“Are you well, my lady?” Sebastian’s kind voice sealed her fate.
She dashed the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand, then forced herself to look up and meet his rueful, sympathetic gaze.
“I was trying to escape.” She did her best to insert some sort of spirit into her words. He’d caught her in the act; she might as well own up to her folly.
“I see that.” He knelt beside her, a glimmer of a smile curving his beautiful mouth. “Do not worry; you are not the first to be laid low by my magic door.”
“Magic?” She gave a shaky laugh, glad to see he didn’t appear angry. “More like a clever trick.”
“Ah,” he murmured, his smile fading. “I am afraid you have found me out. I am no sorcerer, just a clever fraud.”
His words held a touch of sadness and self-derision that didn’t seem warranted, or appropriate to the situation. He had nothing to be ashamed of, yet she sensed he was. Blinking up at him in confusion, she let the thought go, too exhausted to pursue it.
“What are you going to do with me now?”
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
©2011 Tracy Seybold
Cover Art: Angela Holmes
Edited by: Patrick Icasas
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied for reviews.
Published by: Kindle
First Printing: December 2011
You can always make me smile, even on a bad day. Thanks for always being there. Sometimes the best sisters are the ones you choose yourself, not the ones God gave you! I will always consider you my very favorite little sister!
From an Oral History of Halcyon…
We were here long before you.
For thousands of years our civilization flourished. Our great island city grew rich on trade and shipping. We ruled the world and thought our reign would never end.
But nothing lasts forever.
Fire fell from the sky, the ground shook and the ocean rose up in a terrible wave, killing thousands… but our city survived. When it was over, we rebuilt and grew stronger than ever.
For fifty years more, we continued as though nothing had happened, but the great comet continued to circle above, biding its time and waiting. A handful of our greatest minds — scientists, architects and philosophers — read the portents and realized the end was near. We plotted and planned, determined our culture and knowledge would not die.
Over the next decade, we pillaged the great libraries of the world and recruited the best and brightest to our cause. Darkness and destruction were coming, and it would take all of our combined skills to defeat it.
We left our island home for the safety of frigid northern climes, settling in a great, underground cavern. Deep in the bowels of the earth, we learned to harness the power of our subterranean water supply and channeled it to light our settlement. We found ways to grow crops in this false illumination then waited for the inevitable.
This time was much worse than before. The tail of the comet nicked the Earth’s atmosphere, bits and pieces exploding across land and sea alike, causing untold death and destruction. As feared, our beautiful homeland sank beneath the sea. The skies turned black, and the very air became a poisonous fume. The water was unsafe to drink, and crops and livestock died.
We huddled in our cavern, never imagining how long the blight would last. Generations lived and died below the surface while the Earth tried to recover from the mighty blow she’d been dealt. For nearly a hundred years, we taught our children history and philosophy and made new scientific breakthroughs; safe, if not content, in our underground home.
By the time the sky cleared and the ground became green and fertile, we had advanced immeasurably. But when we finally returned to the surface, we found the rest of humanity had not been so lucky. Millions had died, and those who hadn’t were too busy with the business of survival to worry about preserving their knowledge or culture. The great civilizations of Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia and Troy had fallen, leaving behind men who were so full of hysteria and superstition they looked upon our lordly blond scholars with terror and suspicion.
At less than five hundred in number, we were forced to return to the cavern, venturing out less and less as we became hunted and persecuted. And so we became myth, and then faded into legend.
We were called fey and spoken of in whispers until we knew we were not safe even beneath the ground. Fearing for our lives, we left the green shores of Wales with much regret. Beneath the icy waves of the north Atlantic we built a crystal city, completely self-contained and indestructible.
For two thousand years we have waited for those on the Surface to advance enough to accept us, so that we may walk in sunlight once again. But some of us grow weary of the wait…
Off the coast of Wales – November, 1362
“Wake up, Rhoswen,” Trevelan coaxed. “We’re Surfacing.”
Rhoswen of Halcyon opened her eyes, then slammed them shut again, squinting against the bright glare of the sun. Though she’d made the trip to the Surface six times, she never grew used to the pure, brilliant light.
Blinking, she peered through
starboard porthole and glimpsed Britain’s jagged shoreline in the distance. The white cliffs made a stark contrast to the frigid blue waves crashing upon the pebble strewn beach.
“Your father is a genius.” Trevelan maneuvered the small, submersible craft toward a rocky islet a couple hundred yards off the Welsh coast, where it would remain anchored safely offshore while they completed their mission. “
handles like a dream, and we made the journey in nearly half the time.”
Oberon, who was both Halcyon’s leader and Rhoswen’s beloved father, had spent the last few years designing a vessel to replace Halcyon’s aging fleet, and
was his first prototype.
