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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Into the Dreaming Prologue

Into the Dreaming
A Story of House Celestia

By Stephanie Brooks

© Copyright 2013 Stephanie Brooks
All Rights Reserved

Polaris often called North, Elite Paladin of House Celestia and head of the House Council strides through the underground tunnels of the Celestial Caverns, home and headquarters of Ember, the Scion leader.  His brother Sirius, known by many as Cy, keeps pace at his side as they make their way to the Council’s private audience chamber.  Both are silent, no words needed between two who’d fought, run, and generally lived in each other’s pockets for centuries.  Wolf shifters the both of them, they are the Elite of their respective Sciles – their skills – and as such have been awarded a place on the Council.
A bloody damn nuisance, as far as Cy’s concerned.  North may enjoy his place at the head of the Council, but he vastly prefers being out with one of his beauties than here in the Caverns attending a compulsory meeting.  Cy didn’t like being complused anywhere, let alone to some Hades-cursed “meeting” that would undoubtedly make him late to his prior – and much more enjoyable - engagement in the city.
He snorts.  “Meeting” his ass.  Gods don’t have meetings.  Hermes probably wants them to run some errand for him now that Ember isn’t there to tell him to fuck off.  How that Cronus-spawned jackass always knows when Ember is off on her walkabouts is the mystery.  It isn’t like she, or they, advertised that the House’s absent their mercurial leader.  Fucking Greeks.
“Any idea what that damned Greek wants this time?”  Cy asks approaching the carving laden arched doors barring entry to the Council chamber.
North scoffs.  As if he’d still be here if he knew ahead of time they were being “blessed” by the winged-manwhore’s presence.  Better to leave the Greek to Alana or Hector, they’re suited for the diplomacy required to tell him to fuck off in the nicest possible way.
But the entire Council has been summoned including the impatient brother wolves.
Damn the Greeks anyway, give him his Goddess any day.  At least She isn’t inclined to meddle.  Not blatantly anyway, he corrects himself.
Pausing before the doors, the brothers share a troubled glance.  Their preternatural senses can barely pick up the screaming match going on inside the audience chamber.  Not uncommon, the Hellspawn Twins usually enjoy a deafening row or five every day.
But one of the raised voices isn’t one of the fraternal twin Pixies.  It sounds suspiciously like Hermes.  The playboy Greek who doesn’t give a damn about anyone or anything, not even his own half-blood children he’s rapidly populating the world with.
Hermes is arguing with Dara?
Icy blue eyes met nearly black.  Whatever drove Hermes to bellows is bound to be trouble.
Throwing open the doors, the brothers take immediate stock of the situation, such as it is.  Dara and Hermes are centered in the room inside the circular inner ring of the massive Council table.  A table that once belonged to a Briton king in the Middle Ages, round, with a cut-out center allowing for a petitioner, or suspect, to be the sole focus of the Council and is presently occupied by the Greek, who using his power of flight hovers over Dara’s head, explaining why she’s standing on a chair screaming into his face.
Small in stature, what the dainty warrior-woman lacks in height she makes up in spirit.  As is expected from one of the Elite, let alone the Sayyida of Weapons, as the greatest of her Scile Dara could summon and create weaponry out of thin air.  Which is always the last thing on anyone’s mind after a single look at her elfin features and silver-spun hair…right up until she exterminates them. It almost isn’t fair to combine that much power with such deceptively feminine looks.  Almost.
Hermes matches her yell for yell, his power making him appear larger and larger as his temper flares out of control.  Normally a tall, wiry sort, the Greek god of travellers, messengers, and thieves is an unpredictable power among the Pantheon.  Probably why he gets along so well with Ember is the unanimous opinion among her people.  Dark of eyes and hair, he isn’t pretty handsome the way most of the Greeks are.  His nose is too large and bladelike.  Alana told North one night courtesy of the wolves’ whiskey that the Greek is compelling in a bad-boy way with the devil’s own mouth, one made for sin.
The brothers split off, circling the two combatants.  Alana is trying to play peacemaker, her Healer’s soul disturbed by the discord.  Honey skin and ebony hair, she looks like the Shamaness Fae she descended from.  Hector is paying the ruckus no mind, seated at the table in his human form.  As a centaur he can’t maneuver through the audience chamber as he likes, preferring instead to stay in his human skin until there’s room to run.  A preference the wolf in Cy sympathizes with.  Ebony skin and eyes with a blinding white smile, the Historian and record-keeper appears nothing like the bookish librarians of today’s society, ripped with brawny strength and long of arm, Hector is every inch a dangerous man.
Coming to a stop flanking Dom, Dara’s twin brother and usual sparring partner, both wolves study him with piercing gazes.  The most reluctant member of the Council could double as an angel, and has a few times on a dare.  His silver tipped hair and lavender eyes combined with the elfish looks of his sister, albeit more masculine, gives him a distinctly divine aspect.  Too bad the women he seduces with habitual regularity could never seem to grasp that while Dom looks like a fallen angel he is more demon than man.
