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Follow My Feet

Follow My Feet


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Jaden’s eyes were open again, she shook her head a little, took a deep breath, and then looked down at him, narrowed her eyes a little. “Jace,” she tried again. And then mustering all she had yelled. “Jace!”

​When she did his eyes flashed open and in one motion and then flashed through every color of the rainbow. Without wasting any time he sat up, grabbed her hips and picked up her off the stool. She didn’t resist him, draping her arms around his neck as he charged all the way back to the wide indoor ledge of the windowsill and sat her on top of it. He had one hand grabbing her thigh, pushing up the loose sky blue cloth of her dress, nearly all the way up to the top of her thigh showing nearly her full leg, the foot of which the only part of her touching the floor.

​Jaden’s eyes, throughout the commotion, never left Jace’s as he pushed her back.

Suddenly the door kicked open, slamming into the wall and knocking vases all about, all of them crashing the floor.
While Jaden, her world feeling like it was in slow motion, blinked in the space of what felt like an eternity and looked over to Thean, Jace never moved. He just opened his eyes slowly as she looked back to him and made eye contact. And they stayed in that position, as it was impossible to know how he stopped himself so quickly, he had halted just inches from her face, and when his eyes opened, they were staring at her her lips, and then slowly they rose up to meet her amethyst eyes.

She was breathing in deep but steady breaths, a look of concern all the way up until the point when his eyes met hers and he smiled, and she did too, her eyes opening a little wider, wrinkling her nose as if answering a challenge.

Jace heard what sounded like a thousand echoes coming from a million directions chanting ‘ace, ace, ace’ pouring in on him and then focused, and time seemed to catch up to them with a focused “Jace!” And Thean was standing next to him. He was standing straight up, looking at himself in the reflection of the window, seeing the reflection of a young Artemus Ward looking back at him. It was the mirror in his tent and that was the reflection at first. Then the mirror in the carriage with the smoky metal from Relic’s vision on the wagon.

“Outrider Dabriel!” Thean yelled again, and then sleepishly he looked over to him.

“Out! Now!” he yelled furious.

Jace looked over to her in the window sill, and she was sitting there looking at him, not having moved, perspiration still on both of them. He took a step over, picked up his shirt, glanced back to the reflecton, it was him again. Then he hesitated, looked at Thean as if he didn’t know why he was standing there for a minute, looked at him with almost complete disregard, and then looked back at Jaden. She still hadn’t moved, but looked to be recovering. She nodded a few quick times, and without another word Jace picked up his shirt and left.

Thean turned around to watch him all the way out, and when he got to the doorway he stopped, slid his arms into the sleees of his shirt, and peaked back in as he buttoned them back up.

“Go, boy!”

Slowly, confusedly, Jace continued down the stairs.

When he was gone, Thean turned back on Jaden like a cobra.

“Are you out of your god damn mind?” Jaden started drinking some water, looking out the window, her hand on her hip as she drank a whole glass and sighed. “What the hell are you thinking?”

“Please. You knew what I was going to do.”

“I had hoped I was wrong. I gave you the benefit of the doubt and that’s a mistake I won’t make again. These little meetings of yours? They end. Today.”

“Not your decision to make,” she said simply.

“The hell it isn’t!” he growled, stopping and turning around.

“He doesn’t belong to anyone. He’s not a possession.”

“That’s right. He’s not a possession. Say that over again a few times to yourself.” When she didn’t immediately respond, he yelled: “You initiated a trance!”

“He needed a break.”

“He isn’t ready, Jaden! He’s just a kid!”

She smiled and cocked her head to the side.

“So were the four of you when I met you. And besides” she said, half-turning to the door and motioning. “When it comes to that one, that’s up for debate.”

Thean charged her and walked up to her and grabbed her wrist, took the glass out of her hand and put it on the ledge, and she barely resisted, like a child being disciplined and still being a brat and then he made her look at herself in the reflection and as she stared there.

“You wanna end up trapped in Mirror Lake like your daughter? Hm? We no longer have the resources to launch a rescue. We lose you we lose everything.”

“Is that all Cedwyn was to you? A resource? Is that all Jace is to you now?”

Thean had the look of one about to burst forward in another eruption of anger, but he managed to restrain himself at the last moment and took a deep breath.”

“These meetings of yours are over,” he said again, reiterating the point to her reflection as if that image may still be open to sense.

Then he took his hands off her, turned around, and started toward the doorway.

“Or what?” she asked. And Thean stopped, the look on his face of infuriated impatience that his outriders had seen countless times before. “You’ll torture me? Like you’re going to torture my daughter?” He stared a little longer, and then Thean’s expression softened. “I mean you brought her up. Just another resource, isn’t that right?”

Thean narrowed his eyes and a ripple of tension twitched from his body, like guitar strings relaxed but still taught. “No one is going to hurt Hazel, and you know that.”

“Do I?” now she was asking her own reflection. She looked over to Thean who was still looking at her. “And why is that?”

“Because you’re not crazy.” Thean looked at her a little longer, turned and started to the door. When he was almost at the doorway he stopped again, and Jaden’s head looked up a little, for the first tiem looking like she hadn’t been expecting him to stop. “And because I will personally gut any son of a bitch who goes near her without my permission.”

A silent exchange seemed to pass between them, a meaningful silence that seemed to ease some tension from the air.

“He’s been through so much.”

“He can take it.”

“Do you know that? I mean, do you really now that, Fenlow?”



“Because I’ve spent every waking moment since he was sent to me making sure. And because Donovan himself would come back and murder me in my sleep if I didn’t,” he said with the hardness returning. Then proceeded to move to the top of the stairs that were right outside her door.

“If you care about him that much, you should tell him,” she said. “Before it’s too late.”

“He isn’t Artemus, Jaden,” Thean said at last, stepped out the door and grabbed the handle on the otherside. “Gabriel, Cleo, Relic, and Isabelle just arrived. And Gabriel has news about Aleister.” He let that news hang in the air for a moment. Then some of the tension eased out of his shoulders. “Sorry about the vases,” he added, and closed it. Jaden, looking at her reflection, sighed and slowly leaned her head against the window, letting herself relax.

Aleister’s making a run at Leverette. There’s a lot to talk about.

With that girl Malcom saved you with. A senator now.

This material is the beginning of Chapter 13:

Talking to Kerrick -
Jace: Hey Alarick. Where’d you really get that horn that night? You didn’t really get it from the Fairlawn Bizarre, did you?

Alarick just says nothing.

We’re gonna have to have a talk about that, you and I at some point.

At some point. Aye.

Make it through whatever and we’ll both of us be rich.

We’re already rich.

Alarick smiles and pats Jace’s leg and leaves.

​Leading into Sindell from the eastern side, guarded heavily now by a few legions who had moved there as part of the reorganizing of the defense of the city overnight who probably couldn’t have believed their luck, and in a twist, Jace’s old cavalry legion, The Third, was even present, his old command no Constable Thean’s legion. And here there was a wide green lane of grass that had immense dimensions, meant as an emergency runway if something was wrong with an airship or multiple airships and they wouldn’t be able to either make it back to the Hangar. Since the occupation and invasion of Sindell, it had not been able to be used at night, as when the forcefield was up at night to guard against unknown ground forces and the winged creatures, it cut the immense lane in half. And before the time of the forcefield, for security, a series of evenly spaced doors were capable of being closed upon it, only to be quickly opened at a momen’t notice were there some kind of an emergency. Making the forcefield literally a contradiction, a thing that both saved lives and was responsible for taking them over the last year. The very magic reflecting the wizards themselves. (clean last sentence up, good thought.)
​Today, it was a lane on which all of the cavalry legions stood as well as most of the infantry divisions. Others were civilians watching from highrises on either side of the lane looking down upon it, giving the feeling that this was taking place in a stadium. The way totally out of the city was more than 500 yards (find out in relations to miles this distance.) But only 100 was going to be the distance he was going to ride. To the Veil’driel troops, this was a treat for them, something Jace often did to improve morale, but since their arrival though the Sindell people and troops had never seen it, as Jace’s legend grew through all of them there were two favorite things. His forbidden romance with Isabelle Talabray, that was the stuff of strarstruck mothers telling their children (Toa reference stuff) and him riding what everyone called “The Gauntlet.” Usually, it was just done on the battlefield, in which case there was a lot of people watching him, however, this was beyond anything he had ever done before. It was an event. People hung Veil’driel and Sindell flags from the buildings and high up on either side it went up and all around him, then down below. The atmosphere was electric and even the idle chit chat was loud.

​Usually he did this for the morale of his own men on the battlefield, today, he had been asked to do it by the Parliament of Sindell as part of the festivities leading up to the night’s ball, and he was in the middle of talking to two men who had just recently returned to the capital city, both of which had seen him do it plenty of times.

​“Don’t be do’in that spinny twirly thing you do when the shot comes low,” Darvin Nash was saying, holding his leather glove so Jace could push his hand all the way in. “You wipeout every single time you try.”

​“I do a spinny twirly thing?” he asked.

​“Yeah,” Ferris Lang chimed in. “You do. And it never works.”

​Both gloves on, Jace looked up to find they were both more serious than he had anticipated. Finally he smiled looking back down to minding the feel of his gloves. He rolled his eyes, feigning annoyance.

​“Aren’t you two supposed to be helping Creed with something?”

​“Finished last evening,” Lang said.

​“Yeah,” Darvin chimed in. “Don’t worry about it, we wouldn’t miss you breaking your neck..”

​“Mmhm. And how much you boys have on this?”

​“Enough,” they both said simultaneously.

​Jace smiled again, shaking his head, amused.

​“You guys crack me up. Whole damn world is ending and you’re worried about money.”

​“Yeah, well, just don’t go jump’in him into anymore oceans,” Darvin said.

​Jace smiled again.

​“Oceans?” he looked over to Malcolm. “It was a bay, wasn’t it.”
​Malcolm nodded, twirling a toothpick in his mouth.

​“Bay,” he nodded.

​“I’ll do my best. Let’s just hope that horse of yours is up to the task.”

​Darvin tossed him a look and Jace seemed to appreciate that the joke had succeeded.

