Monday, January 16, 2017

Momento Mori

      Her bewildered chuckle echoed in the dark. The brilliance of the bright green flash imprinted her vision with slowly fading hazel halos. Wherever she’d landed was chilly and dank like Mercury’s Cavern in the Iphigenia underground; she stood weaving in the pitch black. The absolute silence and lack of air movement unsettled her. Without moving her feet, she repeatedly clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth as she slowly moved her head from right to left. Putting her left hand out before taking a step forward, she quickly found the nearest wall. This would be so much easier, if I had some light, as the thought popped into her mind twin beams of red and green slowly grew from out of Mercury’s Bracelet. Refraining her giggles, she thought, if Ms. Darin had told me, I never would have believed. I love this stupid bracelet. She raised her left forearm and pointed the lights at the wall in front of her. Somehow she wasn’t surprised that it was just a wall. She swept the area with soft lights emanating off her bracelet. When her glowing wrist passed across the ground five feet to her right, she stopped and stared at the myriad red and green sparkles that illuminated the ground like rave glitter under a black light. What is that? she asked herself as she bent down to inspect the shimmering ground. “Glass?” the word escaped her mouth on the exhale. Once again standing, she returned her hand to the wall, but instantly removed it. Somehow, in the few feet she’d walked the wall had changed from cold and solid stone to cold and solid wood. A door, she hoped. Ignoring the glass covered ground, she used the lights to examine the wall. Though she couldn’t perceive the texture difference in the dual beams, she did see the very obvious division of wall, jamb, and door. She exhaled in relief when she found the doorknob. Where there’s a door and a wall, there should be…ah ha! clicking the light switch, she heard the low hum of an overhead light heating up.
     When she turned around, she quickly shoved her right fist into her mouth and bit down in a feeble effort to stop the scream from escaping. The blood drained from her face. Stepping back to the wall for support, she closed her eyes to allow the wave of nausea to pass through her. For a moment her body boiled and all thoughts ceased with a darkness that shrouded her ability to think. No. No. No. Her first conscious thoughts were the denial borne of one terrified by things outside their control. Her second thought came as swiftly as the scream, not here. Not here. Not here. Quite unable to move off the wall, she clung to it while she slowly lifted her eyelids. Blinking in the bright overhead lighting, she shoved her whole body against the wall, and then wildly felt around behind her. When she grasped the doorknob, she exhaled, get me out! Yanking the door into the glass caused the pieces to tinkle. The slight sound drew her attention down to the crimson covered shards of what had once been an observation mirror. Not only did Cassie know these rooms (for there were two, once separated by that mirror) and why the glass was broken, she recognized that the crimson splattered everywhere was her father’s dying blood. She didn’t look where she was headed as she rushed out of the room and slammed the door closed.
     While she stood staring at the doorjamb, her breath came in panicked gasps. Her left hand was practically glued to the knob. Tears streamed down her face. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping to stop the flow. Why? Why? Why? She rocked back and forth, one part of her desperate to run, the rest of her incapable of movement. Standing there holding the doorknob to her father’s murder chamber, she heard his voice as plainly as the night before his murder.
     “Don’t be afraid of what I’m about to tell you, Cassie,” Kaiser Rudolpho had said.
     His voice came to her so clearly that she momentarily forgot herself as she repeated the words she’d said to him that night, “I’m not afraid, my liege.”
     “Do not call me that,” he had ordered.
     “But, sire. What else should I call my king?”
     “Father is what I called mine,” he had responded with a slight chuckle. And so he did again.
     “Father?” she asked him once again. Her grip on reality faltering though her eyes were still tightly closed and her hand still clinging to the door she’d just shut. “I have no father, my liege.”
     “None that you’ve met, child. That was for your safety. I wish…” he had been unable to finish the sentence.
     “How?” she couldn’t help but respond in the exact same manner as before, theirs was a conversation that she’d played over and over in the couple weeks since his disclosures and death.
     “Well, that’s not really an appropriate conversation…let’s leave it at sex and a long wait,” his deeply amused laughter had been contagious.
     “Ew!” she had originally responded in laughter, but this time she repeated in tears.
     His response had not changed; his full roaring laughter drew her eyes open. The only illumination came from the jeweled eyes of the dragon and phoenix on Mercury’s Bracelet. “You say that now,” he laughed some more, the jewels flashing in time.
