessarily a concern one brought up over drinks. The last time his mother had put her faith in him he’d failed, dismally, and he’d done rather little since to make it up to her. Swallowing his own doubts, Trystan put his trust in the Queen, certain she wouldn’t set him up to look the fool before the entire Kingdom.

Taking his seat upon the platform situated to the left of the center desk, Trystan swallowed a lump in his throat and took a deep calming breath to settle the spinning in the room. From the corner of his eye, he resisted passing a glance at a shockingly young Celestial in attendance. He was uniquely featured, with thick, curly black hair and brown skin, though his eyes alone struck Trystan most profoundly, a shade of amethyst so bright they were nearly luminous.

The great majority of the Celestials he’d met were older than his parents even, doddering scholars draped in their white robes and filled to the brim with whatever terrible knowledge they knew of the future. This Celestial, however, couldn’t have been older than Trystan himself, if not a year or two younger, his robes even cinched at the waist with a belt of silver in a modern fashion.

His attention promptly shifted as the doors to the rear of the chamber opened and the Wardens of the High Tribunal marched in single file line, taking their seat behind the desk at the center of the room and regarding Trystan in what he took to be muted disdain.

“Be seated.” Marion Fillanes, the Warden of Order and current Administrator for the Tribunal, directed the assemblage, and they obliged. “We shall begin by thanking Third Prince Trystan Sterling for attending these proceedings in his mother’s place, though her presence, as ever, shall be sorely missed.”

Third Prince. The mention of his full title felt like a jab, though he knew it wasn’t one. The Queen had specifically insisted that Trystan attend, though he strongly suspected his elder siblings would have derided such duties. Trystan forced a smile, feeling those darker thoughts he’d been trying to drown with drink creep to the forefront of his mind. It was small fortune that these matters had taken months to process through the lesser courts to the High Tribunal, allowing his mother to space out her attendance and mask her swiftly deteriorating state of health. This was the first instance in which she’d been completely unable to attend, currently bedridden on orders from her physicians, though her health remained Tavylon’s best kept secret.

“We call this court to order in the case of Raphael Asef.” Baldur Pallas, the Warden of Coin, spoke. “We shall now hear the final statements from the prosecutor in the presence of the Third Prince of Tavylon and a Celestial to preserve truth. We shall begin with a statement from the prosecution.”

The Tributan stood up and brushed his suit off, the shining silver running along the length of his lapel flashing in the morning light streaming in through the floor to ceiling glass walls.

Again, Trystan was struck with a wave of nausea that he only just managed to keep down. Working actively to focus on the proceedings, Trystan felt divided between his concerns for his mother’s health while struggling against his own self-doubts.

“Wardens of the Tribunal,” The Tributan began smoothly, clearing his throat. “Over the past months, we have presented a staggering amount of raw evidence of the crimes of Raphael Asef. His damning presence at the scene of the grisly murder of the Coda family, Micha, Yara, and their children Garet and Eli.”

The statement drew Trystan’s focus and, for the first-time, he observed the accused. Raphael Asef was shackled to the table, the runes on his restraints burning brightly. The sight of him caught Trystan off guard. Trystan couldn’t have said precisely what he expected, but one tends to build a certain mental image when one hears about a gruesome murderer. To say that this man defied all his expectations would be a gross understatement.

Trystan observed the man in earnest, prizing apart every detail of him for any sign of the monster that the Tributan had described. Raphael Asef couldn’t have possibly looked more common, a simple side swept haircut, sharp, intelligent eyes, and a slight, lean frame. Asef had to be less than a decade older than Trystan to be sure. He could have easily been one of Trystan’s many associates from the Institute.

“Since Raphael Asef’s apprehension, the Centurions investigating his case have been able to link him to no less than ten similar crimes, violent acts perpetrated against unwitting families. The only similarities between them being that they’re Jinn. This man targeted groups of unwitting Jinn mages, followed them to their homes, and performed unspeakable acts of violence upon them, all the while not betraying a hint of remorse, just as he has throughout these proceedings.”

