Saturday, October 30, 2021
Friday, October 29, 2021
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
How are you supposed to feel when you find out the man you’ve fallen in love with, who you’ve never even met in person, reveals that the two of you were once engaged, and that you were—inadvertently or not—the cause of his death?
I try to plan for every contingency, but even super-prepared Cher hadn’t seen that one coming.
“Does that mean the whole thing has to happen all over again the same way?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Does it mean we’ll get to meet, after all? Or do I meet another version of you instead?”
“I don’t know.”
This was exasperating. The odd thing was, I found it almost impossible to be mad at him. It wasn’t his fault, anyway. He had no idea how to get out of the place where he was, wherever or whenever that might be, or what would happen if he did. I had no idea how to get him out, either, but I did know I had to find a way—and without him getting run over by a car again. I’d strap him to the bed if I had to.
“If we were engaged before, does that mean we still are?” I asked.
“I think so, unless you want to break it off. Do you?”
“No, I like being your fiancée.”
“Good. Because I like it, too.”
I still didn’t feel comfortable telling anyone else about Evan, or telling Layla anything more about him, because now it was even weirder than before. So, the only person I was left with as counselor was my inner voice.
I need to get him back here again. I need to see him.
Need. It was a word I’d hardly ever used before, and certainly not in connection with myself. But I seemed to be using it more and more with Even.
How do you think you’re going to do that if he’s dead?
It was a good question.
I could call my ghost-hunter friends.
You don’t need to hunt him. You already know where he is: In that smartphone screen of yours! You drew him to you through the internet. Now you just need to bring him the rest of the way.
By being yourself. He hungers for you and can’t resist you. He will come.
Could it possibly be as simple as that? It couldn’t be. I remembered the voice had asked me once before who I was, and I’d answered that I was just me. But I was only that person when I was alone. Otherwise, I was always pretending—except when I was with Evan. I could be myself with him, too. So maybe it really was as simple as that, after all. It had to be, because I couldn’t think of anything else. But how could I be my true self, my vampire self, when the world was watching?
You can’t. You need to go someplace.
It didn’t help that I was having this conversation with myself at work.
“Cher, can you come over here for a sec?” Joy motioned toward me. “This customer needs his frames adjusted.”
Fortunately for the eye clinic, and for my own job security, I was great at multitasking. I was able to keep brainstorming about how to get some privacy even while I was adjusting Mr. Thompson’s new glasses to fit him perfectly without pinching the bridge of his nose or pulling down too much behind the ear.
“Thank you,” he said. “You’re very good at that.”
I laughed easily. “I should be. I’ve been doing this long enough. But you’re very good at being a patient patient, and that makes all the difference.”
He nodded slightly and... was he blushing? So often, I found that the smallest kind word or gesture was appreciated beyond what I’d expected. People didn’t treat each other with kindness enough anymore. It had become rare enough that, when it happened, it was unexpected.
And they were grateful. It was sad that common courtesy had fallen so far out of style.
But being nice to people was how I’d been raised; it was part of who I was.
Vampires are known for their courtesy. They only enter where they’re invited.
That was it!
I had to be myself—my vampire self—to draw Evan back to the land of the living, but I had to invite him, too. That was the one thing I’d been missing. He might be dead, but he was also a vampire, and if I invited him, he would have no choice but to accept.
Monday, October 25, 2021
Rose opened her eyes to stare at the ceiling in the dim morning light. Blinking lazily, she rolled her head and checked the small window of her room. The winter wind rattled the shutters and even with the rags stuffed in the gaps, the freezing wind forced its way through the cracks.
She sighed and rolled out of bed, having chased sleep unsuccessfully all night. Even if the howling wind hadn’t kept her up, the nightmares did. Her sleep was fitful, and disturbing. Her dreams were haunted by gray wastelands and whispering ghosts. Recently, her dreams had taken a turn for the worse. The attempted coup on the castle over the summer had left different marks on Rose. That fighting, that type of pain was different than anything she was used to. It had left new scars, hidden and visible, on Rose.
Swinging her legs over the edge of the narrow bed, she absently rubbed the smooth burns that circled her wrists. Despite the thick wool socks, her feet quickly grew cold from the floor, and she glared at the faintly glowing stove. The orange coals did little to heat the small room.
She pushed off the bed and shoved her legs into plain trousers and a simple tunic hanging off the back of the long chair in her room. It was a small box of a room, large enough for a narrow bed, a desk and a chair. The stove was shoved in the corner between the bed and desk.