​“That is a lot of people,” Malcolm said, holding a toothpick in his mouth and looking up at all the buildings lining the entire way down the wide long lane. He was leaning against the base of one of the massive arches that was the outline of one of the immense doors, that when the doors were open the arches ran the entire course of the long lane.

​Jace looking down, adjusting something on the bracers now, glanced up at all the buildings and the people at the comment and then looked back down to those he was talking to again.

​“Alright, you know what?” he said. “I’m going to stand over here now.”

​Darvin and Ferris both smiled.

​Malcolm stepped forward just as Jace looked like he was about to start over towards Darvin’s horse. The horse he was going to ride.

​“Hey, Jace, you got a second?”

​Jace looked up at the announcer who was discussing something with someone standing next to him from a recently erected wooden tall structure. There were precious stones all over it that he understood the Sindell Air Force used for communicating over the noise of airship engines in the hangar. Now it was to be used to amplify his voice over the army of spectators.

​When Jace walked up into the front part of the lane, out of where the archway of the closest door to the city hid him, he came into view and there was a brief elevation in cheers and clapping that would have been mild if not for the sheer size of the crowd and made it tremendously noticeable, of those chattering to each other telling each other they could see him, and fathers pointing them out to their sons. They weren’t yet in a frenzy, but it was getting there.

​“Yeah,” Jace said turning now to face him. “What’s up?”

​Now Malcolm stepped out into view after him, and it had the same effect with the crowd.

​“Ladies and gentlemen, the twin stars!” the announcer said, and ruckus applause.

​Malcolm sighed and waved around though it was impossible to differentiate between the massive crowds rising up on many levels up and away in buildings and beyond. Then his attention was back on Jace.

​“I was wondering if I might be able to get some of that feverlew,” he said, and Jace looked up with a slight frown.

​“C’mon, don’t give me that look,” he said. “You know what our workload’s been like, and now with being in charge of all the archers I have all kinds of briefings and things I have to do. Just need a little pick me up.”

​“You know that stuff can be addictive, right?”

​Malcolm hesitated a little at this, conflicted.

​“Yeah,” he said very weakly, but then cleared his throat. “Yeah, of course,” he went on with more conviction. “I’m talking about a pick-me-up here, Jace. Nothing more.”

​Jace sighed.

​“Yeah,” he said. “But don’t tell anyone. It’ll be my ass.”

​“Of course not.”

​“Right.” And it looked like he was actually waiting for it, and Jace didn’t notice at first but then did a double take to him. “After this,” he said surprised he had to and gestured all around. “Unless you want me to slip you an illicit substance in front of the whole damn city.”

​Malcolm smiled. Right.

​In what felt like a strange bit of timing, then, the announcer began speaking, although he then realized that the announcer could have seen him from where they were talking and was probably waiting until it was finished.

​“Ladies and gentlemen of the two great nations of the Republic of Veil’driel and the Kingdom of Sindell, we are gathered here today in honor of the tremendous retaking of the city of Zarponda, and as a symbol of this unprecedented alliance, we present Outrider of Veil’driel Jace Dabriel.”

​Jace, still standing there offered a little wave at the sound of his name, and now the crowd did raise to a frenzied pitch.

​Jaden nodded, smiled, looked around.

​“Good luck,” she said and bowed and took a step back and walked away.

​Over the crowd the announcer’s voice boomed.

​“Bowmen, take your positions!”

​Jace was just about to mount his horse when Malcolm took a couple steps forward past him, he reached out at the last second and put his hand on his chest.

​“Don’t. Even think about it,” he said.

​Then, without another word he turned and mounted up, Malcolm laughing a little as he went back into the crowd.

​In the saddle, Jace stood straight up in the stirrups and spread his arms and acknowledged the crowd elevating it all to a fever pitch. Then he sat, took his hat out of from a pocket, put it on his head, and in the same motion withdrew cigarettes and put them in his mouth. Lighting it he looked up, down the lane and the world was beginning to slow. He took a drag, thinking of how he wished he hadn’t done it one time and it hadn’t become a thing. It was all for show because the first thing he did upon taking off he dropped the cigarette.

​Just off the lane near where he was a large man with a big bushy beard was standing there holding a bunch of slips of unofficial bets. There was a time when the bets would be whether or not he made it through or not without getting hit. Now they were whether or not he would even be challenged.

​“That smoke a his is just be for show,” the giant man was saying to a bunch of the younger men around him, infantryman. “Drops it as soon as he’s off.”

​“Seen one or two of these shows before, have ya?”

​“Aye, 27 point of fact. Used to take bets as ta whether he’d be hit or not.”

​“Has he ever? Aye, once. By a shot the likes the devil himself could not have made.”

​“A shame they don’t let us rifleman have a go.”

​Now for the first time the infantryman with the bushy beard turned to face him.

​“Ha. Is it now?” he asked, the infantryman he was with also turning around to face the rifleman. “Those contraptions ya boys got there’d be useless. Might as well be shoot’in at flies ina windstorm.” He nodded back over his shoulder to where Jace was no preparing. “The ‘ol Captain there have yall sites so backward, by the time you thought you had anything to aim at he’d be outta yer range ten times.”

​The rifleman laughed.

​“Think I’m joke’in da ya?”

​The one rifleman looked away from his friends, and back to the infantryman, and he eased a bit when he saw the seriousness on the men’s faces.

​“Look, no disrespect. That’s Jace Dabriel. All us here love the guy and’ve heard he’s an amazing rider.” The others with him nodded their agreement as he exchanged a glance with them as to say “right?” And he turned back to the infantryman who was standing there with his group of infantryman, all with their big busy beards of the north provinces.

​“Ah yer misunderstand’in laddy. It’s not offense we’ve smelled in the breeze of the trees. But a proper wager on our hands. Ina right, boys?” he asked his own group. Their beards were not as bushy, and they looked a bit younger. They were in their dress uniforms as appropriate for the festivities of the day, all the same color to mark their legion, and while the Sindell rifelman didn’t know their ranks completely, he didn’t need to to realize this man was a sergeant and those with him his unit. “Well alright then, it would appear we got a proper wager on our hands doesn’t it boys?”

​“Alright, what’re the stakes?”

“Pints a night at this upcoming shindig, that ba tha time,” he pointed at Jace in his saddle still getting ready without looking. “That lad gets through with riding through that lane, yall be force ta admit you’d have no chance to hit’em wit dose well to do toys ya got there.”

The look in the rifelman’s face was that it was too good to be true.

“Drinks all night? …” he started then paused as if to hyper clarify because he couldn’t have possibly heard that right. “Bought by us if we have to admit we could never hit him, drinks bought by you if we don’t.”

“Righto ya got it, we dance’in to the same tune now.”

He turned back to his group of rifleman, the looked almost guilty for accepting the bet and he looked back.

“Right. Okay my roughneck friend, you’re on then. Place’in quite a bit in our integrity. What when we could simply deny admitting we couldn’t hit him no matter what we truly think.”

“Ah na trust me, boys,” the bushy bearded infantryman said, staring in now again at his captain. “In just a minute now you’ll see it’s you boys who’s taken all the risk.”

A loud horn sounded and then there was that dead silence. Thousands of people to the point where you could hear a pin drop. It was extraordinary silence. The world began to slow and he stared down the lane, and then he let the silence consume him.

​Finally he cracked the reins, and in his own mind, things still stayed absolutely silent as he dropped the cigarette out of his hand and grabbed the rein with his other hand in a fraction of an instant, and the stallion bolted with the same extreme energy he remembered from the Gliveren Arcade, even as the horse bolted and there was an eruption as the buildings and very ground they stood on shook. And the cheering became thunderous, and the announcer screamed at the top of his lungs: “Ladies and gentlemen!” he yelled as Jace thundered forward down the lane. “Jace—”

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“—Dabriel. Veil’driel Star recipient and Outrider,” the ball announcer heralded him in as he entered the extravagant Ball Room, and by the looks of Jace’s face he was surprised by the introduction, and the deafening applause that immense gathering gave him, filled with high society, and regular people as well, people from all over the city, dressed in their finest. For tonight, at least, the war was put on hold. At a loss for what to do he gave a little wave and a smile, standing there in his dress uniform, then continued down the rest of the short stairs down into the room.

​Immediately, he had spotted Outriders Darvin Nash and Ferris Lang standing over by a giant ice sculpture, one of many scattered throughout the immense Ball Room, and walked over to them through the crowd, the attention of the ball room as he walked towards them. When he reached them, all of them were smiling, realizing his surprised reaction, Ferris handed him a champagne glass as he walked up and taking it with one hand he shook Ferris’ hand with the other, then shook Darvin Nash’s hand, hugged Ferris’ wife and they kissed each other on the cheek.

​“You look beautiful,” he whispered to her, then looked over to Ferris as he added: “I don’t know what you’re doing with this guy,” he said. And they all laughed. Then he looked down to see little Casey Lang, wearing the promised green dress, obviously standing quiet and still waiting patiently for Jace to notice her. When he looked down, he opened his mouth and gasped.
​“Wooooooah, pretty girl,” he said. “Look at you. Very beautiful.” She beamed at him, looking shy for a second before putting her arms up to Jace. Jace handed his champagne glass to Darvin Nash, put his hands under her arms, picked her up, pecked her on the lips when she pursed her lips and then transferred her over to his arm as he took the champagne glass back from Darvin.

​“Good job today,” he said as he handed back the champagne glass.

​“Mmmm,” Jace said as he took a sip. “Didn’t do that spinny thing.”

​Darvin winked at him.

​Jace glanced up at the ice sculpture.
​“What is this? A horse?”

​“Supposed to be,” Ferris said. “Don’t think the sculptor had much experience making them. Think he only made some for our benefit and presence.”

​“Huh. Kind of looks like a….,” Jace tilted his head a little to the side. “A giant … dog or something.”

​Casey who had caught sight of a small table filled with pastries and things had been transfixed by it and now was sort of squirming, and still staring asked “Mommy, can I…”

​“Yeah,” she said, go on.

​Jace put her down and she ran over there.

​“It’s ridiculous how big she is,” Jace said, watching her go.

​“Yeah, well, she just loves you,” Danielle said, but then she smiled. “But who doesn’t these days? Pretty popular, aren’t ya? For a minute I thought we were back at the Avaleen Riders Ball.” She said, referencing the annual Ball held by the outrider order.