“He’ll be happy to hear that,” Rhoswen answered, her gaze still riveted on the spectacular scenery. The ocean stretched before them like a frothing blanket of tiny diamonds.
. After a year in Halcyon’s sterile environment, the sensory feast overwhelmed her.
“You love it up here, don’t you?” Obviously sensing her distraction, Trevelan leaned across the small space that separated the pilot and copilot’s chairs and peered over her shoulder. “Too bad they’re ruining it. By the time they advance enough to accept us, they’ll have destroyed the entire planet.”
She sank back in her chair and gave him a sympathetic glance. No matter how amazing she found the wind and the sky, these trips to the Surface always disappointed her. She never grew accustomed to the filth, poverty and cruelty she and Trevelan encountered whenever they ventured out into the world above. Religious fervor and superstition had replaced hope long ago.
“Why do you suppose Oberon wants us to examine Old Halcyon?” he asked, giving voice to the question she knew had been troubling him ever since her father had given them their mission. “It’s remained hidden for thousands of years. Surely our time upon the Surface would be much better spent in one of the cities. We’ll have little opportunity to report upon the political situation if we spend the majority of our time below ground.”
“It may prove interesting,” she countered, wishing her father had given her leave to tell Trevelan the real reason behind his unusual request. Halcyon’s ancient power grid was failing, and though Oberon had engineers working round the clock on a solution, he wanted a complete inventory and assessment done of Old Halcyon. When they returned, she would prepare a report on the cavern’s viability as an emergency shelter, should they be forced to evacuate. “Just think how much of our history must have been left behind in those caves. Besides, I know how much you hate the crowds and stench of the cities.”
“The Surface is populated by barbarians.” Trevelan shook his head as they drew abreast of the islet. “I’m tired of watching them squander what they’ve been given, tired of returning to Halcyon year after year with bad news. I want to wake to the sunrise every morning. I want to feel the wind on my face more than once a year.”
She sighed. Those who remained in Halcyon their entire lives never knew the beauty of the sun and the trees or how majestically the cliffs and mountains stretched toward the crystal blue sky. But for those chosen few, such as Trevelan and herself, who routinely visited the Surface, returning to the city beneath the sea became more difficult with each passing year. The Earth was big and bright and magnificent, and Halcyon, despite its technological wonders, sometimes seemed like a prison.
For more than five hundred years, the people who dwelt upon the Surface had remained stagnant, making no significant strides either socially or economically. They fought endless wars, persecuted each other for racial and religious differences, and died by the hundreds of thousands from hunger and disease.
Still, they fascinated her. They loved and hated with equal passion, seeming to fit so much life into their short years.
Her own people had also become dormant, though not many of them seemed to realize it. For longer than anyone could remember, they’d argued about when and where to reclaim their place on the Surface, splitting into two very distinct factions. Half were content to remain in Halcyon, while others — mainly those who spent time on the Surface already, engaged in the farming and mining operations that kept Halcyon supplied — wished to take their chances above.
Unfortunately, their numbers were so few neither side could survive on their own. The ancient city had begun to decay and took constant maintenance. Halcyon’s complex society required that every single citizen do their part — a mass exodus would prove disastrous.
Perhaps it would be for the best if the city failed, forcing a change whether Halcyon’s people were ready for it or not.
As he cut the craft’s motor, Trevelan gave her a look filled with pure anarchy. “We could introduce a virus that would wipe them off the face of the earth.”
“That’s a terrible thing to say.” Rhoswen frowned, uncertain whether or not he spoke in jest. “Besides, they’re too widespread. A virus, no matter how potent, is bound to die out before they do. There’s no way to infect them all at once.”
“What if there were? What if Marcus could develop one? Would it be wrong to use it?”
Marcus was their most brilliant geneticist. If anyone could invent such a thing, he could. The thought of so much death was abhorrent, yet she couldn’t stop thinking about what it would mean to her people. To come out of hiding, after so long—
She cut off the dangerous thoughts. He didn’t mean it, after all. His frustration had simply gotten the best of him. “Of course it would be wrong. Please tell me you’re just thinking out loud. You and Marcus haven’t actually discussed this, have you?”
His disgruntled look offered her little comfort. He wasn’t himself. Ever since they’d left the city he’d been quiet and preoccupied. Now he spoke of utter anarchy—of
—with a calm detachment that chilled her soul.
He sprawled in the captain’s chair with indolent grace, his golden hair glinting in a shaft of sunlight, his fair, perfect features so at odds with the pock-marked disfiguration common on the Surface. A wonder they hadn’t been burned at the stake already.