Colin leaned back in his chair as the men stood at the other end of the massive oak table between them. The men were at least twenty years his senior, both in three-piece suits with their matching fedora hats hanging on the copper coat rack by the door. Both men had an air of eagerness to them, neither able to contain themselves enough to even take a seat.
“My Kongur,” the man in the gray suit addressed Colin with respect in his gritty Zecroybian accent. “If the rumors are true, we may have a chance to test our theories about the Transcendent bloodline. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The second man in a dark blue suit nodded in agreeance with his foreign partner. “He is correct, my Kongur. There have been no clear indications that other Transcendents survive. We may have one living in this very city, and a female of breeding age! This could be a huge opportunity for the Order. You could help create a truly superior race of superhumans!” The man’s eyes went wide at the thought, almost giddy.
Colin knew this was a big deal to the Arcane Order and the scientists loyal to them. The war had taken a massive toll on his kind. It had also resulted in the extinction of many powerful creatures. Creatures that man has feared and hunted for centuries. While the world around them tried to destroy his kind and anything with any power greater than man, the Order sought to preserve the mystical world.
Intelligent creatures like dragons, nagas, harpies, amarok, wargs, and the like had been killed off completely by the end of the war; the Arcane Order did what they could to preserve the magic and bloodlines of the world’s most powerful beasts. The point was to enhance the world of men, and now with only a few vials of blood, old witches, and ancient books, they were able to at least use their knowledge to win the war by creating magically enhanced serums to make the Transcendents stronger.
Transcendents had been the great hope of the Arcane Order. The perfect line of humans born with magic in their blood. Colin had gladly volunteered to be the first to join the enhancement trials in his hometown in Zecroybia for the Transcendents fighting to preserve and perfect the mystic world. He always counted himself fortunate to have lived to see the last dragon fly in the clouds.
He always felt the magical pull between him and the creatures he tried to preserve. While some smaller beasts still survived, they were all inferior to the creatures with the power of magic running through their veins. Just as Transcendents were superior to man.
He pondered the thought of rebuilding his kind. Not only rebuilding the line of the Transcendents, but perhaps creating a stronger bloodline of Transcendents.
Transcendents were so rare, it was unheard of that two should meet and have children to carry on the line of magic. Especially when they spent a millennia hiding from mankind, who would kill them if caught. Now, with the help of the Arcane Order, the Transcendents may finally have their rightful place in the world.
Colin leaned forward, placing his elbows on the fine oak desk, clasping his hands together in a relaxed fashion. “What else can you tell me about this woman?” He asked in his own light gritty accent.
The man in the gray suit cleared his throat. “Our informants tell us she had made a name for herself in the most impoverished parts of the city. She has a kind of… following.” The man waves his plump hands to emphasize the word. “She is loved by the people. She seems to have the ability to manipulate minds somehow.”
The man in the dark blue suit waved away his companion’s theory. “More informants state that she has some way to heal broken minds. I put more stock in the word of the majority in this case.”
The man in the gray suit seemed too reddened in frustration; his jowls shook as he spoke. “Because they are your people.” The man grumbled accusingly. “What a cockeyed theory,”
“Enough,” Colin snapped, his ice-blue eyes bearing down on the men. “I want facts… not the wishes of old fools.”
Both men bowed nervously in apology. “Forgive us, my Kongur. We forgot ourselves.” The man in the gray suit pleaded.
Colin sighed and stood, pushing the heavy chair back with ease. “I suppose I will simply have to see this mysterious woman for myself.”
The two men bowed respectfully again, mumbling “Yes, my Kongur,” before taking their hats and hastily leaving him alone in his study to ponder.
Colin rubbed his mouth for a moment. While the Arcane Order had plenty of informants within the city, he preferred to rely on the men he personally chose to do his own investigating. Not that he did not trust the Arcane Order’s men; he just trusted his own more. Colin reached out to the ivory telephone at the corner of his desk and lifted the receiver.
After a deep sigh, a voice answered over the line. “My Kongur?” The woman asked politely.
“Vivian, send Martin in.” Without a response, he gently set the receiver down and walked to the window. He had a glorious view over the city and a fair glimpse of the sea beyond.
For a moment he glanced at his own reflection, a lean man with thick golden hair and eyes so pale they almost looked like silver coins. His skin was a rich tan, which made his eyes even the more striking. He had a comely heart-shaped face and sharp features. His off-white dress shirt was opened at the collar, his black suspenders holding up the black slacks. Colin began to roll up his sleeves and admire the strength of his arms.