​Now Ferris stepped a little closer to his wife and slipped his arm around his wife’s waist, pulling her a little closer.

​“I could have been the most popular outrider if I wanted,” he said.

​She laughed.

​“Awww,” she said, kissing him on the lips and then wiping off the lipstick that was there.

​“Speaking of the Rider Ball, I’d say this has got it beat.”

​They all took a moment to really look over the room and take it in at that moment. Splendor. The protocol staff, who hadn’t much to do in recent memory had gone all out, but they were among the best in the world anyway. And they had a moment, where it was as if the beauty really hit them all at once and made them reflective. The music continued on, string instruments, violins, it was all so beautiful. The ceiling had steel beams all over the place but was mostly transparent, with airships flying over and around. And thinking about those annual balls, which led him to thinking about the past, about when Cedwyn was there with them.

​Jace was the first to turn back to them, holding his champagne glass a little highter in front of his chest.

​“To those we’ve lost, and those absent,” he said. “To Cedwyn,” he managed to get out, but just barely, and his hand was trembling ever so slightly.

​“To Cedwyn,” they all said.

​And Jace’s reaction made it even worse. Danielle Lang was tearing up, and Darvin reached up and squeezed Jace’s shoulder after he took a sip and it was obvious that he wasn’t recovering, and was in fact, on the brink of losing it, the beautiful music, the surroundings, and being with people he loved only intensifying the moment that he probably was just now truly reflecting all at once.

​Eyes wet and breathing through his wife to fight off doing just that, he was saved only by the sudden distraction by the guards deeper within the hall yelling out the king’s entrance into the hall on the way to the Ball. Then, as he reached the top ledge, the herald announced proudly: “His Royal Majesty, King William Bryce,” and many of his subjects bowed down to the ground. And it all got silent, the music stopping, those who were not his subjects, were quiet and bowed their heads slightly, and he was dressed in the dress uniform of the air kingdom. He went and assumed his spot at the giant table slightly elevated over all the proceedings, the Parliament sitting there with him, all old retired pilots themselves. Then, as tradition required, he motioned to the muscicians who started playing the beautiful Air Force song that was the national anthem. It was beautiful.

​And the airships zoomed over in every high note, every perfectly timed display. It was enough to make the hair stand on end. The must have been taking their cues from sapphires in the room.

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​In the high eastern corridor of the Sindell Castle, Jaden was standing outside the heavy door where her unconscious daughter was in her bed. She just stood there, staring, her arm outstretched touching the wall.

​“Looking at it won’t make the courage come any faster,” the voice of Gabriel Foy came down the hall. “No matter how powerful a Tear you might be.”

​She smiled, sighed, and without hesitation walked fast over to him, hugging him and he hugged her back.

​“Has she regained consciousness, do you know?” he asked.
​Jaden shook her head.

​“Then let them be. There’s something that feels right about Avery being in there with her, you must feel it to, and we’ll wait to see how it developes.” He paused, then leaned away from the outrider sitting beside Hazel’s bed on the other side of that door, and to another, one he was much more interested in at the moment. “Heard he saved her life,” Foy said. Jaden said nothing just kept looking at the door, nodding. “Has he been told yet?”
​“I meant to,” she said. “But there was an incident. He’s been impossible to reach since then.”

​Gabriel nodded, seeing she was looking weak and supporting her.

​But Jaden knew him far too well and his silence spoke volumes.

​“What?” she asked.

​“Nothing. It’s just that he’s been here for months. It’s surprising that it wouldn’t have come up.”

​“There was never the right moment.”

​“Okay. As long as it’s not something else.”

​She stopped, and sighed.

​“You know he isn’t Art—”

​“I know he’s not!” she snapped.

​Foy didn’t seem to mind, letting it roll of him. Now would be the time she wished he was anyway. Not only did Jace resemble him so much when he was younger, but now, knowing his betrayal, it made the memory of when he was young and good that much more appealing.

​“Well, I imagine we’ll be doing it together, then,” he said. “Along with Fenlow. We’ll be doing the rest of this together, actually. As far as it takes us.”

​She looked at him, seeming grateful.

​“I still just can’t believe that Artemus. That Hazel…” she trailed off.

​Gabriel nodded.

​“Damn bad business,” he said. “No easy answers. No good or bad. No black or white.” He stepped closer, taking control, putting his hand on her shoulder. “We’ll sort it out, and there will be a time to talk to the girl. Let her rest now,” he looked away a second. “She isn’t awake yet. We’ll check on her shortly.”

​He stuck out his arm, a triangle away from his body.

​“Now what do you say we go check out this shindig I’ve heard so much about.”

​She smiled a little, sighed, nodded.

​“Have I mentioned how wonderful it is to see you again?”

​“No,” he said. “But that goes without saying.”

​She laughed a little and they started down the hall, making their way down to the Ball.

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Now the National Anthem was over, Will stood up and held up a glass, his speech, also tradition about to be made.

​And while he held up the champagne glass, and hundreds of people fell to exact science, as even people all around his city and outside in the courtyards were all silence, as they had their sapphires attached to this room, listening. And so as he spoke to everyone in the room, he was speaking to everyone in his city.

​“I’m not really one for making speeches,” he joked and people laughed, knowing that was one of the most important jobs of a king, and he had made countless by the time he was a late teenager. “Now it might seem silly to some that we would be gathered to have a Ball in the middle of an unprecedented war. But I say there is never a more important time, more appropriate time than now. Not so long ago, we thought the entire world had fallen, that we were alone. We were protected by a forcefield that was orchestrated by my father, but we didn’t know as it was done behind the scenes with Jaden, as the first stage in long preparations, and then we lost him right when the rest of our world had fallen into darkness. Jaden was kept away from us, falling victim to the same lies of a deceiving force. And it was our fault. Generations of nations acting as one. Isolated from each other, only interacting out of absolute necessity, only a few places in the world where that kind of contact was acceptable or practiced. And it has, in turn, We’ve lost so many. We will undoubtedly lose more. But then there was a spark of light. Jaden arrived to us, and we learned we were not alone. And in fact, it was whistlers, outriders, another nation that made her getting to us even possible.” He turned around above him to where he knew Constable Thean and General Creed were up on the balcony looking down on everything and he saluted them with his glass and they saluted him back, and then the King turned back towards the main beautiful Ball Room. “Another nation willing to sacrifice so much so that we might be warned of what was going on. So that Jaden might reach us. Despite what happened before. Then Jace Dabriel came to us, against all odds, and yet more light shined through the dark clouds of deception and illusion, and for the first time we were not isolated behind our forcefield, but on the offensive as well. And then, the reason for this ball, the retaking of Zarponda City. No longer are we divided, never shall we be again. Even in the darkest night, there is always hope. As my father, our king who too sacrificed everything so that we might get tot his point to have a chance once said …. Even in the darkest night, there is light. And so we will fight, all of us, and we will live, not just survive, and we will win, and then we will unite the rest of the world. For that’s what tonight is about. The corner we have turned forever, and the world we have earned and know we want but now find ourselves in the position to fight for, to earn. It what we live for, it’s what we fight and hope for.” He held up his glass. “To Something.”
​Hundreds of people in the Ball room raised their glasses in unison, and though they couldn’t be seen, it was likely all over the city the scene was the same. People who had been so transfixed by this man and his words all raised their glasses and nodded.

There is a Lina Scarlet canticle not heard on Ciridian since The Looking Glass War. A conflict that left scars and dishonor on both sides that silenced them forever. But now I present Sylan Vhair to lead the chorus.

​“!” he shouted back.

​And then wild applause broke out, the music kicked back up, and the parliament was shaking his hands and they continued to talk, and all on the parliament, especially Tharod Chaypin looked genuinely moved. And then throughout all of it, the king glanced over towards where the outriders were, and they were all looking back at him, to Jace, and to Darvin and Ferris who had been the first of Veil’driel to reach Sindell with Jaden on that fateful night that felt like lifetimes ago. And to Jace, who his own people loved the way his own did.

​They saluted him back with their glasses just as Casey came running back with a cupcake in both hands and simply jumped up at her dad, knowing that he would catch her and pick her up, that absolute trust that can only exist in that kind of relationship. He flung her up, bringing her to his arms. Then she poined up, motioning up with one of her cupcakes at the glass ceiling.
​“Look!” she yelped, and all of them did. To see a beautiful shooting star streak fast across the sky. “That means a soul is going to heaven, right mommy?”

​She laughed, a little self conscious that it was now obvious that she had told her that at some point.

​“That’s right, honey.”

​Satisfied, Casey jammed one of the cupcakes against her mouth, taking a big bite, frosting all around her mouth.

​Now another small group of people walked over and took a few of the glasses of champagne from the giant pyramid in front of the ice sculpture, smiled, even they looked a little nervous around Jace. But then a servant came up to the group and looked at Darvin and Lang.

​“Excuse me, gentleman, but you wanted to be told when it was …” he paused, not knowing what he was bout to say. “Time, sir.”

​“Ah, right, Nash and Lang looked at each other.”

​“Actually, you know what? I’ll take this one.”

​“You sure? Want us to go with?”

​Jace shook his head, finishing the rest of his champagne.

​“Mm mm,” he said, and then placed his glass down.

​“You coming back?” Casey asked.

​“Right back,” he said looking down at her. “go dance with your daddy.”

​“Tell’em we said good luck,” Nash said.

​Lang took out a map he made.

​“We took the liberty of going and double checking those mines again, his route through the the mines again and we made our own map. Checked the route for him where he’s going. Kind of a superstition like last time.”

​“Thanks,” he said.

​And then he left out towards the wide open balcony door where he could walk through the courtyard, as he exited he walked to the giant exit balcony glass door, the giant bearded infantryman, raised his giant pint in salute as Jace walked by, walking slowly because he had already opened the map as he walked to the wide open door.

​“A hearty hail to ya, Captain,” he said.

​“Shaw, almost didn’t recognize ya without yer axe,” he said, mosing over to him.

​“You’re look’in surprisingly sober.”

​Jace was shaking all his group’s hands and then got to his.

