Chapter 1: Jackson
Jackson Kiefenasi was a busy man. He was also in big trouble.
Why was he in trouble? Well, the King seemed to be getting weaker by the minute. Prince Hunter, the King’s only child, was more arrogant and aggravating than normal. The criminals were growing wings, and the rogues and monsters were an even bigger threat than usual.
His job was on the line. His life was on the line. Everything was falling apart.
It already was, he thought. It’s only now becoming obvious to everyone.
The councilman rose from the chair he was rested on. As the setting sun cast a burnt orange glow on his chocolate brown skin, his brain worked at a million miles a minute.
The peace in Aecan was ailing. The rich were becoming increasingly fearful for their safety; the poor were becoming increasingly furious at their state of living. The older ones would lament about how cheap a loaf of bread and a piece of meat was back in their day, while the young would ask why they couldn’t have that luxury anymore.
Even from his vantage point over the most affluent parts of the city, he could still see the graffiti on walls from the last protests. The state was trying so hard to cover everything up, but no. The problem could be ignored no longer.
Or that’s what the citizens said. Jackson knew that he and the rest of the Council were going to sweep it under the rug. That’s what they always did, without fail. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ was how their deliberate avoidance of a problem was explained.
That always worked. But something told him that this time, this time, it wouldn’t. It would fail, and bite him and his colleagues in the behinds later.
The sense of foreboding that made his clean-shaven face twist into a frown quickly dissipated. He wasn’t a Time Mage, after all. They were the ones who told of the future. Anything he says or thinks could be a wild guess.
He ran those words through his head like a record on repeat, hoping to drown out the doubt with that tiny sliver of hope.
As if the universe hated that he had hope, there were a few sharp knocks on the door.
“Come in,” he called.
One of his page-boys entered the room. He had his head hung low in submission, and appeared to be holding something in his hands.
“What is it?” he asked. “Speak, boy!”
“It’s the news for today, sir,” the boy said with a slight tremor to his voice.
“Hand it over.”
Jackson snatched the paper from his page-boy’s hands and dismissed him.
The date: Idar, 13 Hatte, 227 C.E.
The headline in bold, black letters read:
“Panic Increasing In Wake of the Kidnapping of The Duttan Governor” in all caps with a picture of a beautiful woman with tightly curled hair, dark brown eyes and the same chocolatey shade of Jackson’s skin plastered on the front.
The flame of Jackson’s hope died almost as soon as it came.
Chandler, his own sister, had been kidnapped? Even with her large security detail? Even with her high status?
He was beyond worried for his sister’s life, and beyond furious with whoever let that happen. He let everyone know it too.
But what he wouldn’t let anyone know is that he was afraid.
He realised he would be lucky to make it through the rest of the year alive.