As Colin enjoyed the view, a middle-aged man dressed in dark military-grade clothing walked in. His dark hair cut short showed clear signs of a widow’s peak. Amber eyes remained ever watchful of his surroundings, despite being in this room many times before. He stood three feet from the large desk, clasping his hands behind his back and keeping his chin high as he waited for Colin to acknowledge him.
Colin had known Martin Altair from the war. Martin was one of the young men who followed the Arcane Orders Transcendent team into battle across the sea. Colin came to trust the man, even considering him a friend and confidant.
Colin turned and gave his friend a winning smile. Martin gave his friend a smirk and relaxed slightly. Colin waved for his friend to take a seat. “I have a job for you.”
Martin sat down heavily and allowed himself to relax into the soft chair. “Great. So what can I help you with today?” Martin laced his question with a sarcastic tone.
Colin opened a drawer at his desk and pulled out two whisky glasses and a crystal bottle with the tantalizing caramel liquid swirling inside. Colin poured and looked at his friend. “Are you so busy? You can’t possibly be too busy for a drink?” Colin teased as he held the drink up.
Martin chuckled. “What can I do for you?” He reached out and took the glass in his hand before leaning back into the plush seat.
“Word is there’s another Transcendent in the city. A woman. I’d like you to find her location.” Colin took a small sip, letting the light-bodied liquid linger on his tongue.
Martin held the drink in his hand as he crossed his ankle over his knee. “I’m sure I can find ‘er pretty quick.”
Colin smiled at his friend. “Perfect. Report as soon as you located the woman. And if you’re able, find out her talent. I’m anticipating something big.”
Dana sat under the tattered red and white umbrella, the warped wood of the table carved with symbols, names, and curses, mostly against the Arcane Order. She ran her fingertips over the rough and weatherworn wood, finding a familiar carving into the wood, “Emmie and Dana were here.” The words had been carved in only three years back when Dana had met Amelia Orrin.
Papa Joe sent her to buy fresh halibut from the docks at the other end of town. While Joe knew Dana had a fear of the sea, he would often encourage her to face her fears, usually by giving her a task she would not refuse. As she would go about her tasks, she would take her time getting to the shoreline, struggling with the anxiety the sounds of the waves, the smell of the salt and fish, and the cries of gulls and sea wyverns would stir in her.
Her mother’s death had left her with a deep fear of the sea, especially of dying at sea. The feeling of being abandoned into the black abyss of nothingness and endless possibilities was more than her heart could fathom. She could clearly see the feminine form carelessly thrown over the edge of the bow and seeing the pale shape being enveloped by the murky sea.
She would never have a place to visit her mother, no stone to bring flowers to. She had not even been able to take anything from her mother’s belongings. The crew had thrown everything overboard, claiming the sickness could have been traveling with them from their homeland of SvalvÍk. Nothing could be saved. She could remember the sweet face of her mother and her dark curling hair. Her eyes were like the rich green mountainsides of SvalvÍk.
The form of a small, feathered wyvern the size of a cat halted her as it let out a dreary honk of disapproval. Its bat-like body was covered in dark green and blue waterproof feathers, its face, neck, and tale resembling the ancestral dragons it was long descended from. It stood and stretched out its leathery wings as it prepared to defend its hidden treasure.
Dana felt a heaviness in her stomach as she watched the creature, something sat just hidden behind its body. Dana moved closer to the creature, trying to make soothing coos to calm the scavenger. The wyvern let out a rattling hiss and leaped forward a foot, challenging Dana.
Dana took hold of her long wine red skirt and began to flap it at the wyvern, startling the dragon-kin and causing it to take flight. As it let out another dreary honk, Dana saw a small tan bag with its contents spilled around the ground.
Dana crept forward, seeing a few scattered items. A dress and several family photos, along with a gold chain with a round locket of tarnished gold. Dana knelt down and examined the photos. A black and white family portrait, a crumpled wedding photo going brown around the edges, and a photo of a farmhouse in the center of a massive lush field. She picked them up and put them onto her lap before reaching for the locket. It was a beautiful piece of jewelry. Lovingly and artistically carved on the face was a flower with winding and sweeping vines dancing around the petals. Silvery leaves placed like stars in the night.
