The week of tournaments comes to an end, the year of the phoenix has begun in earnest. The gathering of mortals have all fallen to supernatural maladies born of genetics, prophetic tidings, and sheer determination. But what comes now, untethered and empowered? What of the returning fae king, relics dug up from a farm, lost families found, and new kinships? Much has happened in Las Vegas, yet promises far more to come...
A Vision of the Not-King
The horn raised to lips, sending a clarion cry across the arena. Visions assailed a few, evoking waking dreams and lost memories. It clawed up the back of Preston Locke, finding nerves that urged muscles to jump yet they held still as the breath in his lungs. He had so many names in his life, son, brother, Preston Lee, Lord Phaenir, The Greywarden far more a slur that became power, and his saining name never to be uttered until his final death. Yet another called him...
The world fell around him as ash and snow from the sky, the remnants of war. Upon the battlements in Yorndale and the Commons, hair long and caught in a storm of explosive force. His blades held in pained grasp, blood and grime caked, a legion of inanimae the first line still holding amongst the seelie host. Pulling a scarf across weary features, the elven lord of murder disappeared. Yes, he remembered that life, found in tomes and rare dreams. An assassin for the Kingdom of Cymru and the Two Valleys. A queer twist in his gut led further back as if stricken ill...
With a heavy thud he landed in the brine of sea spray and a chill bay, rocks sharp edged darker gray in the murk. And he one of many archers in thinned ranks. A hand caught upon his shoulder, curling red hair and fierce eyes of deepest olive passed words he understood and yet never spoke. Beyond the axe wielding woman stood a wolf in pieced armor, horns of power and a bear's skin casting shadows over wolfen eyes. They waited the final flare of fire from the elder sage. And when it came, they would slip into caverns and take the--- Wretching his body fell victim to vertigo.
Nigh ready to falter and fall to the sandy floor of the arena, a final vision assailed. This one pressed back every pain and twisting turn, ancient arts flared to life within his breast bringing a sorely sought equilibrium. Long had the mist burned away from the edges of the holding, the ancient city cast from stone sundered until one gleaming spar remained. The heart of their lord and emperor, the twice born and lost, once of future's past and the heralded age's turning. Solemn did Daveed stand, sword upon hip newly received, blade bound to his soul and hand in the other. The emperor reborn from twain unto whole spoke to a son of flame. Preston scarce understood what he spied upon, the spar of white marble, the tall elf of night and day merged into one, like where moon dipped into ocean set alight by a white sun and a short son more his mother's child.
"Merlin, you must survive and see through these ages until our return..." He caught the barest breath of words and emotion cast between father and son, recently bereft of wife and mother. She was the heart of them all, the tie that bound and bridged lifetimes through her shard heavensent. Casting aside the vestage of loom to chart her own destiny. Binding herself to a Raksha. Giving birth to an abomination in heaven's eyes. Taking the mantle of Brigid and defining a new age of magic with friends and students. Until allies tore her apart, ending a life, a theft that shook them all. He would never end this hunt, pulling away from the world merely to prepare for armageddon.
So did High King Sinclair come to a fellow who had watched over his son, slain the fiend that tortured him wearing a false guise of general, an assassin and shadow, and sain him. The first to be so sained. Long fingers pale despite gore and shadow clasped the murderer's hands. Eyes of racing skies newly storming pierced into Preston.
The High King stood before his hand. "Daveed, before I take leave, we must speak. Of you, I ask one more thing, far more difficult than any task before. You must remain behind. What must be wrought and the turning of ages require far more time than we scarce have now. And I would not have my son left without family."
Before Preston could speak, a weight consumed his heart, something new and strange. The pair stared at Merlin who spoke to warriors to friends, apart from them. "He doesn't understand, not yet, but he will. I have accepted the terms of Yu'Shan to safeguard his life. If I break this covenant..."
Daveed understood, which opened doors of memory to Preston. "So to you do I pass the mantle of High King. I shall return to the city and build. Arcadia shall rise from the ashes of Sal'Maneth, the spires from the bones of the city she rose. And when the tide of ages shifts, and Yu'shan's brilliance faded, shall the gates open wide."
"I doubt such a thing will be so simple, master bard." Sinclair's darkened demeanor broke into a shard of the sun itself.
"You know me too well. Until the ages part."
What spoken replies were given he never caught, rigid control keeping Preston, The Greywarden, High King Daveed from falling to his knees. With such knowledge and truth, he felt something lost returned, and an art unfurled through his mind. The shadow peered at Donovan through reverie. Was he Merlin? What did it all mean? For now, he sought to order the madness raging in his mind and heart.