His curiosity finally piqued, Trystan wondered, not for the first time, just what his mother’s interest in this case was.

Finnegan

Try as he might, Finn couldn’t manage to completely focus his attention away from the events unfolding in the court, still nursing a fair amount of irritation at being ordered to attend to these matters at the last minute. He was only in Aminean, Tavylon’s capital, to acquire a few rare scrolls from the Royal Library. Elias’ call had come through just as he’d located a librarian and Finn had briefly considered ignoring the communication before finally accepting.

________________________

Balancing the Ansmir on his palm, the oblong occluded sheet of glass no larger than his hand, its image filled with misty light that coalesced into the image of his mentor.

“I need you to go to the Scales and sit in as a Veranteni in Dorothea’s stead.” Elias’ voice was tinged with a note of urgency Finn found unsettling. Elias Pine wasn’t a man given to theatrics.

“Where is Dorothea?” Finn asked, incensed.

“She is with the Queen,” Elias answered.

“Elias, please! Don’t do this to me. I put in for this time for research months ago!” Finn pressed him. “There must be another Celestial in Aminean at the moment who can attend.”

“None who are qualified to sit as a Veranteni.” Elias responded flatly and Finn knew it to be true, cursing himself. Finn had made a name for himself being exceptional, and this was hardly the first time it had come back to bite him.

“What do I need to know?” Finn asked, backing out of the aisle and casting his gaze down it longingly as he tucked the scrolls he’d already acquired under his arm, picking up his pace.

________________________

Due to the proximity of the library to The Scales, Finn arrived a full half-hour before the trial began and had plenty of time to devise a method of subverting this abysmal sentence of his.

As the courts Veranteni, Finn would maintain the matrix of magic bound to a set of enormous brass scales hanging perilously overhead that only himself and the Wardens were capable of viewing. He spent around fifteen minutes layering charm upon enchantment and, when he was satisfied, he turned his attention to one of the scrolls he’d brought along. Finn felt contented that the magic would do its work and he could carry on undisturbed, rising mechanically without lifting his gaze from the page, when the Third Prince entered.

Finn knew scarcely little of the affairs in Aminean, though even he had heard gossip about Tavylon’s ‘Derelict Prince’. Trystan did little to fit the mental image he’d built of the man, his golden hair swept out of his face professionally, wearing a well tailored suit that displayed a lean form. His opaline eyes were shockingly observant, sweeping the room repeatedly as the Wardens entered and the court came to order.

Finn’s presence fortunately required scarcely little beyond the knowledge that he was there. This granted him free reign to focus on the precious texts he’d brought along. However, as the prosecution rested and the defense began their statements, Finn found it increasingly difficult to not pay attention.

“Wardens of the High Tribunal,” Asef’s Tributan began, swallowing hard as he stood behind his desk. “My client stands unjustly accused of acts he is simply incapable of performing.”

Finn felt the falsehood tinge the air and, high overhead, the balance of the scales tipped imperceptibly in favor of the prosecution. While he and the Wardens alone could see the scales, he knew their judgment would weigh in heavily as the Wardens made their judgment. It was reckless of Asef’s attorney to indiscriminately lie. Finn had expected to track their attempts to sidestep the truth, which weight far lighter on the scales than straightforward lies.

Finn wondered, somewhere in the recesses of his mind, whether or not there was a calculation to this behavior. The Tributan knew well the risks to his case in openly lying, yet he pressed on undeterred. There was something deliberate in his wording, as though he was aiming purposefully to expose his client to further scrutiny. While Finn knew the law wouldn't allow the attorney to openly incriminate his client, this could serve as a method of sidestepping that restriction.

Unaware of the shift in balance, the Tributan carried on. “As we have vehemently argued, Raphael Asef has been framed by a corrupt Centura who has cobbled together several largely unconnected crimes to satisfy a cheap desire to close cases. They insist that these were hate crimes targeting Jinn mages, prejudice which is unthinkable to my client.”

