Excerpt from the writings of Aiden de Clare:
I suppose I should talk about miracles.
There’s nowhere else to begin my story. I could talk about Eddie and what the two of us found in Louisiana. I could tell you the truth about Winthrop, and Calypso, the Battle of the Fifth, and all
the other battles I’ve fought over the years. But they are merely things that happened.
My old History Professor, the closest thing to a father I’ve ever had, told me a story once. He claimed all creatures under the sun are due a miracle, and miracles resent it. So they intentionally
come too early, when people haven’t suffered enough to appreciate them, or they come too late when hearts have hardened to the point where even miracles cannot bring them hope.
The two of us sat in his office and I remember listening to his words with the sort of grim determination commonly found in young men who are desperate to avoid the tragic fates of their
predecessors, never knowing that my miracle meant to play its most cunning trick.
You see, my miracle came on time.
A year later, and I might’ve settled into my life at the university to the point where all the trappings of wealth couldn’t lure me out of my lair. And if my miracle came a year early… I prefer not
to think about it. Perhaps I should take some comfort in that.
When I got that phone call, I did not notice my miracle slithering into my life. I was the illegitimate son of a dead New York power-broker, as it turned out, and the revelation whisked me off on a
journey that my mind struggled to comprehend. But in my subconscious, a dream began to stir, and when Calypso exposed me to the existence of the Order and its Methods, it grew stronger. It was on
the night of my Initiation that I first detected it, lurking backstage, waiting for the right time to burst into the open. From that point on, I lost control, my miracle and my dream each had one
hand on the wheel, and in my memory, it feels as though I could do little more than strap in and hope for the best.
The Professor was wrong, I know that now. As I sit here, a ruined man, I see that miracles do not resent us. They want to spare us. Spare us the danger of hope and shield us from the misery a
powerful dream can create.
Where that leaves me, I don’t know. Maybe I was just a tool, given enough hope to fulfill a purpose and discarded afterward? A sacrificial pawn, sent on a doomed journey so others could stay home?
Was I meant to do the things I’ve done?
Whatever the answer, I don’t mind.
I am one of the lucky ones. I am one of those who got to see their one last spark of hope roar up into a towering inferno, and the power of it sent me to the highest peaks and threw me into the
I am who I am, and now you know what made me.
‘’The powerful need strength enough to dominate all affairs; the weak need only strength enough to disrupt them.’’
They marched him down the snow-white marble stairs, his steps echoing in the cavernous chamber. Statues accompanied him on his descent; lions and dragons, snakes and wolves, they stood in pairs,
quiet sentinels to guard his way.
The people all wore togas as they sat on the steps around the Shrine, for no member could hide their face on Initiation Day. As one, they had their eyes glued to the center of the room. A hollow
pyramid waited for him there, made of pure crystal and covered in engravings. He recognized the symbols of every religion known to man; the cross of Christianity, the Crescent Moon of Islam, and
the Star of David. But there were others, too; the Faravahar of Zoroastrianism and the Parasol of Buddhism; The Hindu Om, the Khanda of the Sikhs, and a dozen more he did not recognize besides.
The Three Priests stood around it, one for each side of the pyramid while the fourth was left clear for him to enter. The Priests wore black robes, diamonds, and gems stitched into the fabric in
swirling patterns with silver zucchettos resting upon their heads. A ring of hooded apprentices in golden robes walked the circle behind them, thuribles swinging at their hips. The smells hit his
nostrils, frankincense heavy in the air. Aiden took a shallow breath to steady himself as his foot landed on the last step. The apprentices stopped as one and he moved between them.
He spread his hands wide and two men emerged from the shadows. He tried to keep the shame of his nudity from his mind as their gentle hands disrobed him; he focused on the cool marble floor beneath
his feet to avoid the eyes of the members.
