Rise of the Seers doesn’t tell the whole story.
As the Revenants rise, the gears of the Demiworld begin to grind with greater urgency. Behind the scenes, movers and shakers are moving and shaking.
Thus, I offer (without commentary) a peek behind the veil. Chronologically, the events below happened sometime after the close of Rise of the Seers: Book One and during the early part of The Abyss Beckons.
I would say, “enjoy,” but you might not.
The early November night was chilly. The black waves of the Gulf crashed against a pale strip of beach. Wind whistled through the jagged rocks embedded in the sand drifts.
Felicia, leader of Clan Morgana, stood on a rock halfway up a sand drift. She wore a grey-blue, fur-trimmed cloak that rippled in the wind. Her raven, who was in a disagreeable mood, having been roused from its sleep late at night, perched on her right shoulder. Irritated, he kept rustling his feathers and tucking its head under a wing.
Further up on the sand drift, Rion, the Morgana’s Jinn leader, stood sentry-like.
Down on the beach, two more of Lilith’s Children were present: a succubus, Dabria, who was bored with the whole Summoning business and was amusing herself by throwing a trio of daggers in rapid succession at Sadhu, a Jinn, who stood at the waterline. She was aiming for his eyes, which were pale green, and stood out in the black and dark blue of the night.
“You know,” Sadhu said, as he caught the daggers and sent them spinning back, “if this is your idea of flirting, it explains why you don’t have a boyfriend.”
“Who said I was flirting?”
“It also explains why Bryun came back to us looking like he’d been used as a pincushion. He didn’t mean it literally when he said he’d catch a blade for you.”
“Hush,” Felicia scolded.
At that moment, the raven stirred itself and cawed loudly, shattering the natural quiet of the beach.
“She approaches,” Rion said.
A scarlet serpent crested the sand drift and slithered down among the rocks. A few feet away from Felicia, it paused. There was a snap in the air — more felt than heard — and Celeste, the Regent Mother of Lilith’s Children, stepped onto the sand. Her braided hair was coiled high on her head. But over her traditional royal dress, she wore a grey cloak of mourning.
“Greetings,” Felicia said. “All of Morgana sends her condolences for the loss of our brethren.”
Celeste stooped down, touching the back of her hand to the ground. Her serpent slithered into her palm, up her arm, around her shoulder, and up to its place in her hair. “Have you Summoned me here to strategize or to gloat?” Celeste said.
“Neither,” Felicia said. “To inform you of my strategy. And also to gloat — just a little.”
Celeste sniffed indignantly. “Your strategy?”
“Yes. You’ve had your roll of the dice and lost seven of your own. Now it’s my turn. I did warn you to stay out of this.”
“You don’t know what you’re playing at,” Celeste said, taking a step closer to Felicia. She seemed to glide over the rough sand.
“I can’t do any worse than you’ve done,” Felicia said. “I’m asking you to step aside. Let it rest.”
“Let it rest? When your mother told me she had ceased hunting Revenants, I asked her why, and those were her words. ‘Let it rest.'”
“That was then,” Felicia said. “Our time had not come. But today is different. There are Revenants on the Earth, yes. And who says we have to be their enemies? But there is also one who belongs to Lilith’s Children. I have no doubts. You heard what the Starwalker said.”
Celeste smirked. “Oh, so you trust Nicolai now?”
“Not fully,” Felicia said. “His shadow hasn’t been darkening the door of my bedchamber.”
Celeste launched herself at Felicia, seizing her by the neck, the nails of her thumb and forefinger digging into tender flesh. The raven squawked and shot into the air. “Remember who you’re talking to, girl,” Celeste snarled.
“Hands off.” Rion drew his sword and pointed it at Celeste.
Dabria came up behind him, daggers in both hands. “Shall I relieve her of her hand?” she asked.
Sadhu had circled around behind Celeste, spinning a loaded slingshot above his head.
Felicia strained to stay upright under Celeste’s pincer grip. She curled her fingers around Celeste’s arm. Their eyes locked, and they held each other’s gaze — Celeste’s dark eyes fierce and threatening; Felicia’s steady and proud. Finally, Felicia squeezed out a command. “Stand down.”
Rion lowered his sword and stepped back.
Dabria dropped her arms to her side, but her daggers quivered in her twitching hands.
Sadhu released his slingshot and the stone flew wide, cracking against a rock beyond them on the beach.
Celeste released her grip on Felicia’s neck, and the clan leader sucked in a huge breath. She touched her fingers beneath her chin. “You know, I could have ordered them to take your head,” she said as she considered the blood on her fingertips. “But I didn’t. That’s something.” Her raven swooped around the quartet in a wide circle and glided onto Felicia’s shoulder.
Celeste jutted her chin at Rion and Dabria. “Are these your advisers?”
“My closest,” Felicia said.