​“Early yet sa, early yet. Got a limitless supply of deese fair ladies com’in ma way for this shindig is over. On account of dem boys over there and that rid’in a yers.”

​Jace twisted back around and saw the rifleman who also saluted them with their drinks, wearing the dress uniforms of a Royal Rifleman.

​Jace acknowledged them with a little upward nod, knowing the powerful sergeant’s penchant for betting on his riding of the gauntlet.

​“Well enjoy,” he said, not having read the map anymore. “Oh, and by the way, it’s an open bar,” he picked up the crystal class and the brown liquid out of the man’s hands. “Means the drinks are free,” he commented at their hesitation and then tossed it back in one shot. Wincing he blew out a breath and raised his eybrows. “Which is good for you,” he said, handing it back. “Believe me. I’ll see ya boys.”

The burly bearded infantry man whispered, staring in: “Aye. Come on then lads. Bout time we had a word with those fine lads.” That probably costs as much with the ice cubes clinking around in the glass, Jace drank it all in one shot, winced and handed it back. It’s an open bar.”

​They all looked at him in confusion as Jace had his hands in the pockets of his dress uniform, and turned around doing in a full circle as he exited out the giant sliding glass door so he could specificy. “Drinks are free,” he said, smiling as he left out of sight.

​“Ah well if that don’t beat all (funny line irish),” They started walking to the riflemen. “If that don’t beat all outta beat all,” he said. “A word, fair gents. A word!” He started over.

Divider (2)

“You spilled all the drinks on that ice doggy!” she yelled, and she looked immediately up to her parents, expecting them to share in her shock.

​But both of them were staring at Jace.

​He was absolutely still, eyes locked on the top of the stairs where Isabelle was standing. It was an impossible sight, it was like being in a dream where the details don’t make sense if they’re thought about, but without thought nothing else matters. She was in her dress uniform. Even if she was really there, how could …

No one should k ow where their dreams come from.

The whole world was a heartbeat. And no force, natural or otherwise would have gotten through to him at that moment.
​Amazingly, for the second time, the muscicians stopped playing, this time, tradition had absolutely nothing to do with it, it was that wherever Jace went, stories of his forbidden romance was spread like wild fire, some exaggerated, some not, but his romance with Isabelle was told to young daughters by wide-eyed mothers in both Veil’driel and Sindell alike. No one could believe that Isabelle was present. It shouldn’t have been possible. And now everyone was quiet, staring at the living icon Jace Dabriel and they were the center of everything as she walked down slowly towards him, you could even hear her footsteps.

​All the eyes, even that of the king and parliament, followed her path until they all centered on the same place, right where she was standing directly in front of Jace. They were standing there, standing inches from each other, just staring.

​Danielle Lang noticed that Jace’s hands were trembling, just like they were not long before when Cedywn had come up, and he was keeping them down at his sides. It was as if the entire kingdom was holding its breath, as they were face to face, they knew that even the slightest interaction beyond military courtesy could have serious consequences. For as Darvin noticed when he glanced up back to the high level where the king had saluted them a little earlier, he saw Constable Thean and General Creed staring down at them. Everyone who was everyone was in that room, staring at them.

​Isabelle seemed to understand the situation, and nodding slightly, she actually took a small step to the side, but she looked sad as well, something torturing inside of her that she was keeping inside.

​Then Jace’s eyes drifted up to Thean up on the top balcony, whether he knew he was there or just sensed him was unclear but he looked up. And even in the dead silence, the massive attention that would be the talk of the city and everyone else for who knew how long to come, Constable Thean, standing next to General Creed motioned with two fingers towards himself. And Isabelle was standing there, nodding a little, and Jace took two or three steps away from her, towards the stairs that would lead up to where Constable Thean was.

​When he did, Isabelle nodded a little to herself, knowing that it was the right decision. The only decision, and she would have to talk to him later. But she bobbed a little in place, eyes welling up a little, and after only getting two or three steps away, Jace stopped suddenly and there was mumbling throughout the crowd, perhaps anticipating what was to come or at least talking about the fact that he just stopped.

​He spun around, and as he started back towards her he mumbled the words “To hell with it,” fluctuating, not caring about anything else as he charged her, his hands going up to the side of her face and he kissed her, like he never had before, then he kissed her cheeks, kissing her forehead, and the ball room erupted in ruckus cheer, and then he just hugged her, they hugged each other in this sea of jubilation. It was a perfect moment. An absolutely perfect moment, and the consequences didn’t matter, neither did the war. And they just hugged in spite of the consequences that were sure to come. Both of them somehow simultaneously emotionally energized to the highest level and exhausted all at once.

​And with all the laughing and the cheering, the muscicians started up again, and people went back to dancing, all over the floor, under the glass ceiling and the stars all overhead, and Isabelle was still in Jace’s arms, their eyes locked on each other, when suddenly both Darvin Nash and Ferris Lang straightened into a more locked up position as if almost to attention, but not quite, and being one to have had Thean sneak up on him many times throughout his life, a simple glance over and Jace knew the man was no doubt standing near him. He didn’t even know what to expect. He had never broken an ancient outrider edict in front of a Ball room literally filled with hundreds of people.

​Little Casey didn’t know what was going on but she recognized the serious mood that settled on the area all of the sudden, and the unreadable expression on Thean’s face.

​“Are they gonna be in trouble now?” she looked up and asked her mother.

​Danielle bounched her a little.


​Even in Jace’s rebellious heyday, this would have been pretty bold. This was as crazy as anything he’d done.
​It was Darvin’s wife, who saved Isabelle without a single word, and she looked so excited like she could barely contain herself. Little Casey was similarly transfixed, stunned and quiet by the curious thing she had probably never seen before, and certainly a little intimidated or dumbstruck.

​“C’mon you,” Danielle said, grabbing her wrist. And before Jace knew it, Isabelle was pulled away from him, deeper into the party and out of his arms.

The Republic of Veil’driel Parliament was laughing around the table, pretty hysterically, as Senator Katic was wrapping up one of his stories. It was the first dinner or occasion of the old boy’s club that Aleister had been invited to and no doubt it was because of his suddenly changed position, falling more in line to what they wanted, the day before. Indeed, that had been his main motivation for doing so. To be brought to this table, on this night, in this way.

​“… and he looked down to the thing, holding it there in his hands book wide open, pages falling out of his back pockets ….” ​The laugher rose to a near obnoxious level now. Some of them into what he was saying and laughing legitimately, others not, all laughing, whether they were afraid of him or truly amused varied on what he was saying. All of them except for Aleister, whose odd smirk could have been interpreted as amusement at the story, but looked vaguely out of place, like it was not related at all. ​“… when he said, if you’ll excuse me, First Consul, I’m usually quite organized.”

​When the story was done, and the laughter – both real and faked – had subsided, Katic had near tears in his eyes he was so amused and took a long exhale, working now on his fourth cup of wine, he clanged a salad fork against it and motioned down to Aleister.

​“Preator Ducheyene,” he started. “It’s something of a tradition at these quaint little affairs of ours to honor our newest and first time guests with an after dinner cigar, could I interest you in this?” he snapped his fingers and a servant in white walked up with a silver platter, he lifted the lid to reveal a single cigar.

​“Ah,” Aleister said, sitting up a little straighter in his chair and leaned over picked it up off the tray, raised it a little and then looked with mock suspicion all around the table. “Isn’t poison is it?” he asked.
​Another round of laughter.

​“Well, no,” Katic said as a joke. “Luckily for you, you saw reason yesterday and the poison was no longer necessary.

​The laughter intensified.

​Now Aleister leaned over to the side, raising his eyebrows slightly while the servant withdrew a silver lighter and sparked it holding it to the end of Aleister’s large cigar.

​“Ah, yes, right,” he stated, pausing to puff until the cigar was fully lit. When it was, he rotated it towards him, looked down at the wide red cherry, and satisfied, he dismissed the servant with a satisfactory nod. Then he leaned back in the chair. “About that, I’m afraid that was an act. A ruse to get me invited to this very spot, this very dinner that you guys run, at this very time.” He punctuated the dramatic news by crashing the heels of his boots on top of the table, rattling glasses, silverware and everything else that was on there, they crashed on top of the table one after the other as they crossed over each other. At first, when he had first talked, there was some laughter that continued on, though the one on Katic’s face had vanished completely. By the time Aleister was sat back, boots crossed on the table, puffing on his ‘initiation cigar’ all was utterly silent, the High Council of Veil’driel all staring at him. Some with confusion, or in Katic’s case, something more seemingly sinister.
​A stare Aleister met head on, meeting it and locking eyes, his words spoken in the subtext of being meant for everyone there, but were quite obviously meant for Senator Katic, but then his eyes floated over to the First Consul as well as he started to bring the cigar back up to his mouth. “I’m afraid we have some rather … unpleasant business to discuss.


​Isabelle held her eyes locked with his as long as she could as she was pulled away, until finally they were both, along with little Casey in the other woman’s arms, swallowed by a throng of other party guests and people wanting to talk to.
​Confused as to what just happened and how it could even be possible, Jace cleared his throat, straightened his posture and tried to prepare for whatever was coming, he turned and face Constable Thean.
​“Constable,” he said.
​Before Thean could respond, the heralder, who had also must have been distracted by the spectacle of the Isabelle Jace kiss, had resumed his duty, and announced a few more people who came in, and Jace could not get himself to turn away from Thean. It was an authority the man carried, the same he had seen in Artemus at Lornda Manor, that seemed to hold everyone’s attention, and two things surprised Jace. One, Thean did not look near as furious as he would have suspected, and if he was furious the expression wouldn’t have been that different, but Jace could read them all. Second, despite what had just happened, he actually looked past Jace a bit to acknowledge the other outriders behind him.
​“Gentlemen,” he said simply.
​He was answered by two nods and rigid postures with a successive: “Constable, constable.”
​And then his gaze was back on Jace.
​“Well,” he said simply in his gravelly voice, and Jace could smell the liquor on his breath. “That was interesting, wasn’t it?”
​Darvin and Ferris exchanged a quick glance, barely registered, and then their stunned eyes were back on Jace and Thean.
​“Whaddya say you walk with me?”
​And with that, amazingly, he simply turned and started walking away into the crowd.
​“Yes, sir,” Jace said, trying to figure the situation out.
​He felt Darvin’s hand on his shoulder but didn’t turn around.
​“Good luck, brother,” he said. “I wouldn’t worry too much. I’m at least 70% sure he’s not going to kill you.”
​Jace barely reacted, this was all almost too much.
​“What. In the hell. Is going on?” he whispered.
​“Don’t know,” Ferris chimed in. “But you better go find out.”
​“Yeah,” Jace whispered to himself, in a daze, and with that he started taking his first steps after the man.