Dana used a nail to pry the locket open. The pictures inside were of a man and woman. She looked at the pictures in her lap and saw they were the same as the couple in the old wedding photo. She glanced at the photo of the large family and saw they were likely the parents of most, if not all, eight children in the photo along with an elderly couple and another older man.
Holding the locket and touching the pictures gave her a feeling of security, love, and wholeness. She could almost smell the fresh air of the farmland. A melody of laughter echoed in her mind as she put the photos into her dress pocket.
As she stood, a wave of pain and sorrow hit her, nearly knocking her back to the ground. Dana gasped and clutched her chest as she stumbled, clenching her jaw tight and squeezing her eyes tight, fighting back the tears and the anguish of hopelessness.
Turning herself toward the boardwalk, she saw the outline of a young woman standing at the edge of the railing, looking down into the water and rocks below. Her filthy cream-colored dress blew in the breeze, her feet were bare and blackened with filth. Her curly black hair a wave of tangles.
Dana let out a soft gasp and the girl turned and looked over at Dana. Her face was lovely; she was a milky-skinned girl with light filth on her cheeks, revealing the lines of cleansing tears running down her gaunt face. Her eyes made Dana gasp for a second time in wonder. Her eyes were a brilliant gold with a bright ring of green around the iris that gave the girl an exotic beauty.
Feeling the girl’s intense pain, Dana stumbled forward in her thin leather slippers. “Wait. Please, just wait.” Dana pleaded softly.
The girl stood much taller compared to Dana by at least five inches. She looked down at the strange girl approaching her and sniffed. “I don’t want to wait anymore. I want my family.” The girl spoke with a thick accent, a smooth and lightly nasally accent that only added to the girl’s strange beauty.
Dana moved forward and walked to the railing beside the girl. She glanced over the edge with much effort, feeling nauseated as she looked down at the rocks and water below. “Are you from across the sea, too?”
The girl looked at Dana for a long moment. Examining the small girl with her long dirty blonde hair tied into a loose braid. Eyes like the night sky nervously scanning the sea as though a beast might spring from the waves. The girl, while young was forming a woman’s hourglass figure with long legs for her size. Her pale skin kissed with freckles on her oval face and her cheeks reddened by the sea breeze. She shifted her gaze back to the sea before nodding.
Dana nodded and sniffed. “You lost your family, too?”
The girl’s dark hair fell in her face as she nodded again. “An orphan of war and pestilence. We were forced to flee, and the flux did its bloody work.”
The two stood side by side facing the sea in mutual silence, the heavy weight of sorrow resting upon Dana’s shoulders, forcing her body to curl forward. “I understand… The urge to give up. It’s hard to keep going.” Dana looked at the dark-haired girl at her side. “I was there, once. Until someone found me. They didn’t have to stop, they could have kept walking, like everyone else. But he stopped, and his kindness saved me.”
The dark-haired girl sniffed. “I don’t know why I’m here. Why did I live, and they didn’t?”
Dana shrugged, shaking her head. “I’d don’t know. Maybe the reason is to just keep going, in their memory.”
The girl began to silently weep. As the tears rolled down her face, she felt a small hand take hers and she looked down. She bit her lip to keep from making a sound. She looked at the small girl and saw that she, too, was crying silently.
Dana gave her hand a squeeze and smiled bravely. “You don’t have to be alone anymore.”
The girl let out a hiccup and smiled. “You don’t even know me.”
“No, but I know your pain.”
The girl looked at Dana for a long moment, taking in her words. Part of her wanted to scream at Dana. How could a stranger know her pain? However, she could not bring herself to push the girl away, because part of her knew that this girl was telling her truth. As tears rolled down her face, she croaked softly, “Emmie… My name is Emmie.”
Dana smiled over at Emmie and threw herself at the girl, throwing her arms tight in a warm embrace. Emmie stood shocked at the reaction. Dana pressed her cheek hard into Emmie’s shoulder and stayed still. Slowly, Emmie allowed herself to wrap her arms around Dana. The warmth of her affection was too much to bear and she fell to her knees, taking Dana with her.
Despite the pain in her knobby knees, Dana held tight and shared tears with Emmie.
Dana raised her finger from the carved wood when she could hear the click of heels on the wood. She turned and smiled at her friend. “So did they print the story?”
Amelia smiled as she strut over to the bench and sat herself down. She was always clad in the best dresses. She wore a black pencil skirt with a flowy light yellow blouse, yellow and black heels to match, and a black sun hat. Her hair was curled and her bright red lipstick made her smile shine even brighter.