This untruth earned an exasperated huff from the Celestial.

“Raphael Asef has no, I repeat, no, recollection of how he arrived at the Coda family home that evening, and very well may have entered a fugue state.”

Another lie.

“An innocent man stands before you accused of heinous crimes, and the prosecution has failed in their duty to provide irrefutable evidence of Raphael Asef’s guilt. He is a son, a nephew, and a friend to many, and you hold his fate in your hands.”

Incapable of going on dividing his attention, and, truthfully, intrigued at how blatantly the Tributan altered the truth, as though he was completely ignorant to Finn’s purpose for attending, Finn found himself turning his attention to the accused himself, biting his lip as his role demanded.

To the casual observer, Raphael Asef would be of little interest, he was utterly, and perhaps purposefully, inconspicuous. Unable to resist his own idle curiosity, Finn cast an evaluation enchantment over Asef. To Finn’s eyes the man was radiating a tremendous amount of energy, more, he reckoned, than anyone shackled with magic nullifying manacles should be capable of wielding.

Before today, Finn had never heard of Raphael Asef, though it was apparent upon arriving that this trial was something of a national affair. Celestials were reclusive by their very nature, the majority of their order sequestered away in the Temple far in the north. However, in just a brief hour, the proceedings had managed to demand Finn’s attention. Whoever Raphael Asef was, Finn reasoned, setting his scroll aside, there was far more to him than me the eye.

Arabelle

Arabelle’s day was hardly going according to plan. She’d been pulled from her shift guarding the King’s mother, the Former-Queen of Tavylon Margeaux Sterling, to join lead Queen Amelia’s escort party to The Scales. She only hoped her disappointment wasn’t obvious when, instead of the Queen, Prince Trystan came barreling around the corner.

Despite her disappointment at not guarding the Queen herself, Arabelle managed to focus herself on the task at hand, the tenet of The Program taking hold as she led the Prince and their party into the chamber.

Directive One: Know your environment as you know yourself.

The tenets of her training took hold of her active thoughts, thrice scanning the room as she escorted the Prince to his booth and returned to the rear of the court to cautiously observe the proceedings. Arabelle had visited this very court the preceding week when it was vacant in the early hours of the morning so she could know the space as intimately as possible. Still, there was only so much preparation she could do without personally vetting every potential attendee. The reporters standing to the right and left of the gallery watched with rapt attention, plainly ravenous for a resolution to this case which had held the nation’s attention for months now.

As the Prince settled into his podium, drunkenly, she suspected, Arabelle directed her team to fill the space with a gesture, doubling the guard at the doors and nearest to the Prince. From there, the trial began and Arabelle allowed herself to relax, if only a measure.

Directive Two: Assess all variables with an objective mind.

Flashing her gaze to the front of the room several times, she observed the Celestial whose interest in the case appeared to parallel her own in increasing measure, at last setting his reading material aside as his attention focused on the proceedings. Despite her best efforts, Arabelle found it impossible to shut out the unfolding facts of the case, one disturbing detail after another revealed by both the prosecution and then the defense. It was Asef’s own testimony, however, that drew it all into terrible focus for her.

“Before we render our verdict, we shall, at last, hear from the accused himself, Raphael Asef, please stand and plead your case before this court.” Hobart Drogas, the Warden of Conduct spoke.

While pacing up and down the aisle dividing the court, Arabelle found herself magnetically drawn forward, her hands folded behind her back though she remained inexplicably tensed. Something about these proceedings were intimately familiar to her, infuriatingly so.

Directive Three: Focus on the task at hand, distraction is the little death

The Tributan at his side whispered urgently in his client’s ear, though, if the man was moved by the words, Arabelle couldn’t see even the slightest reaction in him. Asef stood, the thick chain attached to the shackles binding his hands clinking against itself as he rose.