Unfortunately, the only coat she had was the deep blue uniform coat of the Light Horse: the messenger service of the king. Her belongings were sparse, and her actions over the summer required her to play the part of a Light Horse Officer. And, as her items were few and far between, she’d kept the uniform items. Shoving her arms into the coat, ignoring the feeling of being an imposter as she did so, she walked into the hallways in search of the kitchens.
They’d be warmer than her room, and maybe there was still a snack or two left lying about she could steal before attempting this feat called sleep.
Her life felt stalled. She’d come to the castle, after carrying the message for a dying Light Horse Officer, with the intent to leave again and continue her journey. But then she’d found another person with her magic. Something Rose thought was a mistake of nature or a curse of the gods, and then there was D’ray, the B’Leakon who’d attempted to overthrow King Micah. He appeared and upheaved her whole world.
And so she’d stayed, despite her fear of staying in one place, with the hope of learning more about her magic, of finding answers to questions she’d had all her life. Now, months later and winter fully set in, she had discovered nothing.
The stagnant feeling of her days added to her irritability and inability to sleep.
As she walked, she entered the older parts of the castle. Here the tapestries were older the further away from the public halls. Time had faded the once bright colors to dull, washed out fabrics, but you could still see the epic tales of warriors and kings sewed into their weave. One of the previous kings must’ve had a fondness for the sea, because along the hall to the kitchens, the tapestries were tales of sailors, great sea monsters, and the beginnings of the royal navy.
The suits of armor along these walls, tucked into the alcoves weren’t the shiny, polished displays for the public. These were tarnished, grimy, and damaged from time. She glanced at them as she passed and wondered where these went when they were replaced. Did the castle just throw them out? Or was there a giant room in some dusty old wing stuffed to the brim with old armor parts?
Outside, the raging blizzard beat against the castle and the hallways were frigid as a result. The wind rattled the shuttered windows and howled. The once thick carpets along the floors had long since been worn down by the hundreds of servants' feet over the years. The stone floor poked through in many places. The halls were dark, the few lanterns burned low, and the flames made dark shadows flicker along the stone walls and the suits of armor.
She tucked her fists into her pockets and trudged around the corner.
“Everything alright, ma’am?” A guard paused in his stride down the hall. His black and amethyst uniform made him blend into the dark.
“Yup,” Rose said and kept walking.
He dipped his head in a marginal nod and turned back down the hall. She continued on her journey to the kitchens, further into the belly of the castle.
Finally, at the door, feeling the residual heat of the hearths from inside the kitchens, Rose took a deep breath. Her bones were tired. A weight had settled in her limbs since the summer.
She wanted to sleep. To sleep for days, but she worried the weariness that she carried wouldn’t be cured by sleep.
Rose jerked at Aaron’s voice and found him sitting at the large kitchen table in the center of the room. The candlelight lit up little of his face, but with the shadows, Rose could see his high cheekbones and dusty blond hair. His face was full of sharp angles and lines. She was sure some would call him handsome.
“Everything alright?” he asked, his voice soft but attentive. She’d never seen him lose his attention or his patience.
Rose sniffed, annoyed she’d jumped, and settled across from him at the counter. “Yes.
Can’t sleep. What’s your excuse?”
Aaron, one of King Micah’s personal guards, glanced at her before returning to the block of cheese he was cutting into. “I’m getting off shift and needed a snack before heading to bed.”
Aaron was a tall mountain of a man that managed to sneak around and move with barely a sound in a way Rose was jealous of. She guessed he was a few years older than her, maybe somewhere in the later half of his third decade. He carried himself like a warrior, and she’d seen him fight to know there was no lie in the lithe, lethal way he moved. It made her wary, but she’d never once seen him raise his voice.
“Oh. Well, tell me, Aaron of the guard.” She nicked the cheese he’d sliced off the block and he frowned at her. “Do you enjoy it?”
Aaron frowned at her but sliced off another piece before pulling the teapot off the fire and settling at the table. He poured them both a cup before speaking. “Shield. Those who guard the royal family are Black Shields. And yes, it is a very fulfilling position.”
Rose raised her eyebrows and sipped the tea. “You enjoy following a man around all day, every day? And what royal family? It’s just him here.”
“There’s more to it, and you know that,” Aaron said with a sardonic look. “And yes, right now, only the king. But when his cousins or his aunt visit the castle, their protection falls to us. And eventually, the queen and heirs.”