The room Thean had led Jace into was adjacent to the main garganduant ball room, but it was still elegant and beautiful, immense windows jutted out of the building like a ship keel looking out on a courtyard full of happy people gathering on a courtyard with lanterns of every color. When he was a kid, he had once attended the Fairlawn City Harvest Festival, and that’s what it kind of reminded him of.
​Before the window, a wide plush bench stood, and Thean sat down on top of it.
​After a few moments of no progression Jace looked around, kind of stunned and clearly confused.
​“Umm … you’re not gonna … like kill me or anything are you?” He remembered playing the odds about a week ago when the golden rider was riding towards him, and now as the time went on, he found himself thinking of them again, and he hoped Darvin’s 70% estimate held true.
​“You were supposed to have a meeting with the Tear today, were you not? After your,” he smiled. “Carnival display?”
​“I was busy. I meant to, but I …”
​“Yes, sure you were. Well now, because you skipped that, it’s fallen on me to explain some things.”
​“Sir, that really isn’t …”
​“Sit down.”
​Jace walked over to a chair near him and sighed as he took a seat. Then he looked over and actually smiled at Thean.
​“You’re drunk, old man,” he said with a smile.
​“Yes,” Fenlow quickly answered. “You bet your ass, I am.” Now he looked down at his glass filled halfway with red liquid that almost had a strange glow to it, moved the glass in a circular motion, looking down into it, and then back up to Jace. “30 years ago,” he said, just jumping into it. There were reports of strange attacks happening out in the wilderness. Merchants told tales of being robbed by magic, explosions, men using bright colored gemstones and plants to create explosions and do things out of thin air. Then, when a high ranking dignitary and his family were attacked during one particular time to an old retreat home they had out on the plains, the Council contacted the Outrider Order, and asked Constable Farrell to send a point team to invesitage the strange occurrences by any means necessary.” He trailed off, reflecting. “Constable Farrell,” he said, with a half breath half grunt. “A real merciless son of a bitch, that one,” he said. A few minutes passed and then he remembered himself, looked down to his drink. “Right,” he said, looking back up to Jace. “It was called Operation Longstreet.”


​For years I wondered what you must have on him, knowing it must have been something, now I know.

And I also know who the golden riders are.

“Operation Longstreet?” one of the Senators asked and then there was some mumbling around the table. “What in blazes are you talking about, Praetor Ducheyne?”
​Katic’s eyes hadn’t left him and Aleister never wavered, still.
​“Senator Katic? Consul Leverette?” he asked while never taking his eyes off of the Senator. “Care to fill the rest of these fine gentlemen in?”
​“Everyone get out,” Katic said.
​Again mumbling.
​And for the first time, Katic took his eyes away from Ducheyene, but only just briefly to the rest of the men sitting around the table.
​“Out. Now,” he said with venom and this was beginning to cause a stir.
​“Okay, okay, now let’s calm down,” Leverette said, patting the air and sounding exceedingly nervous. “Please, gentlemen, let us have the room for a moment as we work this rather private matter out.”
​The rest of the Senators, while not at all happy about it followed out, and the servant followed them out. Katic watched them out and after the heavy door closed, Leverette, still standing, was the first to speak.
​“Alright, Preaetor Ducheyene, what exactly is the meaning of this?”
​“Who cares what he wants!” Katic yelled out with venom. “This is an outrage!”
​“What do I want, your Grace?” Aleister asked, he still looked very relaxed and tweaked some ash over the side of his armchair. “It’s quite simple, really. I want to talk about the Illumanar, the mysterious golden riders you’ve known about since the beginning. I want to talk about the compromise you made so that you might walk the halls of power.” Now he looked over to Katic. “I want to talk how you’re desperately trying to betray your country a second time to save yourself.”
​Katic stood up.
​“You don’t honestly expect to sit here and listen to this?!”
​Aleister nodded a little, flicking ash off of his cigar.
​“Well, yes, I do as a matter-of-fact,” he said with a smirk. “Otherwise how will you feign outrage in the upcoming moments? Not to say I don’t understand, however,” he said looking over to Katic. “If anyone has reason to make a deal with the devil, it’s you….”​
​Anger overtaking him he looked down and Katic was almost growling out his words.
​“I should have known … we all should have known. How you spent so much time with the wizardess during her time here. Conspiring with her, conjuring up these lies.”
​Artemus stayed cool, calm and colleted. Precisely the calm and always being in control that drove Katic mad. It was passed on to him by his father, the outrider blood in his veins.
​“What was the deal, anyway? Make it easy for the army to infiltrate Veil’driel and maybe you could head up whatever puppet government he put in place? Or maybe he just wouldn’t have his men cut you into pieces? Funny enough, you betrayed your country for nothing. Because the army on its way, from across the sea, are gonna cut you into pieces anyway. Artemus, you see, was merely counting on your cowardice. A cowardice he knows all too well because of your actions 30 years ago, isn’t that right?”
​“I don’t have to sit here and listen to this!” Katic started and then started to storm out of the room.
​“No, actually, you do,” Leverette said, staring at Aleister and holding up a single finger. “I’m through lying. I’m sick from all the lies. What do you wanna know, Aleister?”
​“You can’t honestly be entertaining this-”
​“Don’t make me call the Scarlet Guard, Neville.”
​For the first time, it appeared as if there was something other than rage in Katic’s eyes. Indeed, there was fear.
​“Sit,” Leverette said, in a way he hadn’t talked to Katic ever and he complied like a child. Then he looked back to the Praetor. “Okay, Aleister, you have what you wanted, where would you like to begin? Operation Cool Name, if I recall.”
​Aleister flicked some ash, nodding.
​“Operation Cool Name was during the administration of Consul Heywood, isn’t that right?” Artemus began. “There were mysterious magical attacks happening in the plains, and he assigned a politician, top secret, to act as liason to the High Council on the mission.”


“Political liason?”
​“To the High Council,” Thean was saying, drunk.
​Jace was suddenly struck with the memory of Tillian Bren being there during the Fairlawn campaign, but said nothing.
​“Who was it?”
​“Never knew,” Foy said. “It was kept anonymous. All communication was done through the liason through written communication.”
​“Is that normal?”
​“Hell no, it’s not normal. But nothing about this mission was normal. It’s all about politics, and this has been done before. That way if something goes wrong, they can pull the plug, deny everything, and there’s no way to trace it back to the First Consul or to the liason we were talking to.”
​“Nice,” Jace said sarcastically.
​Now Thean started to drift, scratching his chin.
​“For months there was no word. We looked everywhere, followed leads, we’d go to where the attacks were taking place and then there’d be nothing. Like ghosts. And some of the attacks. The attacks were beautiful. People with melted spines, entire families, butchered, often times for their possessions or sometimes there would have been nothing of value taken at all.”
​Jace was transfixed. Outside through the window he saw Malcolm. Too far away to see detail cuz he was above, but he could tell it was him.
​“Until one day, we caught up with them.”
​Jace was leaning back, like a child being told a story.
​“We eventually followed their trail. We caught up with them,” he paused, appreciating the significance. “On the edge of Terrill Silva.”
​But Jace did not react.
​“We battled them but they had superhuman strength, manipulating precious stones to give them things like superhuman strength and all kinds of things. Agility, so fast you couldn’t even catch them. During the battle we were rescued when Jaden appeared and saved us, but Artemus had been severely injured. In fact, it didn’t seem like he was going to survive.”
​Jace sat back a little, already seeing the parallels.
​“For months he covalesced at Lornda Manor and we all hung out there. She told us about Ciridian, how we forgot the name and about how everything had become divided and cold over the long generations. Much of what you learned in the communion vault through the word of your cousin and Artemus, is what we learned over our stay there. To Ailmar and I, it was all very fascinating, but Gabriel became obsessed. Burying himself in the library there, always hungry for more information.”
​“Then what happened?”
​“When Artemus regained consciousness and made a full recovery physically, there was something different about him. He began having visions and things. Growing more distant, more focused, more single-minded. He and Jaden began to grow closer, she would tell him the complexities of things and we would just seem to naturally understand them. Shocking us all, and they started traveling the entire world together. And they…”
​“They what?”
​“Oh, you know,” Thean said, drunk.
​Jace didn’t.
​“Became a couple,” Jaden suggested, and she walked in.
​Foy followed her in and closed the door behind them both as Jaden went on.
​“Falling in love, whatever you wanna call it.”
​Jace raised his eyebrows, shocked by he words and sudden appearance.
​“Why do I get the feeling I’m being amushed?” he said.
​“Because you are,” Foy said.
Jace looked over to Thean with a frown.
​He squinted and remembered from his vision, though he wasn’t young anymore he saw the resemblance.
“Gabriel Foy,” he said.
​“Yes. Congraultations. Pay attention.”
“The attacks continued, started to get worse, and the Tears hidden throughout the land started reporting what was really happening. It wasn’t just Orinus and Valith, but they had a group of followers. Supernatural thugs, and they were starting to attack the villages on the plains. Orinus and Valith were of the belief that Tears should rule the world. An unfortunate position which has caused problems around the world since the beginning of time as you all know it, since the splitting of the Sun Kingdom and its merge into the existence as it is defined today. Most of which was never reported as while the Republic claims rule over the lands they don’t really control them.”
​“So what did you do?” Jace asked.
​“I told them we were going to have to go to Bryce Valley, home of the shamans, as they were hidden by the same illusion magic. They were the most powerful magical beings on the planet, tuned in to a point beyond any Tear, but they purposely stayed out of sight of the world and isolated and hidden in places all over the continent. Later, looking over their civilization, people in Veil’driel and Sindell would call them druids, and we needed their help before Valith and Orinus, those thugs could do any more damage. We went to the Valley, we used their help, they helped us beat Valith and Orinus but they all retreated into Sindell and started causing the same kinds and amount of problems.”
​“I went back to Fairlawn to alert our mysterious political liason, to drop a message of our project into the assigned box,” Thean said.