“Honored Wardens of the High Tribunal,” Asef began. His voice, gravelly and low, brought Arabelle resolutely to a halt, feeling an inexplicable shock and fear radiate throughout herself. “My Tributan has spent months now arguing my innocence as vehemently as the prosecution has attempted to prove my guilt. Thank you for the opportunity to finally speak for myself.”

There was something in his tone that twisted through Arabelle’s mind, like a serpent coiling as it prepared to strike. It was maddening, truly, to sense something so clearly and yet be entirely unable to name it, like it was on the tip of her tongue. Something about Raphael Asef was familiar to Arabelle, though it frightened and intrigued her in equal measure.

“I am guilty.” Asef spoke the words proudly and boldly, his attorney rising from his seat and attempting to speak over him to no avail. “I confess to reveling in the deaths of the impure vermin, and would again if given the opportunity.”

“Please, Wardens, I call for a mistrial. My client is in mental distress.” The Tributan pleaded.

“Silence!” Warden Fillanes ordered. “The accused shall be allowed to complete his testimony.”

Asef’s Tributan slowly lowered himself into his seat, his gaze locked on the man in some mix of fury and terror.

Arabelle retained the presence of mind to silently direct several more soldiers nearer to Asef as he spoke and, too, she noted as the Celestial rose from his seat, his robes shifting as he stood. Arabelle struggled against her own instincts to succumb to a cloying fear, relying instead on the resolute foundation of her training as she moved into position.

“The blood I’ve spilled is a tribute to the Morningstar who’s coming I herald.” Asef’s chains clinked as he spoke, though, standing behind him, Arabelle couldn’t make out what he was doing with his hands. “By the time you understand our purpose it’ll be too late for you or those you love. This kingdom, and this world, is lost to you.”

Directive Four: Be the shield and the sword

Arabelle heard it the moment the chains fell to the ground, melted through. Somehow Asef had managed to overcome the Limiter Manacles, and she felt the horror of that realization reach her just as he spread his arms, a dark spray of energy violently blasting both his Tributan and the desk away from him.

“Suffer my wrath, and know it is a kindness, for I spare you the terror of what comes next.” Asef spoke again, his voice now ringing in Arabelle’s ears.

Summoning a ward as she struck out, too, she watched, as the Celestial reacted with startling speed. The onlookers became a panicky mass, those gathered in attendance realizing what was occurring and racing desperately to escape the violent attacker. Before their eyes Asef transformed, his hands transforming into large, wretched claws and his pale skin turning grey.

Prynxio Nimfia,” The words left Arabelle’s lips with a blossoming flash of teal light on the air.

Without a word uttered, the Celestial, too, extended his hand, violet energy striking Asef jsut before Arabelle’s magic reached him. The man became a statue when the Celestial’s enchantment struck him, Arabelle’s ice charm soon taking hold, encasing his body in ice. It was the work of the Celestial, however, that put him to sleep, that burning rage Arabelle could see in his eyes as she stepped around the desk to face him extinguishing beneath the wash of orchid light as his eyes fell shut.

The cries of alarm in the crowd slowly died away, realizing the threat was neutralized, though Arabelle didn’t yet risk turning her focus. With a minute signal, Arabelle summoned five Silvers to her side, the guards surrounding the man, cautiously observing him for signs of activity.

At her command, the Silvers, too, surrounded the Prince. To his credit, Trystan attempted to claw his way around them to keep Asef in his sight, his eyes much clearer than when he’d arrived, filled with a purpose Arabelle could dare call regal.

“Honorable Wardens of the High Tribunal.” Prince Trystan spoke, his attention shifting from the subdued Raphael Asef to the three seated behind the desk, their formerly impassive visages now twisted in horror. “Though it isn’t my purpose here to pass judgment, I believe I speak for all in saying this man has just proven his guilt. What is your verdict?”

One by one the three Wardens turned to each other, nodding without speaking.

“Guilty.” Warden Fillanes spoke, the words filling the air as powerfully as any charm. A raucous applause went up from the gathered attendees, though Arabelle noted several didn’t get caught up in the manic swell of relief in the audience, including herself. She passed her gaze over the mysterious Celestial, thankful for his quick actions, and, to her surprise, she found the Prince passing his gaze between them, an indecipherable look in his eye.

