Chapter I: The Book
A deal was made.
It was made in the darkest cave our Earth has to offer. Where no light of sun, moon, nor stars can penetrate. In the last great age of kings and knights, the magic of this world vanished beneath the surface before man could get his hands on it. Bound in a book of dragon skin were the last commands of the great wizards, and inside was the magic that once flourished in the land. Now that book lay in the hands of the faerie Roluq.
A figure slowly swung one leg over the other as he sat atop a rock that glistened with water and untouched gem veins. His reflective eyes shifted with lids half closed, a clawed finger playing off his sharp teeth.
“What is this about Roluq? I haven't got a life time and you know I hate these caves.”
A slim faerie stepped from the shadows, clawed feet gripping the stones with ease. Roluq's face held annoyance as he stepped toward the other.
“I see all the years have not smoothed your rough attitude toward your elders, Abo.” He sniffed lightly. “But that aside, this is a matter of importance. The bloodline of the wizards has come to light.”
Abo snorted. “Oh, not this again. Roluq, the years for magic are gone and this hunt will kill the few of us that still remain on this Earth.”
“The book Abo.” said Roluq ignoring his words. “We have found the book, and now all we need is a decedent to unlock the bonds.”
Abo narrowed his eyes slightly. He was one of the few magical creatures that still hid among the humans, and certainly the only faerie. “So, you want me to find this kid and teach them hundreds of years worth of magic.” He leaned forward. “Tell me my friend, what is in it for me?”
Roluq's ragged mouth slowly turned up into a smile. “Why a place of honor, of course,” his voice was low but seemed to echo off the stone walls around them, “and your wings returned.”
A single drop of water slid from the upper stones and hit the water below with the splash that rang in the ears of anyone in the lower caves. Abo's eyes were on Roluq, his pupils dilating down to slits.
“Tell me where to start looking,” he said under his breath.
Roluq's smile seemed to curve up and around his teeth as he pulled a book from the sleeves of his robe.
The city was bustling as the sun shone down in between the grey steel buildings. It would have looked beautiful and natural had it not been for all the trash that danced in the sun’s rays like a flock of excited birds. Still you had to give the city some credit, the budding trees along the sidewalk was the city's attempt to actually make things look healthier, though if it was working was still anyone's guess.
It was among the litter of the street that a girl of around fifteen sped by in a great hurry, she juggled her bag in one hand whilst trying to pull on her jacket at the same time. Now, had she actually been able to stop bumping into people at the same time she would have truly been accomplishing a great feat. Sadly, Sasha Grimort was not the most graceful of girls, or as her father said she was gravity challenged and could usually be found stumbling over the slightest of cracks. But either way Sasha didn't seem to mind, though that may have been due to the fact that she had never gone out for sports or worse still, dance.
“Perfect as usual.” she smiled brightly as she looked down at her wrist, head bobbing up and down “Early to the office again, Mrs. Mour is sure to keep me as permanent office assistant until I graduate if I keep this up.” The thought of actually having to go to two more classes instead of being a teacher's aid filled Sasha with a sort of cold dread. The way one might feel after eating a couple bites of chicken and then taking notice of the fact that is it still slightly pink inside.
She urged her feet onward and was soon rewarded as the four story brick building came into view just as the bell began to ring. Sasha slid across the waxed floor as she quickly turned the corner down the front hall to the main office, flashing her ID to the teacher standing in the hall as she did. The morning announcements were being shuffled through and the coffee pot was just starting to brew as she threw open the door with more glee to be there forty-five minutes early for school than is normal for any teenager.
“Don't act awkward,” she murmured to herself. She forced a sheepish smile and slid into a chair that sat in front of a small desk that held a phone, a large stack of sticky notes, and pens of various colors and styles in a neat little metal basket.
With a sharp click the announcements were over, a hand adorned with too many rings and bright pink nails slapped against the sleek fake wood on her desk.
“Ms. Grimort you're early again, how...wonderful.” said the high pitched whine of Mrs. Mour, an older woman with a tight face and perfectly sculpted eyebrows. She looked down at her, arching a brow to the heavens.