“I see.” Rose ducked her head, shame burning her cheeks. She did know that. She’d seen the work and risk Aaron and the other Shields had taken to protect the king last summer. She shouldn’t have insulted him so. “I apologize. I’m in a mood, it seems.” She stared into her tea.
“Sleep disagrees with me.”
She pushed strands of her hair out of her eyes and tried to tuck it behind her ear.
Aaron nodded and pushed his plate toward her. “After the battle this summer, I’m sure many find sleep hard to come by. It will pass in time.”
She would bury these nightmares just like she has with all the others. These will just take her more time. More time and more rum. She started to rub the smooth scar on her wrist and had to tell herself to stop.
“Are you still training with Archie?”
Rose chuckled. “Everyone really does call him Archie when he’s not looking, don’t they?”
Archie, or Archibald as he preferred it, was one of the Swordmasters in the castle that trained new and upcoming recruits. His younger sister, Mariah Sayla, was captain of the Light Horse. She was currently trying to convince Rose to become a Light Horse Officer herself. Rose still had her doubts about that being a good idea. Assassins didn’t belong in castles.
Aaron laughed, a deep, baritone laugh. “Yes, and I’ll denounce you as a liar if you tell him.”
Rose laughed too and it felt good to laugh, like something had loosened in her chest with the sound. She hadn’t laughed since the summer attack on the throne room, when her magic had gone to shit, and she’d been trapped there after exhausting her magic, after letting the shadows in too far. Her hand went to the scars on her wrist again. D’ray had burned her wrists when he’d forced her memories out with his magic in an effort to assassinate the king. “Your secret is safe with me.”
He nodded his thanks, a smile still on his lips. “How’s your training going? It’s hard work, and not many stick with it. Archie must see something in you to keep you on, without being paid,” he eyed her with a raised eyebrow, “or a member of a corps.”
She crooked a smile and ignored the jibe. “It’s a challenge, and I like challenges.” It also lets me clear my mind and not… think or feel or... “It’s just me and the sword and trying not to get smacked.” She paused and chewed her cheek. “Although, I don’t like the broadsword. Archie started me with a long knife, but...I’m much better with my little daggers.”
Aaron scrunched his brows together as he thought, and Rose took the opportunity to steal more cheese. “I have watched you fight in the practice rings. All of the Shields are Swordmasters, but we are also trained in...a variety of weapons aside from the broadsword. You should train with us sometime. Maybe I can train you in some weapons more to your style.”
Rose nodded noncommittally. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to commit to more training with more people. The more ties she made here, the harder it would be to leave. Some part of her didn’t want to disappoint so many people if she disappeared, and fewer ties meant less disappointment. Although, she wasn’t sure when she started caring about what others felt. The thought made her frown. She was already becoming too attached here, and she wasn’t even sure she was going to stay.
The bells started their chimes, and even down in the depths of the kitchens, they heard their faint echo. “I really must be retiring. I suggest you try to do the same.”
Rose nodded and watched him leave. She stood and checked in the back of the cheese larder and found the bottle of brandy was still there.
“Mine,” she whispered as she grabbed it, stuffed it in her pocket, and finally turned back to her room.
* * * * *
Later that afternoon, while nursing a rather impressive headache, Rose sat curled in the stiff, overstuffed armchair in the common room for the Light Horse. The room was filled with a scattering of tables, and benches. The hearth had a large bookshelf built into the stone around it. Random knick knacks from the years were scattered on the plain wood shelving. A carved horse. A mismatched collection of books. Some trophy from a race she didn’t know. The room was old and shabby, but it was lived in and loved. She felt like an intruder sitting here.
The fire roared in the hearth, making the large room warm and cozy. The sound of wood popping and crackling in the flames filled the room. The storm continued to blow outside; the window on the far end of the room was crusted with ice.
In the back of her mind, the shadows were restless, no doubt adding to her brandy headache. Something was stirring them, the denizens of the Shadow Land. She could feel them prowling in the shadows, could feel their irritation. She’d never felt them behave like this before. Normally the shadowy beasts existed on their own and, up until this summer, kept to themselves. She didn’t know what it meant, but whatever it was… they were angry about it.
“What is causing such a frown?”
Rose blinked, focusing her eyes again, and turned to Sam Fiben. He sat across from her on the equally battered and old couch. He watched her with his expressive, eager eyes. Sam was also a member of the Light Horse and, like so many of the officers, had a magical ability. While it wasn’t a requirement, as far as Rose was aware, the corps seemed to attract lost souls with odd magics. Sam controlled fire. Poorly, but he was learning. The stoic captain also had magic and could read minds. A skill that had set Rose on her nerves when she’d first arrived.