“They are loyal. I’ll give them that. But they are too young,” Celeste said. “You don’t even have one on your side who’s seen half a millennia. There’s a reason some of us have lasted as long as we have.”
“I trust them,” Felicia said. “That’s all I need.”
Celeste thought for a moment. “Forty days,” she said.
“You have forty days to bring the girl to Lilith’s Rock for her testing.” Celeste shook her head. “And if this one fails, may the Throne have mercy on our souls.” She stooped down, letting her serpent slither onto the ground. It made its way across the rocks and the sand. There was a snap in the air, and Celeste was gone.
“Rion,” Felicia said. “The Guardian has taken the Revenant to her fortress. You know what to do.”
“You want me to spy on them?” Rion said.
“No. I want you to befriend them.”
“Nigh impossible,” Rion said. “You know they only see the shadow of a fallen Watcher and our rebel Mother when they look at us. They see us as devils — nothing more.”
“Now, is your chance to change that, Rion.” Felicia smiled. “Sadhu, you are to remain near the girl at all times. The preservation of her life — and her sanity — is your sacred duty.”
“Is that really necessary?” Sadhu said. “Celeste said — ”
“I don’t trust Celeste, not even after tonight. The old witch always has something up her sleeve,” Felicia said, stroking her raven’s feathers. “Okay, we’re done here. Rion, you have forty-eight hours to reach your post and report your status. Sadhu, you have two.”
Dabria pouted. “Why do the boys get all the jobs?”
Seal of Solomon
Nicolai was feeling very pleased with himself. The Rift he had left open to the Abyss was strong enough for Sammael to communicate with him. Now, the fallen Watcher had sent him a message: He had located the Seal of Solomon.
It wasn’t, as Nicolai had thought, somewhere hidden on Earth, but in the Ash’Even, the place of fiery stones — where Lucifer himself was afraid to walk.
But not Nicolai. He knelt on the ground by the lake behind his house, drawing with his virge three concentric circles — one for each of the Heavenly realms he would need to cross to reach the Ash’Even. (He wouldn’t be there physically, of course. Not even the archangels would set foot on that holy ground.) Then he began to scrawl a ring of symbols within each of the circles — the words of the First Tongue — the deeper language that ran through all the Earth and the realms beyond — the language Adam had used to talk with God. As he wrote, Nicolai felt the blood boiling against his skin. Sweat glistened on his eyelids. Lights burned against his eyes.
The blue sky washed out above him, replaced with black.
When he came to, he was lying on a hard surface. He suspected that what was above him was not sky, but a part of the Void — Nothing, emptiness. He rose to a sitting position and looked around. His virge had rolled away from him and was resting perilously close to the edge of the first circle. He plucked it up hastily; he would need it to get back to Earth.
He stood up slowly and the circle glowed around him. As long as he remained inside the lines, he would be safe. He looked around. He was in what appeared to be a valley. At a distance, jagged peaks cut into the Void. Beyond them, he could see red lightning flashing like spider veins. As far as he could see in the valley, there were tall, black pillars. A forest of obelisks. On the surface of each of the obelisks was dense writing, tiny letters from the First Tongue, etched in what appeared to be ink made of fire.
But there was no time to gaze. Nicolai could feel himself waning; the Ash’Even was draining him. He started moving among the stones of fire, his circles moving with him. He directed his course by the tallest of the mountain peaks, aiming for the right of it. He hadn’t gone far when he heard a noise — a rustling of air above and behind him. He ducked behind one of the obelisks, careful not to touch it, and watched. A Seraph, a massive scarlet-colored creature with what looked like the body and tail of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, soared above, his golden eyes glinting with the reflection of the stones.
Of course, the Ash’Even would be guarded.
Nicolai went on more carefully now. Keeping watch above and around him, but he encountered no more Seraphs and no other living beings.
Finally, he reached the place that Sammael had spoken of. The Hut of Asmodeus, the Dark Angel who had stolen the ring from Earth’s wisest king. It sat at the foot of the great mountain like an upside-down bowl. It had a hobbit-like circular door with a knob in the middle. Nicolai shoved the door open and a shower of dust came tumbling down. He stooped down and stepped inside the hut.
There was nothing in the hut but a small table. And in the middle of the table was a ring — black, rimmed in gold, criss-crossed with Stars of David. The Seal of Solomon.
Nicolai picked it up and closed his fist around it. A thrum of energy rushed into his hand, his being. He momentarily wondered what other powerful items lay hidden in the Ash’Even. He could return and collect them all.
But now he had the Seal. And, again, he was feeling very pleased with himself. The ring gave him the power to command all of Lilith’s Children.
They thought they were on the brink of a new freedom, but they each would bow to his will.
They thought they would have a new queen; they didn’t know he would be their king.
They thought they could ally themselves with Revenants, but they were wrong.