“Ah yeah, I like to be prompt.” said Sasha. She dropped her bag on the ground under her chair. “I thought that was one of the qualities that was looked for in a student wanting to earn some extra credits...uh, ma'am.”
“Uh huh,” she murmured. She handed the girl a stack of papers. “Well, while we do like students to be on time we also like them to be social people. People that others like to be around because they are confident and charming. People like me.” She adjusted one of the tight curls on her head with a sharp smile. “I suggest you put forth the same level of effort in your social life as you do with your time management Ms. Grimort.”
With that final warning, the woman clicked away on heels that were at least two inches too tall, leaving a very annoyed and slightly tired Sasha in her wake.
“That woman cannot be human.” She snorted under her breath. “It’s like she doesn't feel anything.”
The rest of the day passed as it usually did for the girl, a series of events in a never-ending loop of boredom. It wasn't that Sasha hated school, but her daydreaming often made remembering the lessons difficult. But she remembered every dream.
She walked home at a much slower pace than that morning. It felt nice to just be able to walk along, letting her feet take her where she needed to go, without having to pay attention to where she was going. The old brick town home soon loomed into view, casting shadows in the late afternoon light. The sun peeked over the top making Sasha squint as she headed up the steps to her house. She grasped the cold iron handle and stepped inside.
It had not been too much time since her family had moved in, Sasha loved the old house. The richness of the red brick stood out against the modern houses cramped around it. Despite the urgings of her uncle, her grandfather had steadfastly refused to update any part of the home. But then, why would you?
Inside the main hall, half the walls were lined with a rich wood with fading pink ornamental wallpaper stamped with an elegant repeating pattern. The house was like stepping into the old world; it still held on to the smell of ruffled books and cherry pipe tobacco. It had been her grandfather’s favorite, and often what she smelled when she spent weekends at the old house. With professional parents she’d often been pawned off to her grandfather when they had meetings, dinners or just had to impress some stuffed shirt. Her grandfather had been a very interesting man, at one time his office had been lined with various photos.
One of a lion hunt in Africa, another of her grandfather in the streets of London, and various others from around the world. Oddly though, her father could not remember a time when Sasha's grandfather had actually gone any of those places.
According to him, her grandfather, a stern type of man whose head was buried in books and his mind in the past. It's always that way isn't it?
If it was true or not, Sasha didn't really care, she liked to imagine the stories were true. “Mom!” she called out. She dropped her bag. “I'm home.” She gripped the edge of the doorway and let herself swing into the kitchen.
The smell of restaurant bought rotisserie chicken filled the air, probably coming from the white bags sitting on the counter. Lisa Grismort was sitting at the table flicking through a pile of mail, some of it still addressed to her grandfather. “What have I told you about shouting, Sasha? This house echoes.” she said, her eyes flitting up.
Sasha rolled her eyes and stepped in. “Yeah, but it’s big, how else am I supposed to find anyone when I get home?” She walked over to the counter and pulled out a box of pretzels from under the counter. She popped a few into her mouth and lounged against the counter.
“So where’s dad? Still at work?” she asked curiously. She let her fork scrape the bottom of the plastic bowl.
“He’s up in the attic again. Apparently my father was a bit of a hoarder. So many boxes up there you can barely move, all books and maps. Old junk.”
“Really? I'll go help him.” She darted away, leaving her mother startled, the letter slipping from her fingers.
The attic was three stories up and the carpeted stairs squeaked all the way up. Seriously, given enough time and patience you could play a song on them. She reached the last hall and headed down to the already open door. “Hey dad, find anything good?”
Her father was an average man of fifty, with a slightly balding head and a love of classical music. Dan Grismort stood from behind a pile of boxes popping his back a little as he put back down a box quickly “Ah...ah, not really. Just all this old stuff, probably not worth too much.” He kept one hand on his back as he came up to her. “Though all of them are pretty well packed, I was surprised.”