Arabelle could sense a change plainly. People would go on after this day to speak of these events as though they were a conclusion. The reality, she suspected, couldn’t be further from the truth. They were just at the beginning of something impossibly larger than any of them could yet fathom.

Chapter Two

Finnegan

To say that Finn had become obsessed in the weeks following Raphael Asef’s trial would be a tremendous understatement. There was much about the events that occurred that day which Finn found beyond belief, though he narrowed his personal research to those lines of inquiry which he felt confident he could follow through to fruition.

What alarmed him above all was truly that the event had occurred at all. How could the Scribes have allowed something this major to slip by unnoticed? Finn liked to consider himself considerably more versed with the roles and duties of the Celestial Scribes, seeing as he’d spent a great deal of time contemplating joining their ranks. As he understood their purpose, the Scribes were charged with peering into the near and distant future to forecast what dangers loomed on the horizon for the Kingdom of Tavylon.

The Kingdom had relied on the foresight of the Scribes since its founding and, in that time, the Celestials had developed a certain reputation for isolation and secrecy. That which the Scribes foresaw was locked away in the Vault of Insight deep under the Hall of Scribes at the Celestial Temple. A delegation of Scribes worked closely with the Office of Security, sharing what they’d found in the Sight that was of note.

Though he’d heard no hint of any such questions yet being voiced, a fact which alarmed Finn nearly as much as the questions themselves, he insisted on having answers. As a resident Scholar at the Celestial Temple, Finn had earned himself a great deal of access. Though it had been well over a year since he’d been requested to sit in place of a Scribe one evening in the Vault, a fateful night resulting in a consequential vision which only served to make Finn a greater oddity within those walls.

Finn himself had, over the course of his time at the Temple, gained a reputation of sorts. His journey through Tavylon’s education system had been nothing short of a walkabout, a year spent studying at five of the six Academies in their nation before he committed to completing study at the Temple. Graduating early after following an accelerated course of study, Finn ultimately elected to become a Celestial Scholar, granting him the freedom to pursue his research largely unbothered save for the occasional class he was requested to teach and such instances as what occurred in Aminean with the trial.

While his colleagues would surely extol his praises if asked, Finn knew well how odd they found him. He could see it in their eyes as they passed him in the hall, and he did little to reconcile their opinions of him. The isolation was as challenging for him as often as it worked to his advantage. It was, however, a tremendous inconvenience when the Celestial Primary, the head of their order, avoided Finn’s insistence upon meeting in the hopes of discussing what he’d experienced in the court.

Fortunately, Finn had managed to earn the early admiration of the Temple’s Praetor, second-in-command to the Primary. Elias had taken Finn under his wing in his youth, stoking the fires of that curious flame in Finn that he often felt certain Elias now regretted. There was little nowadays that Finn would leave unanswered if he felt particularly motivated.

Despite a rather exhaustive search of the Vault, Finn found no mention of the attempted attack at The Scales. Finn’s attempts to discuss the occurrence with the Scribes he happened upon were dismally unsuccessful, the characteristically tight lipped Celestials hesitant to even broach the subject, requiring Finn to cautiously tailor his line of questioning.

Ultimately, however, Finn determined if he was to have any real answers, he’d have to find them for himself, as was so often the case. Surrendering in his search of the Vault, and light interrogation of the Scribes within it, he retired to his own office, willing to go to whatever ends were necessary for answers.

________________________

Finn stood on the grey stone short of an infinite, glittering lake beneath a bright, cloudless sky which, in the middle distance, blurred where it met the volume of water. It was a scene of tranquility exemplified, devoid of even the potential of distraction by its very design. It was, of course, entirely an illusion, a Celestial visualization technique to access the Sight, yet Finn still found some comfort in it.