With a flick of wrist, Zelios attempted to grind herbs with blood into a paste, eyes wandering a set of scribbled instructions. He had everything assembled, blood from a newly opened vein from a target that slept soundly in another room, the herbs sold at market and from the goblin crone, a mortor and pestle blessed by three moon faces, fresh cut celery, and tobasco his own addition.
Beckett snorted between glances at the concoction and his journal. "It's going to suck."
"No it won't."
"You should ask Kimber."
"If I can raise castles in the Carpathians, I can make a damned bloody mary!"
The Nosferatu continued his alchemy as Beckett shoved in earbuds, scribbling notes with an old fountain pen into his journal. The interview with Rothstein gave little true new information, just a smattering of historic Vegas facts from a gangster's point of view. Though some items seemed more from the source, of which were long dead. Some denizens dead well before the vampire arrived in town. Either predecessors kept good notes, Benedic was chatty...fat chance, or the Giovanni had a secret. If he didn't have other important interests, this would certainly be one to invest in. Pulling a goldenrod sticky note from the stacks next to him, he stamped it with a "Later" marker and scribbled notes, tucking the note on the page and over the information. Best not to pull his attention away from the jackpot he found!
Tapping on his phone with a stylus, he closed the recording and browsed many others. Flicking between files, checking emails and reading articles, the historian sought something new or leading. His usual blogs and emails had a few new items, nothing awe inspiring. Turned down for an interview next month in Paris, his requests for Instanbul were on hold, and he lostg reservations for a flight to Tampa. Why was he going to Florida again...?
Tapping open a VPN connection, entering through a series of warded barriers and languages, questions few could answer even under dominate, he entered SHREKNET. Quite a few emails were waiting and a few unanswered chats. Okulos gained his attention first, a message titled BK CinU catching his attention first. He was investigating another lead into the Book of Chaos in the Underworld, fragments of the Shaal fragment leading to old Constantinople and hopefully an audience with Malikyte.
Had a brief chat with M. Brides of the Dragon most definitely sparked his interest, which led to hours of back in my day chatter. Listen to the attached recordings, took transcripts of the most important pieces to begin tracking down further. He felt an earnest consideration of the Dracon, of which you know more than I. But I didn't believe the Obertus monk had brides...? I'm seeking what ruins of the Obertus library I can find, perhaps something was left in it, especially knowing who built it. Do you have thoughts on other Dragon references?
Red eyes simmered, glancing up to peer across at his eldering friend taste testing the absurd mix. Of course he would know something, but would he be able to speak on it? Some aspects of the past left Zelios tight-lipped, smiling enigmatically, running away, or going comatose.
"Zelios, sending a reply off to Okulos, he says hello. He's visiting an old haunt, I wonder if by chance you know the state of things...in the Obertus library ruins in Constantinople?" With a tap, he began recording.
The Nosferatu considered, that enigmatic smile on his stony face. "Ah yes tell him many hellos. Oh my the Obertus...not much is left alas. Rubble overtaken by the city, long long ago. If he were to seek anything, I recommend through the sewer paths. But even those by now may have terrible weathering. I did what I could but eh...centuries of salt and spray, lack of tending, even I am no miracle worker." Beckett hummed slightly at the imposter syndrome kicking in, as he well knew the mason's works were charmed in wit and design. "The main hall was littered, decimated, and cleared of all content. Well before the final days. Ah...everything was sent to Romania. You know...Radu may know!"
"Good god, you're not still on with that dusty relic."
"Shame on you, Beckett, he is not dusty! He has a wardrobe." They shared a small laugh, the smile lingering in lines by not affection on Zelios. "Why ever search there? And please, don't tell me he is using TNT as a key again..."
"Nothing of that sort, a long shot before seeking audience in Romania with the elders. We've been slowly working through an old text fragment, which leads to those taken by final death. Perhaps not this moment, but we could discuss what you may know of Brides of the Dragon?"
Laughter bubbled up as he shook his head. "You assumed the Dracon? You silly boy, what about that upstart, Dracula? He was fond of brides." The Nosferatu continued laughing as Beckett groaned.
"I hate that you said that. Fine we'll continue this research. Ministers of Grace defend us! The last thing I want to do is investigate and interview that sod." He quietly typed a quick reply to Okulos, gauging is this might be the right time? "You know...this has me thinking...of many things. Would you...let me interview...you Zelios?"
He sipped at the bloody mary, blinking owlish at Beckett. "I...You know...I love you, like a brother. But I cannot answer everything you would ask."
"Then only what you want to. I understand more than most."
They stared at each a long time, easy for the undead, yet so uneasy for the mind and heart of two lifelong friends.