Half Moon Chronicles: Legacy, страница 1
Half Moon Chronicles: Legacy
By J. Michael Gonzalez
© 2017 J. Michael Gonzalez, all rights reserved
Cover Design by James, GoOnWrite.com
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This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or events is strictly coincidental.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away
Percy Shelley, Ozymandias
“Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light.”
John Milton, Paradise Lost
Time On Paper
The Learning Curve
Cleanse the Evil
Seek the Truth
The Knee of the Curve
The (Dead Man) Mr. Ford
A Sortof Date
The Ride Home
The Second Arrow
Father and Son
The New Reality
Leaps of Faith
Chapter One: Expected Company
WHEN the knock finally came, Miles was just finishing his preparations in the kitchen. He had been expecting his visitor since awakening with a panicked shout in the predawn hours, sweat-soaked sheets twisted about his body. The dream had imprisoned him with razor-edged images of violence and ruin, stubbornly resisting his semi-lucid struggles to awaken. Though many of the dream’s specific details had attenuated throughout the afternoon, two images had retained their dream-like hyperreality, coming into focus as the rest of the dream faded: yellow eyes glimmering in the foggy gloaming, watching him through his kitchen window; and the girl, eyes glazed with the ecstasy of her magic, fire and decay spreading in her wake, corrupting everything she touched. Though the premonitions had been coming less frequently of late, this was one of the strongest he could remember; it filled him with dread, like some monstrous scorpion clinging to his back, its claws pulling at his thoughts.
There’s work to be done, he thought grimly as the knock was repeated, a tight lipped smile touching his features as familiar undercurrents of fear and excitement percolated through him.
He briefly settled in his chair at the kitchen table, checking his preparations, ignoring the twinges in his knees and hips as he sat. Earlier that afternoon, he had experimented with the placement of the sword relative to his chair, arranging the furniture and practicing until he could snatch the scabbarded blade without looking and execute a left-handed slash over the kitchen table. He had practiced the move -- ignoring the dull pain in his joints -- until he could grab the scabbarded blade, draw and cut between ticks of the clock mounted over the refrigerator behind him. He nodded once in satisfaction as he scanned the kitchen one last time, his heartbeat quickening.
The work of a Celestial Advocate is a young man’s work, he thought, though he still looked forward to sparring with this adversary. He chuckled at his vanity, knowing it was foolish, but unable to suppress his anticipatory excitement. He crossed his small, sparsely furnished living room, unconsciously flexing his hands, pushing away the dull fibrous pain; nearly six decades of work with fist, sword, and heavy caliber firearms had taken their toll.
Even Celestial Advocates have a limited shelf life, he mused, still an integral part of the celestial machinery even if they’ve been granted a special place within it.
It was a risk answering the door unarmed...but even weakened by age as he was, an Advocate was never truly weaponless. He paused, one hand on the doorknob, closing his eyes in concentration as he extended his senses beyond the door; he sensed darkness (was it nighttime already?), fog...and his visitor, standing on the other side of the door. His concentration deepened as he unconsciously cocked his head to the side (a tremor of unease passed through him; it wasn’t so long ago that he hadn’t needed to concentrate at all); he realized he was searching for a heartbeat which wasn’t there.
He nodded as his eyes opened; he had read that part of the premonition correctly, then.
As his guest knocked a third time, a mischievous smile began pulling at the corner of his mouth. He pulled open the front door, revealing a tall, nondescript man wearing a pea coat -- at least, he would have appeared nondescript to someone unable to pierce his Glamour.
To Miles, he looked like something else entirely.
The man favored Miles with a sardonic smile, dipping his head in a nod of subtle mockery.
Miles smiled gently back, waiting.
The man’s smile became forced as he realized that Miles was waiting for him to speak, that he wasn’t going to make an invitation until it was explicitly asked for. It was an absurd and childish power play, but one which the man was forced to concede.
His voice was a pleasant tenor, though his accent was hard to place -- neutral news caster American, perhaps with the slightest hint of upper class London, “I’ve always wanted to meet you, old man. If you would be so kind...it would be nice to step in out of the damp.”
Miles smiled graciously, “I’ve prepared some tea; it’s just finishing brewing.”
The man hesitated, frowning slightly, but hid his irritation well, “Tea would be lovely.” He made no move to enter.
Miles waited a moment longer, fighting to suppress his smirk, then stepped back, “Then by all means, come in and join me for a cup.”
Inviting evil into your home, he thought, always a tricky prospect. He’ll doubtless leave a token behind...bother.
Have I become arrogant?, he wondered, a trickle of doubt pooling in his thoughts.
The man made his way through the living room into Miles’ kitchen, settling at the table at his gesture. His visitor watched patiently as Miles prepared the tea in silence, long practice lending artistry to his careful, precise movements. It unnerved Miles to have his guest almost at his back, though he wasn’t so foolish as to let his visitor completely out of his sight; he had arranged his kitchen so he could watch the other out of the corner of his eye with the sword propped against the granite countertop near his hand. He glanced into the alcove over the kitchen sink, at the small ‘decorative’ mirror in a stylized brass sun-shaped setting. He smiled faintly at what he saw there..
“I remember your sire,” Miles murmured, wondering how long their veneer of civility would last.
He heard the frown in his guest’s voice, “She still holds a grudge over your murder of Carbrey.”
The emphasis on the pronoun was unmistakeable. Miles suppressed a quiver of fear, forcing an indifferent shrug as he returned to the table bearing two glazed cups decorated with white herons taking flight over a forest pond, “I’ve been abundantly clear about the boundaries of my domain. Carbrey and his get were trespassing; I disposed of the invading vermin accordingly. It was fortunate you weren’t part of the raiding party, Berwyn.”