​“But you didn’t deliver the message of correct progress, did you?” Aleister was saying, and Katic was very still, seething. “You never relayed to the First Consul or High Council that these magical beings had retreated into Sindell, with the help of a wizardess called Jaden and our Outrider point team? You took Fenlow Thean’s report and you lied. Because you were afraid of the revelation of magical beings. You hated what they represented, you were scared..
​Leverette crossed his hands and put his elbows on the table and put his chin on top of it and sighed.
​“These magical beings, these sorcerors and heretics posed a threat to national security, to everything we believed in. They had to be slaughtered, not aided. You think you can coexist with them?”
​“So you sent word to Sindell. You sent word to bomb Bryce Valley because that was the headquarters of where the magical beings threatening our continent lived. You took the information provided by the outrider point team of this concentration, these powerful beings in Bryce Valley, and you told the King of Sindell, William Bryce’s father, that the only way to save his kingdom was to destror Bryce Valley, knowing that it was only a small part of the supernatural population on this continent that had done bad things led by two rogues called Orinus and Valith.”
​“Yes, two rogues,” Katic seethed. “With a group of followers, and thank god for that. No being should have supernatural powers on this earth except for the Gods in heaven. How long before there were more and more rogues? Before they all went bad? They could form an army at any time and wipe us all out!”
​“But they didn’t,” Aleister said. “See that’s the thing. They existed thousands of years before any governments on this continent, in secret, watched over by Jaden from her isolated place in Lornda Manor, the shamans staying in Bryce Valley. And yes, there were bad apples in Valith and Orinus who eventually made them known to this entire continent. If they had ill intentions towards us, the majority I’m talking about, they would have acted long ago and they didn’t. and when the time came, and those bad apples came out, they helped us. The shamans in Bryce Valley, Jaden from Lornda Manor, they helped us.” He leaned back looking at Katic. “But you had your classified top secret information. You knew their hideout, where they hid themselves for aeons by illusion magic, and this was your chance. You could use the Sindell Air Force.”
​“Yes, and I’m not ashamed of any of it. I would do it again!”
​“How did you do it?” Artemus asked.
​“Enough of your questions!” Katic shot back.
​“We sent a scout,” Leverette said. “In secret through back roads in Bryce Valley that would not draw attention. We sent him to Sindell City to tell them everything you just said. And the only way to save their Kingdom would be to bomb Bryce Valley.”
​“With the outriders still there!”
​“Collateral damage, to save our entire continent!” Katic said.
​For the frist time Aleister was angry and stood up, his chair falling to the ground behind him.
​“Shut your mouth!” he yelled down and Katic seemed startled. “There is an order on this continent far older than any nation. They lived in secret, passed down from father to son to daughters for aeons, the population on this continent. See, why the Tears, these magical beings lived on this continent were a secret to us, they were not a secret to the order or underheard of. This Order was called the Illumanar.”
​Leverette and Katic exchanged a glance.
​“What are you talking about now?” Katic asked.
​“Oh, well, it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve never heard of them,” Aleister said, still furious. “I myself didn’t know of them until last evening, when Artemus told me.
​“You can communicate with him?” Leverette asked, astonished, but simultaneously nervous.
​“I was in the communion vault last night and he contacted me.”
​“Haven’t you been preaching that he is a traitor for the last three months?”
​“I have,” Artemus said. “And he is. But he no longer has any reason to lie to me. He’s already accomplished his goal in luring our forces away from Veil’driel. His trap is already sprung. And so he has no reason to lie about this secret order I was telling you about. The Illumanar.”


“Golden riders to you,” Jaden said.
Jace scratched his chin, he was beginning to get a little angry.
“Go on,” he said.
​“They’re an ancient order, their sole purpose to protect the Tears, protect magical users in times of need. In times of great threat to the Tears they were called on to be defended.”
​“That time came thirty years ago,” Thean said, and he stared at Jace awhile after speaking to gauge the reaction. A reaction that barely registered as he was still looking at Jaden waiting for her to go on.
​“While we were in Bryce Valley, a scout was called, one of Senator Neville Katic’s personal emissaries ran through the Valley, and when we stopped him, he said he was sent to warn Sindell that Orinus and Valith and their supporters retreated into Sindell. And that was their immediate decision after being warned. And we were all to stay put in Bryce Valley.”
“What we didn’t know,” Foy said, was that he was really going to tell Sindell to bomb Bryce Valley under false pretenses. That it was the only way to save their kingdom. Three days later, as all of us were in the valley, the valley was attacked by the airships,” Jaden went on. “During the bombing Ailmar Ducheyene was killed,” he glanced over to Thean. “Thean and I raced to try and save the population from their home in the caverns, but we were too late, they all caved in and everyone was killed.”
“It was because we mapped the Valley,” Thean said. “You see? As part of our reconnasicne we mapped the entire Valley for our government. They used that to tell Sindell where exactly to strike so the people never had a chance.” He said as if he deserved hatred from this, never got over the guilt, but Jace just looked back to Foy.
“When we returned to the Valley floor, after the attack, we found Ailmar Ducheyne was dead there, Artemus was critically wounded, dying. Jaden was standing over him.” Now he stopped, as if this next part should have special importance to Jace. “His wounds miraculously healed, and he was restored.”
“How?” Jace asked.
“Because he was fulfilling a destiny,” Jaden said. “When the Illumanar are needed, they are captained by someone picked by the fates, the very powers that the Sun Kingdom is all about. The greatest ambassador and champion of the most powerful nation in the land to lead the bodyguards, the Illumanar of the Tears while simultaneously trying to find a peaceful resolution.”
“That person was Artemus Ward,” Thean said.
“He and I returned to Lornda Manor,” Foy said.


“And Thean returned home with my father’s body,” Aleister said. “He wanted to tell the population the truth about what happened, but you convinced him not to. You knew the truth, knew that you were all responsible, but convinced him that for the sake of national security, secrecy was the best option. That the people wouldn’t understand or could not be trusted. Like the government of Veil’driel has lied and covered up to the public since it’s inception going all the way back to Jonathan Silva’s expedition where the government’s explanation, rather than simply admit what happened, stunted expansion.”
“Oh, and now you will blame us for that I suppose? Why not for bad weather as well?”
“Maybe not you personally, but the philosophy of your forefathers passed down and down and down. A philosophy of hiding the truth and half truths and politics.”
Leverette leaned a little forward.
Aleister went on.
“So, too you covered up what happened in Bryce Valley. Said you didn’t know what happened to Foy and Artemus and why not? Artemus was a big hero of the time, but the populace barely knew of the others. So you made Thean Constable, his life dream to calm him down, and to also use him to instill the ideals you wanted. You used him to fade the prominence of the Outrider order more and more, thinking you won this whole time. That the magic users, these wizards had been blown off the face of the earth.”
Katic leaned back.
Leverette sighed.
“And then your chickens came home to roost, didn’t they? The attacks on Fairlawn City. You must not have known what to do until my cousin pushed them back near single-handedly. Then Jaden arrived, you found out Artemus was working with her. Must have been nerve-racking at first, but lucky for you he had never found out it was you,” he looked to Katic. “Katic who had been the political liason who betrayed them all.” Aleister leaned back. “Only he did, Neville. He knew everything.”​


“How?” Jace asked. “How could he have found out the mysterous liason that betrayed the original point team?”
Foy sighed.
“Arkhelan told him. Arkhelan can see and know things in ways we don’t know about. He told Artemus everything, about Neville, Leverette, the betrayal.”
“Then Hazel got sick using the Tunnels of Armegeddon,” Jaden said. “And it must have been the last straw. Though I thought he was still loyal to me, he apparently wasn’t. As it turned out, he was using his knowledge of Veil’driel and scouting prime targets for the tears that were not obeying me any longer but obeying him under the authority of Arkhelan. All the while feeding me false intelligence of mysterious armies occupying Veil’driel, the same lies he used to take over the rest of the continent. All in his quest to conquer it all, to hold dominion over all the nations and await Arkhelan’s arrival. Seems so foolish now, but it’s amazing what you’ll believe when you want to.”
​“Yeah,” Jace said. “He tried to kill you in Bryce Valley. He’s the one who sent Valith and Orinus.”
​“I would guess that now.”
​Jace looked over to Thean, disappointed and a little hurt.
​“And you went along with all of this. You knew the government was covering up this tragedy, were phasing out the importance and the grandeur of the Outrider Order, the prestige, until it declined,” he remembered something Artemus had told him in the caverns. “To where Senator Bren, on that first night, had to be told what an Outrider was. You presided over the decline of our order and for what? Why? They wanted to cover up what happened in Bryce Valley and you let them!”
​Thean did not react, or get angry, he sat there and took the accusations as though he felt he deserved them.
​“At my request,” Jaden said. “He stayed Constable to train you personally when the time came, and to watch over you until that time came.”
​“To watch over you, boy,” Foy said. “Because of who your parents were.”
​Jace leaned down and put his hand on his forehead.
​“Oh please don’t tell me this is the part where you tell me my father, who I never knew, was some legendary figure and now I have this grand destiny I never knew about.”
​“No. Your father was a womanizer, a gambler, and a drunk,” Thean said quickly.
​There was a moment of silence, and the slight disappointment of Jace.
​“Oh,” he said, suddenly thinking that secret destines weren’t that bad.
“Your mother,” Jaden said. “It was your mother is how I knew.”
“We thought it was Aleister at first, the son of Ailmar,” Foy said. “But by his fifth birthday, we knew his path, while equally as critical was not the one we thought.”
“I asked Fenlow to watch over Ailmar’s whole family, however, and five years later you were born. Your mother died in child birth, and you were sent to live with your grandfather. Your grandfather was the last Illumanar Captain who was not needed. Ailmar was next, but was killed in Bryce Valley and it passed to Artemus.”
Jace was still animated.
“And this has to do with my mother?” he wondered if he was purposefully not getting it.
“Yes, your mother,” Jaden said. “Sara. Sara Du-”