Personally, North thinks the Pixie must have a death wish.  It’s the only explanation he could come up with for why the Isha of Dreams constantly tempts the fates with his shenanigans.  A scar, hidden by his regular glamour, crossing over one eye and down his cheek is the memento of a pissed off god whose wife’s charms Dom once sampled.
 “What set them off?”  Cy asks wearily when the screaming match gives no sign of abating at their entrance.
Dom takes a bite of an apple held in one long-fingered hand, then motions to Hector.
“It’s his fault.”
“Is not,” he counters without looking up from the tome before him on the table.
Rolling his eyes, Dom explains.
“Hector is researching something for Ember with Dara’s help.  When Hermes called the Council, she was somewhat…perturbed.  And she didn’t fail to hesitate to let Hermes know that he’s a spoiled brat.  Hermes took offense.  Now here we are.”  He pauses.  “I’m still going with Hector’s fault.”
Slamming shut the text, Hector rises to his full six-eight height.
“How, exactly do you figure that one, fairy boy?”
“Easy,” he says, refusing to jump at the slur.  The scholar has him by a good fifty pounds.  He’s occasionally suicidal, not stupid.  “Dara was helping you.  If she hadn’t been, she wouldn’t’ve cared about Hermes using us as his own personal errand-runners…again…ergo, your fault.”
Rubbing his eyes at the deteriorating scene North debates with himself.  A potential smiting over breaking up the fight or the time wasted and subsequent headache from allowing them to yell themselves out…and judging by the two still going strong that’ll be awhile.  With a speaking look at Cy, he throws back his head and howls, letting his wolf free in his command for silence.
Dara and Hermes whip around in unison.  The god gathering wind in one glowing hand as Dara palms a dagger from thin air.  Nothing like the hint of a mutual threat to stop a fight in its tracks.
North raises his hand in a commanding gesture that has Hermes raising an eloquent brow.  Few beings ever attempt to command a deity.  No matter how old or powerful said beings are in their own right.
“Lord Hermes,” he acknowledges.  “To what do we owe this…honor?”  Finishing quietly, the leader of the Scion Houses, in Ember’s absence at least, avoids a long drawn out debate over first, whatever those two are on about, and second, his less-than-diplomatic method of distraction.
“Ember is missing.”  Hermes says with a shrug.
The Council trades glances.  This is hardly news.  Their volatile leader has a tendency to…wander.   Information such as this scarcely requires a visit from a god for confirmation.
“We know.”  Dara says, smugly happy to spike her adversary’s guns.
“Not on walkabout missing, missing-missing.”  He clarifies.  “Normally I can find her as an often traveller, much the same way I can find Cy or any other Ranger.  Early this morning she dropped off the edge of my consciousness completely.  I’ve spent the day trying to reconnect or find her in any of the usual and unusual places.  She’s gone.  Vanished without a trace.”
“Alana?  Cy?”  North asks quietly in the silence following the god’s announcement.  As one of Ember’s Elite Rangers, Cy possesses the closest bond to the original Ranger.  Alana on the other hand, has healed her so many times that she long ago acquired an internal sense of whether trouble stalks the dangerously foolhardy creature.
Answering first, Cy shakes his head.  It is as if she, or someone, blocks the cord binding Ember to her Captain.
“Blocked but not severed.  She’s alive at least.”
Reaching inside herself, Alana calls upon her Scile for Healing searching for her most common patient.
“He’s right.”  She says finally.  “Blocked, not severed.  Not in danger.”  She frowns pausing.  There is something odd.  It was as if…
“I think she’s asleep, dreaming so deep none of us can reach her.”
“Lord Hermes, is Morpheus still aligned with Zeus and his brothers?  Or has he switched sides?”  Hector asks.  The Pantheon is constantly at war, both with themselves and their Titan parents.  Alliances are fragile and fluid with minor godlings constantly changing sides at whim.
Taking a breath, Hermes looks past the room into the Dreaming.  Here is kept a record for those who know, or care, to look.  A record that shows the state of affairs among the various powers that be…with an exception or two for neither the Goddess the Scions and their Houses follow, nor the One God are ever listed.  Nor would they ever be, being laws unto themselves as deities go.
“Morpheus still allies with the Pantheon founded by Zeus.”  He answers, eliminating the obvious choice for an untouchable sleep.
“Who or what else would be able to conceal Ember?”  Dom asks confused.  As followers of their Goddess they’re immune to the powers of the other gods.  She shields them from both good and ill cast by any power but her own or that of the One God.
“Now that’s a damn good question.”  Without his usual theatrics, Hermes vanishes.
“Huh.”  Dara grunts, there goes her fight, just when she was about to get really into it.
“So…what were you two arguing about?”  Cy asks, trying to distract himself from the reality of his missing commander.
Tossing him a peeved glance over her shoulder at his question, she storms from the room.
“What?  What did I say?”

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