Dana admired her beauty and grace. She turned heads wherever she went, and when she spoke, everyone listened. She was a powerful woman. With her strong spirit and loyal nature. Even her sheer stubbornness was an absolute virtue.
Amelia scoffed. “Craven bastards won’t print what I wanted to say. ‘You cannot challenge the Order. They will burn the Post to the ground if we print this.'” She curled her lip in disgust.
Amelia Orrin had grown with an intense hate towards the Arcane Order, as many people did. For so many, the rise of the Order was the end of so many lives. Awica had become a very different country according to many elders, and not for the better.
Amelia had a way with words, and she used her gift and became an investigative reporter. Her goal was to use everything she could find to bring down the Arcane Order. She even joined the same underground rebellion Joseph and Ed had joined years back. However, Amelia felt the little rebellion was nothing more than old men talking out the corners of their mouth. For her, nothing was actually being done, so she did what she could. She would investigate; she would record her findings, and try to get the Post to print her work. Of course, the Post was not willing to risk lives over a story, and so Amelia’s real writing was shared with their fellow rebels.
Dana ran her fingers over the carved words in the wood bench again. “I understand your frustration, but you can’t expect people to just risk their lives.”
Amelia rolled her eyes. “Bullshit. Not a thing will change unless people are willing to risk everything for change.”
Dana pondered the thought for a moment. “You’re a braver woman than even most men. But I don’t think I could ask others to risk themselves if they aren’t willing to do so.”
Amelia scoffed. “I’m not forcing anyone to lay down and die for me.”
“I know, but would you ask Joseph to risk his wife and baby Elroy? Papa Joe’s home?”
Amelia looked hurt. “Of course not, but someone has to fight. How else can we change anything?”
Dana shrugged, unsure how to answer.
Dana glanced around at the people going about their day. It was a lovely day to shop at the docks. The smell of the sea and fish was potent and, for some, alluring. Dana turned her head and glanced at the small food stand at her back where she could see Ed Dillard frying up a batch of flayed halibut as a young couple waited for their food.
Ed had bought the food stand less than a year back and had been doing exceptionally well. He stayed busy most days, his fried fish and chips being a favorite for the locals. At the end of the day, Ed would make the remainder of his catch and serve what he could not sell to the local strays he had known from his days on the streets. In a small way, this was how he would give back. Dana waved back at Ed who looked up from his work and smiled over at the girls at the table.
Dana turned back to Amelia. “I know you want to change things, but risking your life can’t be the only option, Emmie.”
Amelia sighed and fiddled with her blouse buttons. “Ever the optimist. But I fear peace will never bring about change.”
Dana nodded, her eyes downcast. Before she could reply, she felt a strange energy tickling the back of her mind.
Dana looked up. She looked at Amelia first, who was looking out to the street, her already pale face growing white, and her eyes wide with fear. Dana felt a wave of terror, disgust, and apprehension roll up her spine and into her head like a trickle of icy water. She shivered and turned to look at what Amelia and many others had turned to look at.
A black two-door limousine had stopped at the side of the road. The driver and the passenger in the front both opened their doors and stepped out. Both men wore black three-piece suits with fedoras and aviator sunglasses. The driver walked to the passenger side while the man from the front stood at his door, waiting with his hands clasped in front of him. The driver stood at the back tire and opened the door outward towards himself. From the back stepped three men. One of the men matched the two from the front of the car in his dark attire.
The second man wore an olive green military suit. His amber eyes glittered as the sun hit his face. He squinted at the light and placed a matching olive green military hat on his thinning dark hair. He had an array of colorful stripes sewn to the right breast of the jacket.
The third man wore a dark gray three-piece suit with a blood-red tie and a gold clip holding it in place. His eyes were a startling pale blue, almost a silvery color in the bright light of day. His skin was a rich tan color and his hair a dark golden blonde. His face was strikingly handsome with his sharp features. He adjusted the cuffs of his gray jacket and flashed a brilliant smile.
As Dana stared at the strange men, she heard a hiss come from Amelia. Dana looked at her friend as she struggled to hide her contempt for the strangers. “What the hell is he doing here?” Amelia asked no one.
Dana looked confused. “Who are they?”
Amelia never took her eyes off the men as she spoke. “Colin Devlin. The Order’s appointed Kongur of Awica. They call him the Earthshatter.”