​“-cheyne! I will not stand for any more of this blather!” Neville was yelling.
Aleister finished. And the look on First Consul Leverette’s face said it all. (good reason for saying his name right here.)
​Aleister was looking at the Senator again, and he slid a thick herald to the center of the table.
“What is here is a copy of tomorrow’s herald, the biggest Senator Tillian Bren has ever written. It includes everything I’ve just said tonight and your work to impede progress in the High Council just to save your own ass. They will know the fight is not just being waged in Sindell, but right here, at our doorstep …. And within it as well. You see, as a former military liason for the High Council himself, Senator Bren takes such violations quite seriously. What you see in front of you is a copy of tomorrow’s herald. His biggest yet. Everyone is going to be alerted to the approaching army, the truth about the original point team, Artemus, everything. They will know that the only fight is not just in the Kingdom of Sindell. But here at home as well. And we will also use this new information to edit opening sequences in High Council chambers.”
​Now he looked back over to the First Consul.
“I always wondered why Katic didn’t run in your election. I know he would have beaten you, and so did he. But you had proof, you kept all of the documents that tracked his role in the liason duty of the original Bryce Valley mission. You kept them to blackmail Katic, to keep him from running against you. Not even sure if you agreed with it all, but injustice is a small toll to pay to walk the halls of power, eh your Grace?” He leaned a little more forward and pointed to the giant herald that by dawn would be circulating over the entire republic. “You see, last night, when Artemus contacted me, he told me about those documents and where to find them, which I did, in your secret archives. Proving everything he says is true. Which is another reason you had to diminish the standing of the Outrider Order, because you needed to downgrade the clearence, as usually, the Constable would have all rights to see such documents as they have the highest security clearence.”
​Leverette, a man who always had so much energy for his age with a spring in his step suddenly looked very much his age. A man caught and defeated, an elderly man as if his political power was draining out of him the same as life force.
​“The good I thought I could have done, Aleister,” he said. “I had to keep Katic from being First Consul. He was going to beat me. I didn’t agree with what he did, but what choice did I have? It was the only way to keep him out of the Consul office. From being the most powerful man in the Republic.”
​“Yet after you did that, Katic could use it against you. By admitting what you did, blackmailing him and the real reason why he didn’t run, he had information that could bring you down as well. Information that could have destroyed both of you.” He looked over to Katic, “and that’s how you two stayed. Cancelling each other out for decades since. Doing more damage. And when Jaden arrived here there was nothing you could do, Katic, but go along with it as I worked with her. As Creed worked with her and she saved our servicemembers’ lives and helped this Republic day after day. And yet here you are, trying to sell out your country, the country she risked her life, continues to risk her life along with everyone in our country and the Kingdom of Sindell. You claim to try and save Veil’driel from the wizards? And yet you yourself are the true threat. The true reason for destruction. Becoming the very thing you sought to prevent or fight against. A theme that has permeated this entire continent for far too long, a chain reaction sparked by you, thrity years ago.” He leaned back again. “Sparked by both of you.”
Katic stood up
​“You’ve signed your death warrant tonight, Praetor, and that’s all you’ve done.” He looked down to the herald. “Do you think this drivel, this fantasy fiction will ever see the light of day? Do you think I would let the likes of you bring me down? The son of a brute footsoldier?”
​“This is your chance,” Aleister said to First Consul Leverette. “A real chance to do something good in your administration. Admit what you’ve done. Come clean.”
​The First Consul stood up, glanced at Katic.
​“I’m sorry,” he said.
​Katic looked from the First Consul to the Praetor, an expression that was momentarily unsure all at once reassured and cocky, smiling with a wide smile of yellowed teeth.
“Guards!” he yelled.
​All at once the Scarlett Guard came in and kicked open the door, half a dozen soldiers, standing around and behind the Praetor.
​“Arrest this man on the charge of treason! He’s been conspiring with the traitor Artemus Ward,” he picked up the herald. “And spreading sedition, inciting rioutous material.”
​Aleister stood up slowly, unmolested.
​“Artemus Ward is only a traitor because you made him that way, Senator. And you gave rise to an ancient army, the Illumanar. You’re the traitor, and you are under arresst.”
​“What are you waiting for?” Katic yelled, a little shocked.
​“Do as the Senator asks, on my authority,” Leverette added.
​The Guards still said nothing only stared.
​Now the two men’s attention went down to Artemus’ ring, a sapphire, glowing just slightly, and Artemus was rotating it on his finger.
​“Fitting, don’t you think,” he started, spinning the ring on his finger. “My father’s ring. Sapphire. Fitting that you betrayed your nation,” he looked to Leverette. “And you your conscience until there was none left at all,” and now here you are. Coming full circle with another sapphire. Almost poetic, one would say.”
​“You’ll be the doom of us all!” he yells, knowing he was caught he admitted everything. “Those magical people will kill all of us! Unnatural demons, all of them! The world will not be safe until all of them are dead! I saved this country! I’m a hero!”
​Now only three of the guards and the First Consul were left in the room. The three scarlet guards behind Aleister waiting for his lead.
​The First Consul all at once lunged for a sharp knife on the table, where not long before they had laughed around it, happily as an army marched on them. He picked it up and retreated fast to the corner, but Aleister was on him in a split second, somehow grabbing the man’s wrist, knowing what he was planning, the sharp blade just over his wrist. Still, the guard waited.

​“Please, Aleister. Please let me. Please let me go this way.”

​For a moment they had a stand off, and the guards didn’t advance.
​For a moment or two it seemed like Aleister was going to let the old man do it. But finally, though he looked like he took no pleasure in it, said “I want you to think about the Outriders of Veil’driel who died in Bryce Valley in your cell, sir,” and squeezed the old man’s wrist hard enough to where the blade dropped on the floor. “I want you to think of my father.”

​He stood up out of the crouch.

​“Guards,” he said and they came and took him out, leading him past the other shocked High Council members, led out in shame and quiet.

​One of the guards stood behind as Aleister stood there, quiet and still in the abandon room.

​“Sir,” he said, and Aleister didn’t move a muscle, staring out into space. After awhile the guard tried again. “First Consul.”

​At this, Aleister turned to him slightly.

​“What will you have us do, sir?”

​“Start mass evacuations, as many as you can, anyone who can’t fight into Avaleen, tell the rest of the High Council that there will be an emergency sesson called at dawn, give me time to work some other things out. Then return.”

​“Yes, sir” the guard said, and then left, closing the door and leaving

Aleister in there alone.


Malcolm was sitting, quietly, still and alone in his room, in his dress uniform, sitting on his bed and staring at a table with a small pouch on it. A pouch that was just that, but to him, it was everything. Music floated in through his open window. It was so much bigger than just the object in both what it represented and what it felt like. It sparked so many memories of what he had accomplished with its help. The feeling of being invincible, strong, to have fire surge through your vains. In lesser doses, but still more than most would take, it gave him strong energy and confidence. He felt good and in control, as he had first started taking it to get over his nervousness and clumsiness when first getting promoted to sharpshooter and even as his fame continued to grow.

​He had been off of it for months now. Months. If he were to just take a little now before heading down to the Ball, hell, it would almost be even acceptable. Who would know? He was a hero now. Strong, lucky, proud. Hell, even Jace was taking it, even though he wasn’t clear on the reason. And he felt about that, misleading him like that, but really what was the harm.

​Still he stared. He had been counseled in his time since getting off of it, had weekly meetings with Creed who warned him how much more intense it could be if you relapsed back into the drug. How proud Creed was of him, but in that moment he just wanted that feel, he didn’t care about the consequences. He wanted that feeling, for get the side effects. The dry mouth, the occassonal headaches, the lack of appetite.

​He wanted to breathe smoke, and he’d earned it.
​He stood up, took a step towards it and then there was a loud knock at the door, just literally at the moment where his hand was outstretched to touch it and it froze just a bit away. He wasn’t expecting anyone.

​“Who is it?” he asked, perking his head up.

​“Senior Bowman Hawkins,” a familiar voice that surged his heartrate faster than even the herb at the tip of his fingers ever could have. “Are you awake?”

​Even in his excited, near panicked state he still smiled at that reference, and he swiped up the small pouch, pushing it down into his pocket and made his way over to the door. And opened it.
​Cleo was standing there, looking beautiful in a beautiful dress, her hair up, and on one of the little golden wreaths on the strap on her dress. He totally froze, but caught himself in time so that it wasn’t obvious. How beautiful she looked just added to the complete surreality of her presence.

​“Hello,” she said with an adorable smile. Using a tip told by Isabelle and we see her put it into practice, the reader know what she’s doing, Malcolm doesn’t.


​In order for Relic to gain entrance to the room Hazel Lien was sleeping in, Relic had to have approval directly from the King, who he met along with Jaden for the first time less than twenty minutes before. He had opted not to attend the Ball, but to come here instead when he heard about the situation, the Zarponda mission and various other aspects. He parted with Isabelle as he took Cleo into the city to buy a dress, crazy as that sounded, and now that the Ball started, he would let Isabelle and Jace enjoy the night tonight, this is where he wanted to be.

​So here he sat in a comfortable chair, casual dress, short sleeved shirt, inside the quaint room but with a view out of an enormous window, outside two Sindell guards were guarding, that looked out over the front of the city and out onto the plain over which they rode the last length after being transported by Foy’s cave. In his hand, was a rather worn book about the Bryce Mountain Range, originally taken from the Lornda Manor library the night before they left, intended to collect as much information on it for the powers that be in Veil’driel, only to find out that the High Council seemingly didn’t care, and Alesiter, upon hearing of Artemus’ betrayal, had already been told by Foy. Nothing, it seemed, worked out the way it was intended to when associated with Lornda Manor.

​He had been there since there since mid-afternoon, not long at all after his arrival, and he was only needed for a short period of time by Thean, who seemed much more concerned with talking with Foy than any of his outriders. Now there was a full pitcher of icy water as well as a large kettle of tea at his request. Both sat there, as well as a few other books that were on the table, that he had read and reviewed. He had just set down his cup of tea and turned back to the book on his lap, slowly turning the page when suddenly, shockingly, he heard Hazel’s voice.

​“Told ya I had a feeling we would meet again soon,” her cracked voice said.