The specific details of the environment in which one visualized the Sight were arbitrary. Finn could recall being told almost every Celestial saw it differently. The water of his mental pond lapped at the shore and Finn cast his gaze out over the surf, passing over the glints of light in the waves below that called out for his attention. He forced himself out to the furthest reaches of his Sight, into the misty span and took stock of what he found.

Shedding the Sight, Finn opened his physical eyes, seated on the cushion in the center of the meditation chamber attached to his office. Try as he might, he found it impossible to calm his thundering heart, the gravity of what he’d witnessed settling over him.

There was a blockage in the Sight, one that was looming in the near future for Tavylon. Asef’s prophecy, words that repeated in Finn’s mind both day and night since that morning, now held greater weight than ever before.

…blessed oblivion is marching toward you and none alive may halt its progression.

Finn feared, with ever mounting apprehension, that perhaps Asef’s words were meant as an earnest warning, that Tavylon’s systems of defense had failed and, most frighteningly of all, an uncertain future loomed on the horizon.

Arabelle

At times, especially after a particularly wretched and sleepless night, Arabelle found it just shy of impossible to drag herself out of bed in the morning. There were moments when she could almost feel the specters of her past in the room, the weight of their presence, even though she knew them to be mere memories, was substantive enough to make her sheets feel like cement blocks, pinning her against her mattress.

Arabelle had faced such a morning before her shift today, repeating a mantra, sometimes at a whisper and others at full volume, and each utterance the heavy clouds of anxiety hanging overhead soon began to dissipate.

Returned to her post at Aedenus Manor, Arabelle had the early shift guarding the Former-Queen of Tavylon who, she found, was particularly reticent this morning. Under normal circumstances, Former-Queen Margeaux would greet Arabelle with a riotous tale of some lowborn servant or another who’d abysmally disappointed her in one way or another.

Today, however, Margeaux nodded to acknowledge her arrival, turning back in her seat toward the window which she stared out pensively. Arabelle knew well the legends of the Former-Queen and her particular talents, and felt certain that the woman, regardless of her age, truly required no guard presence. Though, Arabelle presumed, this wasn’t necessarily something a woman of Margeaux’s stature would find advantageous to brag about. The Altus were so insistent on one of their own not being so low as to actually use magic.

It took Arabelle weeks to begin enjoying this assignment, something that still baffled many her contemporaries. For countless Silvers preceding her, the assignment to stand guard for the Former-Queen was a revolving door, with few lasting more than weeks at a time, either callously dismissed by the woman herself or buckling under the pressure of her critical attention.

Arabelle had, early on, learned the trick to surviving Margeaux, and, in return, she believed she’d earned a begrudging respect from the woman.

In the contemplative silence that held between herself and the Former-Queen, Arabelle found her mind drifting, as it often did, back to that day at The Scales. It didn’t help that she was only days away from a full debriefing of the event which would take place at the Citadel.

Her actions had been lauded universally by her team that day, and later by the Commander himself who patted himself on the back for having the good sense to select her for duty that day. Arabelle insisted that it was a team effort when, in fact, without that Celestial’s quick thinking, it would have likely been a much bloodier fight.

It was Asef’s words, however, that truly consumed Arabelle’s waking thoughts. The manner in which he spoke, the pattern of his behavior, all of the details of his case down to the victims he’d selected, all of it was maddeningly familiar to Arabelle, though she couldn’t manage to put her finger on why that was.

“Safe travels, my dear.” The Former-Queen’s voice broke through Arabelle’s revere, though the woman didn’t turn to regard her. Arabelle was confused by the statement for but a moment before the door to the Former-Queen’s study creaked open and Arabelle’s relief entered. The hours of her shift had slipped by unnoticed.

Arabelle bid the Former-Queen a muted farewell and departed the Southern Wing of the Manor. Try as she might, she still couldn’t manage to clear her mind of the myriad of questions consuming her mind following that one day. It was fortunate for her that she had an appointment for the day already planned.