Miles struggled to hide a smirk as he affected a muddled expression, “...or Attercop, is it now?”
It was childish and mean-spirited, but he couldn’t repress the impish glee that surged through him; the temptation to goad his visitor was hard to resist. He struggled not to grin as his visitor became unnaturally still, his gaze filling with malice. He quickly regained control, schooling himself back to stillness.
Pity, Miles thought, revising his estimate of his guest’s threat upward as doubt momentarily bubbled back to the surface. Disposing of him would have been easier if he could have been taunted into a rage.
“Archangel, old man; I am Archangel now,” his visitor sneered. Miles filled Archangel’s cup first, disappointed that he’d side-stepped the gibe before continuing, “The Dark Lady has a long memory, old man. She won’t forget your slight.”
‘...and neither will I’, Miles silently finished for him. Though his sire’s destruction had freed Archangel -- his new name symbolic of that release -- Miles had always known Berwyn...Archangel...would eventually seek him out.
Miles shrugged again, filling his own cup before settling across the small kitchen table from his guest. He pretended to sip his tea as he studied the man, noting Archangel’s gaze flicking to the sheathed sword propped against the granite countertop. Archangel’s lips tightened in consternation before he could master his countenance, returning to patient stillness as he reluctantly pulled his gaze away from the blade.
Miles suppressed a chuckle, No old friend, that’s not The Sword -- I hid that from you weeks ago. You’re worried that if you can’t see it, I must have some trick planned.
He grinned at his visitor. The weapon leaning against the countertop -- though real enough to kill -- was partially meant as a prop, a distraction from the Desert Eagle mounted under the table. He doubted it would destroy Archangel, but half a dozen .50 caliber silver-tipped slugs would probably ruin his day.
His visitor’s frustration momentarily boiled over, “You won’t be able to hide here in your little ghost town much longer; the world is changing, old man! The old order is collapsing; something new must grow in the vacuum!”
Miles grimaced, “And naturally you--“
“Give me the girl!” Archangel interrupted. “We both know she’s returned to your domain. What will you do when her power manifests? This little ghost town you’ve made will become the very little eye of a very big storm. Do you think to stand against the entirety of the Sundered Havens with your decrepit carcass, old man? Can you even pass an hour without pissing yourself? Or do you plan to...dispose of her...when she comes into her power? Murdering your kind has never been your modus operandi, despite your reputation. Give me the girl, and you can grow old here in your little graveyard.”
He smirked, adding, “Well..older, at any rate.”
Miles suppressed an inward sigh; another premonition come true -- the Mortal Heir was in his domain. He had prayed she wasn’t, that she could be someone else’s problem; he had been so tired, lately. He wondered, not for the first time, whether Merdathin’s mysterious visits were somehow related.
The pieces fit, he thought, his jaw tightening with consternation. Merdathin never did anything with a single purpose in mind. If he ever resurfaced, Miles resolved to ask him before killing him...even supposing he could kill him.
He pushed the thought to the back of his mind, irritated at his wandering focus; he had more pressing matters to consider.
It all comes back to the girl, he thought sadly. He pitied her for the misery and sorrow he foresaw in her future. He had fought to keep his domain free of monsters like Archangel, but he knew his visitor was right on both counts: when she came into her power, she couldn’t be ignored; and Miles wouldn’t murder an innocent. He shuddered at what her life would become if he allowed Archangel to take her away. It would be better if she was dead than to fall into his hands.
Or the Dark Lady’s, for that matter.
He would die to prevent it, he decided -- though he hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
Staring into his visitor’s eyes, he felt a chill run down his spine, a cold premonitory prickle that left him sweaty and shaken, wishing he could handle the loaded Desert Eagle mounted under the table, knowing its cold solidity, heavy with deadly purpose would bring him comfort; he was suddenly filled with certainty that the girl was not to be his task, that his work for the Celestials was almost done; but the way been prepared, his successor chosen. If his successor should fail...he shuddered as dream images of fire rose before him; it might be better if she died in her sleep after all. He suddenly felt small and exhausted, his mind unfocused in his failing body.
Still an integral part of the celestial machinery, he reminded himself bitterly.
As if reading his thoughts, Archangel ground his teeth with frustration. His patient smile returned, becoming predatory as he moistened his lips with the tea, “It’s almost time, old man.”
Miles stared out the window, taking in the chilly, foggy evening, suppressing a shiver of fear as he nodded, “Almost. But not tonight, I think.”
A sudden calm descended over his thoughts. He gently placed his tea cup on the table, his lip curling in response to Archangel’s widening smile. He heard the faint creak of muscles bunching.
Thunder filled the kitchen as Miles pulled the trigger underneath the table, the percussion splitting his eardrums, jolting his ribcage, making the teakettle jump on the countertop. Blood splattered the wall behind Archangel; his agonized bellow shattering the mirror in its decorative setting as he stumbled backward, his chair slamming into the wall behind him with a cottony thud! after the Desert Eagle’s thunder. Miles triggered three more rounds from under the table, spattering the off-white paint behind Archangel with overlapping sprays of gore, forcing him back another step.
The scabbarded sword was already in his other hand when Archangel roared again. Miles dropped the pistol as Archangel flipped the table out of the way, an errant splinter stinging Miles’ neck as it shattered into kindling. The blade was a silvery blur as he drew and cut to meet Archangel’s lunge. A fan of blood sprayed across the wall as Miles felt the tug of razor edged steel pulling deeply through flesh. Even in his dotage, he was fast, bringing the blade around for a second cut.
It should have finished it.
It should have...