​She was obviously pale, and weak, her lips having a whitish tint to them as well,

Relic looked over, astounded to see she was awake, and that her voice was dry and cracked. Then, letting his surprise fade he stood slowly and poured her a glass of the water.

“You did,” he said, walking over as at first looked surprised, but then slowly extended her hand to take it. She sipped it. Stopped and swallowed, took a more generous gulp and then handed it back to Relic who was there waiting, and he took it, placing it back on the table and then sitting back in his chair as if there were nothing out of the ordinary in this situation, whatsoever. “Promised me a rain check, I believe,” he finished as he sat.

She laughed a little but it transitioned to a gentle cough before she refocused.
“Ah,” she said, and it was obvious her spirits were actually rising a little. She cracked a very small smile as she sunk her head back a little more in the pillow and looked straight up at the ceiling. “Yes, I do believe you’re right.” She shifted slightly. “Find anything of use in that one?” she asked. “Bryce Mountain Range, huh?”
“Not really,” Relic said. “the author obviously had no real idea about what those mountains really are. It’s a survey of the topical portsions and secret trails.
Hazel was in a little discomfort, but far from serious pain, she closed her eyes again and spoke as if using the conversation as a distraction.
“Written by pioneers of the Beacon Fleet in the time before they set sail for Emren. Some of those books are thousands of years old, they’re simply preserved by time shifting in that library. Which is why it was dusty and looked like no one had been in there. That’s what you wanted to talk about, right? The Beacon Fleet?”
“What exactly is it you know about it?” he asked.
“I know it could have been the beginning of something beautiful. The coexistence of Tears and humankind before it was the first of many botches by the Veil’driel government, the whole mission, like so much else, the truth lost hidden and covered up until historical fact fell into myth and legend. Based on joint meetings between Sindell and Veil’driel held exclusively at Lornda Manor. That ended with the relationships being sundered, covered up by Veil’driel, and Jaden making the decision that they weren’t ready, putting up the illusion barrier in Terrill Silva and Jaden diminishing the Sindell airship emerald powers so they couldn’t find too far away from the emerald grotto and not reach Lornda Manor. Until the time was right. But of course, after them covering up the whole Beacon Fleet mission experiment, the cycle of blocking enlighment and deception continued and perpetuated itself. It wasn’t until nearly a thousand years later my mother would think them ready to try again. And in those events, she would meet my father.”
She glanced at Relic, waiting for a reaction, but none came. They really were a like, she thought. He had obviously known the information before she told him, but it was still very new to him, and yet he just accepted it and moved on. Always eager for the big picture no matter how shocking the details were.
“Jaden,” he nodded. “A thousand years from the beacon fleet….” His eyes brightened as he made a connection. “The original point team,” he said, having want to know about these events from the time he could remember. “That’s when it would have been,”
Now Relic sat back down just as a warm breeze picked up carrying with it the scent of beautiful flowers, and the beautiful tapestry wafted ever so slightly against the wall, the depiction of the aft section of a mighty battle ship arcing up into the sky, with the front an early model of the fighter airships used, to mark the progression of the kingdom’s transition, then she looked away from it and back to Relic who she was surprised to see staring at her as if he sensed the inner reflection she had just gone through.
“I’m not interested in the war tonight,” Relic said. “The war is the present, and it’s the past I’m interested in. You were talking about how your mother met your father. You were talking about the point team of thirty years ago.”
Now Relic leaned forward towards the bed and looked deep into her eyes, a deep and beautiful shade of blue just shy of purple that were accentuated and even more piercing against the paleness of her skin.
“Look into my eyes,” Relic said, and he stared at her, holding it for seconds that seemed like little separate eternities. By the time Relic broke the silence, Hazel was so entranced that she flinched a little. “Now tell me. Is that what you think?”
They stared at each other just a little bit longer, leaning over their little piece of the Ball that wrapped up the capital city and them along with it. They were frozen, neither moving so much as a muscle even as she spoke.
“Have you ever heard of Operation Longstreet?”


​A few airships zoomed overhead on regular patrol and Cleo looked up for a second, not used to them. Malcolm’s eyes never left her as she looked up and looked at them, but when she looked back down to him he quickly diverted his eyes so she wouldn’t know he was staring at her the entire time.
​The courtyards they were walking through were beautiful, a parklike environment with fountains and hedges and things and stunning architecture all around.
​They walked around the sidewalks and up a sweeping causeway that led up to another little level with a bunch of open grass fields and statue of one of the ancient kings looking out as if the beautiful wall leading into another one of the dazzling courtyards were some epic, foreboding landscape instead of a wide bed of flowers.
​“When did you get here?” Malcolm asked, quick to look away when she looked back down to him so she wouldn’t know he was looking at her the entire time.
​“Late this afternoon,” she said, brushing her hair behind her ear. “Gotta admit,” she said glancing down off the courtyard plateau they were on at the festivities below and the huge Ball room off to their right that towered high and brightly above. “This is not exactly what I was expecting.”
​Malcolm looked down referring to her dress.
​“Could have fooled me,” he said.
​She smiled, suddenly appearing to feel a little self conscious, and she looked down and picked up the skrith of it a little and moved it around.
​“This city has no shortage of places, and I was given this one for free by the royal dress makers (tailors?).”
​“You look beautiful,” he said, and it was something he would not have probably said months before, and she knew it. Indeed, she could see quite a few changes about him.
​“Thank you,” she said kind of seriously.
​“Senator,” he added as a joke, and then continued it on as if it was amusing only himself. “Senator Cleo Bright,” he said out loud, that cocky kind of joking tone she was used to, and he put his hands down into his pockets, looking up to the king statue.
​The bottom of the statue was supremely lighted in flickering purple lights so that the bottom of it gave off a beautiful, almost haunting aspect to it.
​But when, in that space he was looking at the statue, she took a full step towards him so that she was nearly pressed up against him, all cockiness fled in one panicked instant of excitement, disbelief and terror. His pockets were stuck in his pockets as if held there by cement, as if he not dare take them out. As if it was a security blanket of sorts.
​“You,” he stopped again and cleared his throat. “You … you uh, never told me how you got here,” he managed but the look in his face now twisted so that he was, on some level, aware even himself how stupid it was.
​“Mmm… must have forgotten,” she said, smiling, and knowing the effect she was having him, just as she did that night on the Fairlawn Monument. “So are you gonna kiss me or not?”
​She reached up and put her arms around neck, and there in that moment the fireworks started bursting like beautiful dazzling sparks in the air, and then a particularly large blue one seemed to explode directly over them. And while she looked up at them for just a second, Malcolm’s eyes never left her, watching the colors splash over her features, and then she refocused on him, beaming with a wide smile.
​“Cyclic circles,” she whispered.
​Malcolm was way too nervous.
​“What?” he asked, and by the looks of him, he probably wouldn’t even, in that moment, remembered where he was.
​Then the smile left her face, slowly as she focused in on him.
​“Nothing,” she whispered, and now her voice was shaking a little as well. They kissed, and slowly, Malcolm’s hands came out of his pockets, rising ever so delicately up to her sides.
​The fireworks blazed overhead.


​“So this is your room?” Isabelle asked.
​“When I’ve been here,” Jace said. “They used my knack to see through Artemus’ illusions since I got here. Been on a bunch of missions.”
​“Yeah? Did you have a part in this last one? The one this Ball is celebrating?”
​“Small one.”
​She smiled knowingly.
​Jace walked to the far corner, climbing halfway up the stairs and opening a latch at the top.
​“But the room does have its perks.”
​He climbed up, and disappeared out of the portal above. And she just stood there, looking up. And she could see the dark sky above and the slightly blue tint of the forcefield protecting the city. Then she saw Jace’s hand come back down through it and she smiled, climbing up it.
​Before she knew it they were up on top of the flat downer, a little railing around it, it was breathtaking looking over the entire city in the dark, warm night filled with stars. And even more as soon as they were outside, the music from the ball floated back up to them, and it was quiet. And he put his hand out. Fireworks were blazing all around them, it was simply the most breathtaking moment she had ever experienced, the most beautiful scene she had ever seen.
​The music, while slow and casual was louder to match the grandeur of the fireworks display. It was a beautiful song.
​Jace slipped the jadeite necklace from around his neck and put it around her neck, as he promised he would do when they last departed.

“May I have this dance?”

​They started dancing.

​“You’re really tan,” she whispered, laying her head on his shoulder.
​Jace smiled.

“So … do you want me to tell you what that meeting was about?” he asked, and they were dancing casually as if formally.
​She had her head on his shoulder, pressed up against him and slowly bobbing. Then she said sighed.

​“Not right now,” she said, not wanting to disrupt the moment. Then she whispered.

​Though they were dancing and he was just lost in the moment, absorbed into her, smelling her neck, he found himself, though hesitating because afraid to look, at her neck all around her. She didn’t move, there was no way to tell that she had perceived what he was trying to do but then she whispered.

​“I’m fine, don’t worry. Whatever that plague is that effects people using those passages it doesn’t effect me. And obviously it doesn’t effect you, either,” she said, soudning relieved.

​Now Jace stopped moving a bit, confused, and he moved his head back far enough so he could look at her.

​“Don’t think I didn’t secretly check you out in the same way,” she said.

​Jace smiled with genuine amusement, only because he thought it was funny that she had checked him like that without his knowledge, and that was probably the only reason why she believed him when he smiled and nodded as if to confirm that he did not have the mysterious plague as well. She must have perceived that, otherwise she always knew when he was lying.

​“But still ….,” she started again, pressing herself a little closer against him. “Just to be safe, just to be …. She bent her arms and rested her elbows on his shoulders, placing her hands on the sides of his face. “absolutely sure, I think you’re gonna have to inspect me for the scars.”

​Jace nodded, a look of sarcastic seriousness on his face in a fluctuating pulse of firework orange, then red, and blue.

​“Yeah, I think that’s smart,” he said, his mouth moving ever closer to hers to where they were almost touching. “Can never be too safe.”

​She didn’t say anything just shook her head, her mouth opening into the duel purpose of smiling and kissing him.

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 Chapter Fourteen  (E)
Fate Don’t Know You
#2190679 by Dan Hiestand
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