“Was I frowning?”
He nodded, a small grin on his lips. His piercing blue eyes seemed to twinkle at her.
“You looked quite bothered.”
“Hmm,” she hummed and set her eyes back to the fire. “Something’s changed.”
“I don’t know,” she murmured and rolled her shoulders. But she needed to find out.
She stood with a sigh, head pounding behind her eyes, and turned from the room. She could feel Sam’s eyes on her, but she ignored the stare on her back. The people in the Light Horse were so open, so used to sharing their cares and troubles with each other, but she’d survived by keeping her secrets close to her. She didn’t know how to share. Didn’t know if she wanted to.
Instead, she retreated to her drafty room, her boots clicking on the stone floor with her hasty steps. Closing the door behind her, Rose’s hands shook. The last time she’d used her magic, it had taken control. It had harmed people, the king. She’d nearly lost her mind to the shadows. But the hells be damned, she wasn’t going to let them control her.
She closed her shutter, blocking out the little light from the afternoon. In her dark room, Rose dropped into the shadows, into the Undertunnels. Like stepping into a room, she entered the world that existed between worlds. It lived in the shadows, the darkness, the between spaces of the world. Here, the world was awash with blues and grays and a heavy mist settled around her knees. The dark world is broken up by little ‘windows’ looking into the world at places where light meets darkness.
She could feel the wolves pacing in the darkness, could sense their agitation. Perspiration broke out on her forehead at their nearness, but they made no move to break into her mind. A wind stirred the mist in a flurry, and dew gathered on her face.
“What’s happening?” she asked, her voice wispy. She ground her teeth in annoyance.
Red eyes appeared in the darkness and soon, the darkness condensed into a snout, a head, the body of a wolf. Standing nearly to her chest, the red-eyed beast stared at her, hackles raised and dew-drops dotting its fur.
“What is happening?” Rose asked again. This time her voice was firmer.
The wolf lifted its lips in a silent snarl, white fangs gleaming in the darkness.
“He’s awakened.” The voice echoed in her mind.
She fought back a grimace and told herself, again, that she was in charge of these beasts. Not the other way around. “Who?”
“He ruins the Balance. He should not be!”
More wolves appeared in the darkness.
“Who!” Rose shouted at them.
They froze, all blazing eyes turned to her. A stillness settled in her bones, and even the swirling mist seemed to hang suspended.
Annabelle lit candles and sat down on the floor. She tried deep breathing for a few seconds, and feeling slightly calmer, took her tarot deck out of its wooden box and shuffled the cards. She let her breath flow in and out; it lulled her, cleared her head, calmed her down, and the smell of the burning wax soothed her, as she tried to formulate a mature, non-attached-type question. Not: Will Wilson come back to me, please, please?
Her breathing hitched. Yeah, definitely not that. “Okay. The issue is… Wilson. Um. Do we have a future together?”
She turned over a card. The Knight of Pentacles, reversed.
“Damn it.” Reversed, this Knight meant carelessness, a standstill in affairs. “Okay, so if things are at a standstill, that means they can move forward again, right?” She turned another card.
Three of Swords. Sorrow due to loss. Well, duh, Annabelle thought, and then winced, as if she’d said it out loud. As if the cards could hear.
She turned over the next card. The Wheel of Fortune. Not always a good sign, though, as it could mean an unexpected loss rather than a gain, even when in the upright position as it was now. “I don’t know what any of this means,” Annabelle mumbled, knowing full well what it meant. This was all about the now, and she didn’t like the now.
At moments like these, Annabelle found it was usually a good thing to stop pulling cards.
Queen of Cups. She shivered. That was her court card. Good natured, intuitive, a loving female figure, one whose imagination often outweighed her good sense.
Strength. The beautiful woman grasped the lion by the jaws, symbolizing the power of the human spirit to overcome any obstacle. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
The Sun. “Summertime? Two months from now? I’ll be better in two months?”
Annabelle gathered up the reading and returned the deck to its box.
She continued to sit. She tried to go back to the deep breathing but got bored. She thought about how she’d never had much luck reading Wilson’s cards. Maybe it never worked because it was almost always post-coital, the only time he was ever mellow enough to entertain the idea. She could never make sense of his configurations, none of the images seemed to relate to the others, she’d pull card after card and make a spread that was meaningless, confused. He would lose interest and patience. She would feel as though she’d failed. Ugh.
