Once a month, Concordia Academy held liturgy.
The academy expected all cadets to attend.
Today was their first liturgy and Micah couldn’t imagine better timing. His team hadn’t slept well the past few nights, still haunted by their mission and their comrade’s gruesome death. News of the incident traveled quickly across the academy and gossip eagerly raged.
Enduring the looks, the talks, and the accusations hadn’t been easy for some members of the team. While Micah could shoulder the attention, he knew the others had trouble dealing with Wayde’s absence and functioning under the negative scrutiny.
Liturgy would at least soothe their troubles, at least for an hour or two.
Micah wasn’t so fortunate.
He wasn’t a religious individual. While he acknowledged the existence of the gods, or, more appropriately, the
The barbed wire was like a crown of thorns and a cruel mockery of manipulated twine. With the wire wrapped tightly around his arms, his captors lifted his limbs in a ridicule of a broken marionette, pulled by relentless and cruel strings.A punishing puppet master.Micah was past the point of scheming up poetic metaphors to his abductors’ intentions. All that mattered was that he’d lost feeling in his limbs long ago due to their painful and purposeful arranging.Positioned on the ground next to the dying and gnarly maze of the academy’s gardens, Micah could only stare blankly at the other side of the hedge. One leg curled inward and the other, by painful contrast, curled outward. His left arm stretched far above his head while his right arm angled awkwardly to the side.A fitting position for a discarded toy.He’d tried to move to a more comfortable position long ago, but the bindings were tight and the barbed wire dug agoni
“Yes?” Micah inquired wryly when he felt the stares. “What is it?Looking up from his eggs, he gazed at the trio of Unda students who’d sat across from him that morning at breakfast. Their faces were a mix of frustration, anger, and guilt. Micah didn’t find he had much, if any, energy to decipher the reason behind their mood.“We may have found a lead to who was behind your attack,” Viktor informed.Micah lowered his gaze to his breakfast, suddenly uninterested. “Oh?”The situation, or more appropriately, theattack,as his team liked to call it, happened several days ago.He’d been too weak to move during his first day of consciousness. His second day of consciousness, Healer Destan and Kendra refused to let him leave the infirmary. The two Healers fed him enough tonics to upset his stomach. He spent most the day kneeling in front of the toilet and was far too fat
“Councilman Devereux will see you now, Mr. Edlen.”Kai nodded sharply to the butler.He stood from one of the several chairs positioned on either side of the long corridor. A rich, mahogany wainscot clashed opulently with the deep cherry and gold-patterned walls. As he straightened his tailored coat, his attention lingered on the gold frames hanging on the walls, focusing specifically on the largest painting.Stilling, he stared.He’d seen it a dozen times before, yet in the past, he’d always walked by without a second glance. It was an old adornment to the wall, as noted by the use of oil paints. If it had been newer, it would have been a colorless photograph like some of the other pieces in its immediate proximity.Kai was glad it was an oil painting.Photographs, though entirely realistic and lifelike, did not possess the color oflife.He stared into the blue eyes of his lost friend, feeling t
Their eyes were haunted.Jaded.For weeks, Sachiel stared into their lifeless eyes, fathoming and speculating how a living soul could appear so dead. So dead, yet still harboring flames of vile immorality. Dead eyes were set upon faces so dirty, race became ambiguous and the level of depravity committed became the only way to identify each man and woman.Lord Josiah had assigned him to Region 0.Region 0, and all its glory, contained prisoners of both Igni and Unda descent within its mighty walls. Personally, if Sachiel had his way, he’d eliminate the pathetic souls who committed crimes messily enough for others to witness and execute a prosecution.Truly, who hasn’t committed a crime?A mere murder?Nobles evaded punishment frequently, though he supposed they were smarter than the commoners inside those walls. Smarter and far more prestigious. Unfair, certainly, but the kingdom couldn’t have criminals running
A sword clattered to the ground followed by an overzealouswhop.“You did it, Keegan!”Looking over his shoulder, Micah calmly surveyed the pair of exuberant Igni students.Keegan stood victoriously across from Aiden, the latter not appearing crestfallen over his defeat. Instead, his grin nearly cracked his face into two. True pride. Micah found himself mirroring the sentiment, appraising Keegan fondly.The boy finally did it.Granted, Keegan was drenched with sweat and appeared as if he’d just overexerted himself, but that was a familiar sight these past few weeks.Keegan was determined. His determination paid off, it seemed. Micah’s earlier uncertainties about his overenthusiastic claim that he’d improve his swordsmanship abilities had since quelled.Evidently, he shouldn’t have been concerned. Everything had worked out in the end.“You’ll be good enough to beat Mi
Deserts and canyons made up the majority of the south’s landscape. In the north, where Concordia’s capital was located, distant mountains and lakes were the primary topography. For the first time in his life, Micah witnessed the endless, grassy meadows and trees of the west.There was also an abundance of hills. Many hills. Enormous mounds encased the train tracks on either side, dwarfing them as they passed. They also passed through several tunnels, reminding Micah the Terra people lived underground, just like the Igni Empire of old.He’d never seen so much green.So muchwildlife.Nature in such abundance was remarkable and wholly impressive. Micah sat stiffly on the bench, fully outfitted and equipped as he studied the passing scenery with rapt attention. The rest of his team sat with him, quiet and not quite enjoying the scenery like Micah.They were nervous.Fidgety.“For being desert rats, y
“They call them funnel cakes, Micah!”Micah offered Viktor an unimpressed look as he reluctantly brought the piece of cake up to his mouth. As he tasted the deep-fried pastry, his taste buds instantly swelled as the powdered sugar and the plump, lightly crisp dough hit his tongue. It was sweet, he noted. Almosttoosweet. No. Not almost. It was definitelytoosweet.“You can dip it in this.” Aiden held up the small container of amber liquid and shook it tauntingly. “Syrup.”“Syrup,” Micah repeated dimly. “That is all sugar.”“Well, that’s the point, isn’t it?” Viktor inquired, ripping off a large piece of the twisted pastry with his teeth. “Sugar.Fat. Deliciousness.” He soaked an entire piece of pastry with syrup and somehow managed to stuff it in his mouth without any dripping down his chin.Kai and M
Keegan shifted under the azure gaze, unable to gauge what the king was thinking. Then again, he didn’t dare examine the man’s expression. His observation would be both blatant and disrespectful.Guards dressed entirely in blue stood along the walls of the throne room, their expressions all impassively similar. Their eyes, Keegan noted, stared straight ahead—like dutiful dogs ready to act on their master’s call.Keegan hurriedly moved his gaze back over to King Calder. The king sat upon his throne, his cheek and jaw resting against a propped-up hand, the epitome of sophisticated boredom and contemplation.Keegan dropped his attention to the gleaming floors.Everything was polished, blindingly lavish, and intricate. He was afraid to breathe and dirty the place.Though he’d always wanted to step inside the palace, he hadn’t imagined it would be under these circumstances.Like his meeting with Lord Josiah, thi