She shook her head. “Well, mom brought home dinner, and since you seem to have strained yourself I can pick through some of the boxes.”
Her father made no complaint, simply waving his hand as he hobbled down the stairs.
Sasha managed to slip her way through the boxes to the old slat window, and with a few shoves had it open, light to spilling out over the wooden floor. It wasn't long before she had books pulled out from the boxes and was sitting on the floor reading through them. Many were just classic works, the pages yellowed from time. A few were books on the making of maps and then, of course, several dozen books on just maps.
That was until she came across a lone book that had been tucked away in a rather large shoebox. The book itself was fairly large, covered in a thick leather with a seal burned into the front of it. The book felt oddly warm in her hands, but she just chalked it up to the sunlight as she pried it open. Sasha frowned as she rapidly flipped through the pages, but every single one was blank.
She finally flipped to the back cover. “Old journal or something...” she muttered before noting a single line scrawled on the bottom of the back cover. “Abo's Articles, Books, Maps, Antiques and Artifacts.” Her eyebrow arched slightly.
The script was written in a deep blue ink and still looked fresh, whereas the book had to be more than a hundred years old. She flipped back through the book before looking at the back cover once moreo her surprise a line of text was now under the firs. She was sure it wasn't there before. “1125 Grantham Lane...the old part of town.” She looked out the window. “That’s only a few blocks from here, maybe I should pay this place a visit.” She snapped the book shut and headed downstairs.
She slipped off as soon as Saturday dawned, only mentioning to her parents briefly that she was going out to do a bit of shopping. With a bag slung over her chest, and the book lightly tapping against her side, she headed out into the cold day. The old part of town was really more for tourists than anyone, but it still had some hidden gems.
Sasha supposed she was like her grandfather in that way, collecting things from pawn shops and crowded antique stores on a whim. There was something nice about the delicate features of old items, the carefully crafted works that seemed to make them worthwhile.
Though it took awhile, she soon found the location of the shop. It was down a side-street under an old, yellowed lamp and past an old air conditioning fan that had a slight squeak. A red door with a glass design was flanked by a couple of windows, the golden name of the shop faded into the natural grain of the wood. Though the windows looked dusty a small sign read 'Open: Odd Hours.'
As she pushed open the door to the shop, her hand collected a small fistful of dust from the wood surface. The creak was subtle, like someone had been trying to keep it up. The lights were on, faint glowing bulbs of yellow that suggested nothing had been changed in this store since the sixties.
Sasha stepped carefully into the silent shop. It wasn't just the door that was lying in dust, it seemed to be everything. Books tumbled down upon themselves in a type of organized mess, but besides than the characters in their pages, no one else seemed to be there.
Her hand clenched her bag as she wandered around the rows and tables of books that shifted into old items, some photographs and one cracked carousel horse with gold lined wings. The yellowed light from the hanging lamps shifted, and Sasha felt the small hairs on the back of her neck begin to prickle.
“Probably just the building settling. After all...it is old. Old buildings do that right?” she whispered to herself.
“Hello?” she called. She watched the dust shift, her voice echoing off of wooden walls. That was when he showed up; a figure down the rows of piled books that came first as only a shadow. He looked tall, and even as he walked toward her there was no sound of footsteps until he came up right behind her. “Can I help you miss?”
The sudden voice made Sasha jump like a scared rabbit, stumbling back into one of the tables. There was a shatter, and without turning she scrambled to the ground scooping up larger pieces of what must have been an expensive hourglass. She gushed, “I am so sorry...I just didn't see anyone and the door was open. I just --”
Her breath caught as the figure came into view and leaned down to pick up a fragment. Long, clawed fingers wrapping around the wooden base before it was set. Her eyes slowly drifted up as she willed her body to stand.
He wore an outfit that looked more fitting of a fellow teenager rather than the keeper of an antiques store, but it wasn't that fact that was making her voice stick in her throat. It was the fact that his skin was blue, his eyes too sharp, his ears stretched, pointing back with subtle twitches. And then there was the crooked smile that ran up the sides of his face. He opened his mouth and the skin seemed to tear itself apart.