She’d like to blame it all on him, but she supposed her own muddled thinking got in the way as well; always hoping he was asking about the future of their relationship, whether she would marry him, whether she would like an emerald-cut diamond in a platinum setting, as opposed to a three carat marquis-cut in white gold.
Someday, maybe, she’d find that remotely amusing.
But not today. Rising, she left the candles burning and got some incense going as well.
Lavender: soothing, healing. She wanted healing. She wanted that fistful of pain out of her chest. She wanted all her lessons learned in a six-week correspondence course, she wanted a whole, strong heart, she wanted Wilson back, she wanted all the sadness to leak out of her pores, she wanted her life back. Herself back. Now.
10. Sabrina the Teenage Witch (Season 1)
I gotta say, the first season of this show was a pleasant surprise for me. The creators managed to somehow find a great balance between the grittier new tone of the series compared to the old, while also managing to keep a lot of easter eggs to the original that were a bit of a treat for old fans. Sadly after the first season, things went downhill, and I am actually still pretty livid about the show finale.
9. Rick and Morty
A lot of people would put this higher and while I do love the escapades of Rick and Morty Sanchez, I think the one draw point the show has is that its creators actively resist creating larger overarching storylines. They almost had to be dragged kicking and screaming at points, and I feel that has dragged down the shows quality in later seasons.
Good at what it does, which is create a fun adventure through the character of Lucifer and his development from devilish angel of God to a real person and character. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously, which given the subject, is definitely a plus in my opinion.
The dark and gritty version of teen titans, I love what they’ve done with the show and the introduction of characters from all over the DC universe. I can’t wait to see what they do next and who will be the big threat in the latest season.
6. Umbrella Academy
Quite similar to Titans in terms of its darker theme, but the music track is what probably elevates it to the position above. I really can’t wait for the third season after the twist in the second. I loved the first season and how they pulled at your heart strings, at one point even for a plastic model.
5. Stranger Things
Final season coming soon! Can’t wait to see how they wrap this one up (it is the last season right?). Feels like ages since the last season (and also yesterday cause of the whole C word haha). I’m excited to see the kids a bit more grown up and taking on the upsidedown themselves. Plus the best damn babysitter returning!
4. The Witcher
I’ll admit I was a bit confused at the start of this show, having never played the games. IT was a lot better on the second watch though, and the action scenes were amazing. Great choreography work. Plus Henry Cavil…need I say more?
3. His Dark Materials
This will probably be the most faithful adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s works we’ll ever get, and given he was my favourite author growing up, this show has to rank up here doesn’t it! I really enjoyed the second season and watching Lyra’s relationships with the other characters grow. I just can’t wait for the next one and the underworld and angels and…everything!
Gotta be up this high for sheer longevity. Plus a pretty amazing wrap up to the show, despite the pandemic conditions limiting a few character’s roles. It went through its ups and downs, from starting off as a pretty horror centric season 1, to action and adventure through seasons 2-5, to a truly goofy, fun, show filled with brotherly love and loveable characters. It’s a shame it had to end.
1. Game of Thrones (up to season 5)
Let's just ignore those last two seasons, shall we?
Crouched atop the walls of the palace grounds, Zachary Sicario watched as the lanterns below flickered into life. His keen eyes tracked the path of the young servant as she scurried through the manicured gardens, passing from one lamp to the next with hardly a pause for breath. Bit by bit, the night was pressed back by the shimmering lights, until the palace formed a bubble of luminescence against the oppressive gloom of Leith under nightfall.
“Palace” might be overstating things a little, Zachary thought to himself as the servant retired, her task complete for the evening.
In typical aristocratic fashion, the noble owners had done their best to replica the grandeur of the royal palace back in Londinium. But Zach had visited those grounds himself on a number of occasions, albeit in a less than official capacity. He knew a cheap knockoff when he saw one.
The fountains might fill these gardens with the same joyful whispers as in Londinium, but he could see where the paint had begun to flake from the “marble” statues that adorned their waters. Neither did he see the same careless displays of wealth typical of the capital. No golden inlays around the windows and doors, no bejeweled eyes on the sculptures for passing thieves to filch. Even the gardens lacked the same carefully manicured touch as those found at the royal palace.
But then, that wasn’t so surprising. Zach had tried his hand at gardening since retiring; he knew well the difficulty of finding good help this far north. The dark spots infecting several of the rosebushes should have been trimmed days ago.
Breathing in the sweet scent of the flowers, Zach stifled a sigh. He’d enjoyed the quiet of his garden, the homely feel of the cottage in the highlands, far from Leith and its dark underbelly. He had thought this world far behind him. But alas, fate had other plans.