Approaching the Telepad, Arabelle observed the raised platform, the black Intent Charmed Chromius frame holding up a fifty-two-square foot block of some material Arabelle suspected was likely non-native to this world and was, instead, entirely manufactured by the Alchemics themselves. That was, of course, their greatest gift to the Kingdom, their brilliant minds. It was a shame they were so often misunderstood.

Finding it clear, Arabelle stepped onto the platform and focused, speaking the wisp aloud while focusing on the image of her destination. “Talportis.” It wasn’t a wisp that needed to be spoken aloud, but it felt good to hear her own voice on the damp afternoon air after hours of only hearing it inside her own head. In a flash of tangerine light, a human-sized window filled with fractals of light appeared hovering in the air before, in the blink of an eye, it consumed her whole.

________________________

Marching toward the door with a grim determination, Arabelle cast her gaze about several times before, finally, shedding the camouflage wisp she’d used on her trek across the city.

“Still worried about being followed, I see.” Lily’s soothing voice spoke from behind Arabelle, startling her. Turning in place, Arabelle faced her therapist. The Psiomage was dressed, as always, in white, her platinum hair almost indistinguishable from the white, tailored suit Lily wore. The cold blue of her lipstick matched the icy color of her eyes and Arabelle passed an apologetic smile at her.

Turning on a heel, Lily lead Arabelle into her office, indicating for her to take a seat on her large, grey sofa. Lily settled into a white chair across from the sofa, her elbows resting against the chair’s long, silver arms. She waited for Arabelle to get comfortable.

It wasn’t necessarily that Arabelle was ashamed of seeking counselling, she knew well the benefits she’d reaped from her time Lily over the past years. There was, however, a terribly negative stigma against Psiomages, and, by proxy, those willing to seek their services, in Arabelle’s profession, and she knew that it wouldn’t take much to call her qualifications into question.

“You look well.” Lily spoke.

“I feel great, thanks.” Arabelle responded, struggling with how to broach the subject she wanted to discuss.

“You’re still having the dreams.” Lily intuited her frustration, and Arabelle nodded, sighing aloud.

“It’s infuriating.” She shook her head. “It’s like a memory, but not one I can remember. Does that make any sense?”

“Given your background, it makes plenty of sense.” Lily responded delicately, making a reference Arabelle often had to face during these sessions no matter how shameful she found it. “You suffered a great trauma, these feelings of indignity you’re experiencing… you must begin to let it go.

“You lost everyone you loved, as brutally and suddenly as is possible, at the age of fifteen and made a regrettable decision that our work serves to treat. You can be forgiven for making a poor decision in that state, darling. Few would do better than you did. Healing doesn’t mean running from the bad decisions of our past, it often means facing them and seeing them for what they are, under the sterilizing light of the sun. You’ll find they’re much less frightening given the right perspective.”

Arabelle nodded, knowing Lily’s words to be true, yet still unable to fully reconcile the truth of them yet.

“So, shall we?” Lily inquired gently.

Arabelle laid back on the sofa, resting her head against the arm and closing her eyes. As Lily so often put it, she was on a journey, one with an unknown destination, to be sure, but one she was traveling headfirst with her eyes open. Arabelle Hale’s days of running were far behind her.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I’m a graduate of the Art Institute of Phoenix. I’ve self-published four books including, a science-fiction titled The Prometheus Tree, a fantasy titled The Chaos Cascade, and a young adult titled The Midas Project which I completed when I was seventeen.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
It was imperative for me to infuse Riddles of the Regent with a fictionalized allegory to the very real difficulties which are rampant today. The characters face challenges which readers of virtually every background can relate to: prejudice, discrimination, depression, and loss.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
Despite its fantastical framing, this novel tells a very human story of a valiant fight against dark forces from within and without and how there is hope beyond the fog of fear and the unknown.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
It was very difficult for me to rein myself in and prevent myself from dumping tons of allegory and metaphorical representation into every small action or interaction. Finishing this novel in 2017 made it incredibly important for me to narrow my focus to those issues I felt were of paramount import.

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