Dana had heard the stories of the royal Transcendent who was the Arcane Order’s war hero. He was one of the Transcendents who won the war. She had heard dark tales of the man and his works, but had never seen him. She never pictured the man to be so striking.
Dana felt a ping of panic for Amelia’s safety, until one of the men handed Colin Devlin a small box and a single red rose. The action was so absurd that it made Dana chuckle.
Amelia glanced at Dana, looking at her as though she had taken off her head like a hat. Dana shrunk into herself, flushing with color. Before she could respond, she turned to see the men walking in their direction.
From behind her, she could hear Ed call out to them in a concerned tone. “Girls?” Dana turned to see Ed watching the men approach with a filleting knife in his hand. Dana could sense the anxiety all around her, making her feel ill.
She looked back to Amelia who had her jaw clenched, her knuckles white as she clenched her fists tight. She kept her eyes on the men approaching like an animal watching a predator approach. Dana shivered and turned her gaze to the man who stood before her, his hands behind his back as he leaned down and smiled at Dana with a charming grin.
“Hello my dear, you must be Dana Massie.” Colin bent his knees and knelt beside Dana as she sat frozen on the bench. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you.” He spoke in a light Zecroybian accent.
Dana gaped at the man for a moment before remembering to speak. “Uh, yes.” She spoke quietly. While the man was handsome, she felt a strange hollowness to him, as if something was missing within him. She could not decide if it frightened her, or intrigued her.
Colin gave her a knowing smile. “You’re SvalvÍkien.”
Colin took the rose and box from behind his back and held them at his knees as he supported his weight on the balls of his feet. “SvalvÍk is a beautiful country. I had the pleasure of seeing the mountains before returning to Awica.”
Dana forced a smile and nodded again.
Colin lifted the vibrant red rose to Dana. “My name is Colin. I live up there.” He gestured with his head towards the massive mansion in the distance placed on a hill overlooking the city of Wellingstone. It looked more like a castle to Dana, with its towers and high walls surrounding it. It was like something out of a fairytale.
Dana hesitantly took the long-stemmed rose from Colin and examined its flawless beauty.
Colin grinned as he watched Dana bring the rose to her nose and inhale deeply. “You’re like me, a Transcendent. You heal people, don’t you?”
Dana blushed. “I suppose you can say that. I help people when their minds are broken.”
“That’s a very special gift you have. I’ve never met anyone like you.”
Dana set the rose into her lap and fiddled with the fabric of her dress. “I’ve never met anyone like you, either.”
Colin looked at her thoughtfully. “It’s nice to meet someone of your own kind. It gets lonely. You know?”
Dana looked at the rose in her lap. “I…I do.”
Colin looked more closely at the worn dress Dana wore. The fraying fabric and mending stitches showed how the dress was likely handed down from another. “Do you like pretty dresses?”
Dana nodded, smiling shyly.
“I know some people who could make you the most beautiful dresses.”
Dana fiddled with the fabric, tugging at it nervously.
Colin looked at her closely. “Such a beautiful girl. You deserve a life beyond all this. I want to give you that life, if you would let me.”
Dana’s eyes went wide. “W-what do you mean?”
Colin looked at his hands as he held the box. “I want to save our race, and I need a Drottning to rule at my side. What I’m asking…” Colin paused and looked up, fixing his silvery-blue eyes on Dana’s dark sapphire eyes. “I want you to be my wife, to help rebuild our people. I want to give you the life you deserve.”
Dana nearly fell backward, her hands flying to her chest. “You want me to marry you?”
Colin smiled warmly, nodding. “I do, I’ve searched for so long for someone like us, and here you were in the muck waiting to be found.”
Dana’s hands shook slightly. “I… I don’t know…”
Colin put his hand on hers and gave her a gentle squeeze. “Think about it first. Take your time. If you agree to marry me, come to the gate, and I will welcome you home.” Colin placed the box in her lap brought her hand to his lips, kissing the back of her hand with soft lips.
As he stood, he brushed her cheek with his fingers lightly and flashed a charming smile. Colin turned and walked back towards the car with his men in toe.
Dana blinked, feeling a warmth in her. As she looked around, she saw Amelia standing and staring at Dana in shock, the people around them stood in silence and gazed at her curiously. Dana felt the box in her lap and looked down.
“What the hell is that?” Amelia asked, leaning onto the table to look.
Dana put her hands over the simple box and carefully lifted the lid. Inside were several small round brown shapes, some with colorful flowers and other shapes painted on them with creamy frosting. “It’s chocolate.”