     “Now? Forever!” she declared with far less enthusiasm than she’d had originally.
     “We’ll discuss that again, when the time comes,” he mused. “Right now, we’ve got a far more important task ahead of us.”
     “We do?” her voice trembled as her memory played itself out.
     “Have you ever used a focus?” he had asked.
     “No, sire,” she answered.
     “Father,” he’d replied, before explaining, “a focus is any device that can be used to direct your thoughts.”
     “Oh,” she had said and subsequently said again.
     “You said you can’t control your ability to teleport. A focus can help you. And, right now, your ability to teleport is paramount to ensuring the survival of the kingdom.”
     “But, I’m just a messenger,” she had moaned, but this time she answered timidly.
     “You are so much more,” he had replied, before his warm hand landed on her shoulder and squeezed. She could almost feel the heat of his hand and the pressure change in his grip. Just as the voice had started without warning, so too, did it stop. The alternating flashes of red and green light turned into solid crimson and jade beams that reflected off the door and down the underground hallway toward the stairwell leading up to the Heart of the Seven Faeries.
     For the first time since witnessing his head explode, she knew where she was, and what she needed to do. He had already told her everything she needed to know. Releasing the doorknob, the nausea abated. With her left wrist raised and the light of Mercury’s Bracelet showing her the way, she moved through the underground until she found the secret passage that led into the lounge area where they had watched the justices through the peephole under the gavel. If the Oathbreaker had known that they’d hidden his books here, the Kaiser might have lived long enough to be tortured for the information. Once she was fully in the lounge, she closed the entryway and flipped the light switch. It looks the same, the instant the thought came, she chased it away with, “stupid girl! Of course it does. No one’s been here since…” She quickly scanned the room, before fully entering it. The couches, tables, and chairs were just as they had left them. “Which means…” she crossed the room to an old chest in the far corner.
     It took all her strength to move the monstrous wooden box. Once it was out of her way, she pushed one foot onto the edge of the stone tile. The opposite edge swiveled up and she grabbed it in an awkward maneuver that nearly caused her to lose her balance. If not for using her hard head against the wall she very well might have lost her fingers to the stone tile. As it was, she stood precariously balanced on one foot with a hand holding the upturned stone, her head and other hand against the wall, and her other foot pinned in place by the stone. “This was so much easier when the Kaiser was here,” she huffed. No sooner were the words out of her mouth, than the pangs of loss slapped her in the heart.      
     She managed to flick the safety pin in place, and then stepped back from the hiding spot. Tears continued to stream down her face as she reached a hand into the hole and pulled out a tattered leather-bound journal. After removing three more of the aged diaries, she pulled out the last which was practically new. Taking the stack to the table, she dropped the aged notebooks down, moved the chair over and plopped into it. “Well, let’s see what’s so important…” she muttered to herself as she randomly opened the newest journal and read:
[17th year of the false griffin, Rudolpho Imler, 2 Nones O’Iulius, 17:23]
The monks have finished securing the passages and building my church. They hung my portrait. It looks terrible. I can’t believe they used the same one I had replaced in the Antigone. I knew I should have had the damn thing burned. 
Rold has infiltrated the Danians and Typhon knows the true depths of despair. Ha! Brothers or not, I never should have told them about the relics. As the card players say, “better to keep an Ace in the Hole.” Regardless, Rold is out turning over rocks because Typhon is convinced that whosoever controls the relics controls the Poterits. Let us hope that these many years have not been a waste. If we keep to the plan, the Poterits will once again be Unified. But, if Typhon goes nuts looking for a magical upper-hand, father will have to handle him. Nothing can jeopardize the mission.
Chief Justice Fraunx Adonis
She stared at the page, reading the words over and over. “‘False griffin’…” shaking her head she muttered, “if only you had seen the truth.” Tapping Adonis’ name with her index finger, “you didn’t believe. You fool. Kaiser Imler—my father—was as real as the griffin gets.” Closing the journal, she leaned back in the chair, her eyes locked on the pile of tattered diaries, “what other secrets do you hold?” After turning to the first page of the newest book, she leaned over the table and began the laborious task of reading Adonis’ chicken scratch.

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