“Well?” his tone was sharp as he crossed his arms.
The only answer Sasha could come up with was a sharp scream. She tried to dodge back to the front of the store. True to form, her gift of klutz kicked in and she found herself sprawled on the floor. He appeared at her side and from upside down she could see his ears flick back like a dog that wasn't too happy to see you in his yard.
“Young lady if you keep wrecking things in my shop I am afraid I will have to start charging you.” He was certainly more than annoyed. “And nothing around you is cheap.”
“You...y-you're..blue like..like a crayon!” she managed to sputter out.
He stopped mid-turn, looking back to her. “Excuse me?”
“You aren't a human being!” the words came out rasped and nearly hysterical.
His eyes shifted past her, then he walked past her quickly, locking the door with a dull thud, the blinds quickly drawn. The moments passed in relative silence as Sasha once again found herself upright on jelly legs.
“You can see me?” he finally asked, his face was hidden in a slight shadow like something out of an old black and white film.
“Well...uh, yeah...didn't you expect that?” she asked quickly. “I mean, you greeted me and--”
“No! You can see past my guise, you can see me for what I really am?”
She felt her head jitter up and down.
He blew out a sigh, causing the dust to swirl in front of him in a mini storm. “Well, this is certainly interesting. I didn't think you would be a girl.”
A hot flash came to her face, her fear momentarily forgotten “Excuse me? What is this, the eighteen hundreds? A girl can't come into an old bookstore and see a...a..whatever you are?!”
The arches of his brows shot up, He lifted a hand and scratched at his mouth. “Well, you certainly have the spirit.” He turned away and headed to a cabinet. With a small iron key he turned the lock open with a flick of his wrist “But I wouldn't think one of them would leave a female heir.”
Sasha shook her head willing herself from this dream “This can't be real, I just stayed up too late and...and just fell asleep on the keyboard again.”
“You aren't asleep,” he said without turning.
“Well then...” she put her hands on her hips. “Why can I see you and what the hell are you?”
He turned and gave a bow. “Abo, the faerie of shadowed blue, at your service.”
The world was black, swirls of color came in and out of Sasha's vision like she was looking through a kaleidoscope. She tried to focus on one color or one shape but couldn't get her eyes to obey her. With a sudden flash, the colors rushed to her and the girl sat up with a sharp gasp.
Her room was quiet, the curtains half drawn and the ceiling fan turning lazily. The girl's eyes darted around the room quickly. She was sitting on a bed still half made, and a pile of boxes sat in front of the open closet waiting for her to hang up the clothes that were piled inside. Carefully, she drew her legs to her and touched her head gently.
“Wow, that was...not one of my normal dreams...” her voice was quiet as she shifted, causing something to fall from the bed with a rustle of pages.
Bending over the edge of the bed, she managed to scoop up the old book from the evening before. Flipping through empty pages, she paused on a single page that contained a clump of blue text in an unfamiliar language. Raising one eyebrow, she leaned forward to better read the words. The sudden slam from a door downstairs brought her back to the real world, and caused her to pull away with a start.
“My mother is right, I have to stop looking through dusty old books.” she said pushing the book to the top of a pile of boxes and getting off of the bed.
There was the sound of clothes being moved before something was rustled to the side and the door was opened, the dull thud of the stairs echoing around the old house as she headed down the stairs at an eased pace.
Back upstairs, the pile that the book sat atop of trembled slightly before it fell, the book falling open. The pages fluttered in the silence before landing on the page where not but a couple of words were written in blue ink. The book went still as a few more lines began to bleed through the old parchment like someone scratching away with an ink pen.
The words curved and arched in slender lines, a language unlike English and more like symbols. With half a page now filled with written word, an ink blob began to form to the side of the paragraph. The ink bled and leaked with each stroke until it formed the vague figure of a humanoid being that sported sharp wings and claws, something written under it in a deep red and finished with a sharp underline.