“Mansion” is probably more appropriate, Zach thought at last, returning to the task at hand.
In addition to the palpable absence of real wealth, the grounds of the mansion lacked one other key feature. Security. Zach had spent the past few days staking out the noble’s property. There were just two guards patrolling the outer gardens—and on this cold winter night, both had already retreated to the burning hearth in the guard house. Tonight would be like stealing gold from, well, a noble.
Still, years had passed since Zach’s last job, and he lingered a while longer in the shadows, watching for something he might have missed. Even with these rich aristocratic sorts, one had to take care.
Especially with these sorts, he reminded himself. Not even Zach’s reputation would survive being caught by the likes of Roy Whitfield.
Truth be told, he’d been surprised to find the man’s name on his list, given so many of the others were less than exemplary citizens. But then, the aristocracy always had considered themselves above the rules. It made sense that at least one of their kind would be interested in the Anomaly.
Three months had passed since the storm had wreaked havoc throughout the island kingdom of Riogachd. Most of the fishing fleet had been lost, either destroyed at sea or sunk in harbours across the nation, inundated by the waves that had swept the coast. Not even those citizens further inland had been safe, as storm surges broke through seawalls and rivers flooded lowland villages.
The storm of the century, people had called it. Yet even as the battered communities of Riogachd struggled to rebuild, the King’s Royal Navy had been deployed not to the clean-up, but to a blockade deep in the Northern Sea. It hadn’t been long before the rumours began to circulate.
Whispers had spread about strange lights and disappearing ships, though of course the King’s Council refused to even acknowledge the Anomaly.
Which, of course, meant half the populace was convinced the Council were covering up a secret treasure to be had out in the Northern Sea. No one could quite decide on the nature of that treasure—some claimed it must be a sucken galley carrying gold from the bank of Londinium, others that the princess’s ship had gone missing on the raging seas.
As the days turned to weeks, the rumours had grown in size, and now people spoke of portals to another world, of islands of gold risen from the depths, of magic and sorcery, of the power to fulfil a man’s greatest desires.
The last had really caught Zach’s attention.
Eventually, some had tried to slip past the naval blockade. Amateurs for the most part, those with access to a skiff or steamer that had survived the storm. Some had been caught and after a public trial, hanged. The rest had never been seen again.
Now three months had passed, and the amateurs had long since given up trying to uncover the secrets of the Anomaly.
It was time for the professionals to give it a try.
On the wall of the mansion, Zach drew in a calming breath. A cloud drifted across the half-moon, darkening the sky but doing little to dim the lanternlight in the grounds below. But it finally stirred Zachary into action. He made one last check of the knives hidden on his person. Maybe they weren’t as effective as one of the modern revolvers carried by the upper echelons of society, but they were useful in a pinch. And quiet.
Finally satisfied he was ready, Zach stepped from the wall and dropped to the ground with a soft thump. He crossed the lawns quickly, slipping from shadow to shadow, keeping as far from the lanterns as he could. Only once did he stop, when a sudden sound came from overhead. A flash of white feathers was all he glimpsed of the owl as it dove; a moment later it rose on languid wings, the dark body of a rat clutched in its talons.
Frozen in the shadow of a plum tree, Zachary held his breath, waiting to see whether the creature had drawn the attention of the guards. Seconds slipped by and he found his mind drifting back to those first whispers of the Anomaly. He’d always had a nose for a good mystery, and he’d needed the distraction, something to divert his mind from his…other problems.
Even in retirement, Zachary was more resourceful than most of those clinging to the underbelly of Leith. It hadn’t been hard to find a soldier from the royal navy. Most of those in the blockade around the Anomaly spent their off-duty days in Leith. It had been even easier to convince the man to join him at the local tavern. Several rounds of mead later, he’d had the truth straight from the horse’s mouth.
It wasn’t just strange lights and fog that had appeared out in the Northern Sea. An island had apparently risen from the depths, though not of gold. Even so, its appearance had caused much consternation amongst those back in Londinium, for it spoke of great power, one outside the Council’s control.
But when the armada had tried to investigate further, a great mist had risen around the island, and those ships that had drifted too close had been swallowed up, vanishing without a trace.
The soldier had seen the lights himself, great flashes of white and green and blue in the darkness, but his ship had thankfully escaped unscathed by whatever phenomenon surrounded the place.
The entire island was a mystery wrapped in impossibility.Just the sort of false hope a dying man could cling to with his last days.