He walked forth beneath a lintel into the pyramid where an altar awaited him, carved from a single slab of soot-grey rock. Golden candles burned around it, flickering as he passed and climbed upon
it. He laid down on his back and kept his arms by his side. An anticipatory silence fell upon the Shrine as the apprentices made their silent exit – only the blood-members could witness what came
He shivered as he laid on top of the raw rock and a snap rang through the air. The candles around him went out, the torches flickered out of existence and darkness descended upon his eyes like a
blanket. He could not see his own hands until three gentle lights blossomed around him, lightbulbs too weak to beat back the dark. But they gained strength and Aiden saw the Three Priests glow as
they danced around him. Red, blue and yellow battled for dominance across their bodies as they jumped and rolled, throwing out their chests and flailing their arms, their precious gems jingling as
They added their voices to the dance and the lights grew stronger. Aiden could not understand a word they said; they jumped from Latin to Spanish to Italian and back again. He heard some English
and some German, a bit of French, but the harsh Russian sounded the clearest in his ears.
The silver veins in the marble floor turned blood-red and raced up the steps. The people in the stands began to glow as well but their lights were smaller, bright spots upon their chests and one by
one they blinked to life until a colorful galaxy surrounded him. The red snakes slithered among them like wayward comets and climbed up the walls to the dome that topped this underground temple
beneath Central Park. At the top they came together around a sharp spire, hanging off the ceiling like a stalactite. The light gathered around its base and slowly moved to the tip until the entire
thing glowed red.
The voices in his ears subdued and the galaxy flickered out of existence. His eyes focused on the slim tendril of pure energy, falling from the ceiling. One moment it shone blood-red but then he
blinked and it began to glow like the sun until it turned the light blue of the clearest ocean and hit the tip of the pyramid. It gathered there with a hiss and punched through
with a blast that echoed around the chamber. Aiden flinched in his place. All his instincts told him to run as a beam of pure white light descended upon him at an agonizingly slow pace. His hands
gripped the sides of the altar to keep himself in place and he clenched his teeth to ready himself for the pain, for the suffering, for anything.
‘’Spirits of the ancestors, judge thy son. If he be worthy, grant him thy wisdom. If he be false, cast him out!’’ A single, booming voice cried out.
But the beam of light did not hit his chest as he expected. It spread in four directions, going for the corners of the altar. The rock beneath him grew warm, and he brought his hands to his chest
when the white light raced down the edges of the altar.
It started innocently enough; spiders and ants seemed to crawl up his arms and legs and he huffed when a great weight settled upon his body. It did not hurt, but he realized he was unable to move.
He took short, shallow breaths like a lady in a corset laced too tight, and waited for what would follow.
Warmth followed the ants and together they trailed up from his abdomen to his chest. Aiden had never felt his heart before, not even when it pounded against his ribcage after a
long run, but now he sensed the blood it sucked in and sent on, saw it clench as if he watched another man’s heart surgery. The heat moved up his neck and a shiver marched up his spine when it
reached his head. The room swam around him, the rock beneath him shifted like sand, and the echoes of a hundred hatreds forced him to swallow down the acid that rose in his throat.
The tips of his fingers began to warm until they burned as hot as if he’d pressed them against a frying pan. The pain wrenched a scream from his throat, but it was the uncertainty that frightened
him. I know pain, I know pain, he chanted in his head and forced himself to cut off the scream. He clenched his teeth and swallowed his trepidation. It is how it might change you
that makes suffering terrifying, but I’ve changed before.
The pain had come on slowly like the tide, but it vanished in an instant. Like the ocean before a tsunami. His mother’s face swam before him; her hair was wild and her blue eyes
flashed with rage. He could not hear the poison spewing from her lips, but her expression struck a chord in his soul. All the walls he’d built up to keep his rage confined crumbled under the
onslaught of his hatred and his sadness. ‘’I hate you!’’ He screamed over and over again as tears poured down his face. Spittle flew from his mouth and his throat burned raw. He clenched his fists
hard enough to draw blood.
The fires in his chest died down at the snap of a finger and his hatred seemed pathetic, unreasonable, like an old wound that’s long since healed.
Another face swam into his vision, this one framed by fiery red hair. The freckles upon her cheeks so numerous you’d think a galaxy hid within, her brown eyes danced with mischief. An unwilling
smile blossomed on his face and it turned to laughter when other faces followed hers. He saw the high school years, the lost kids who thought they found themselves in each other. They’d been
tainted – the memories – but now he couldn’t remember the struggle and pain; only the innocence and the wonder of life remained.
It all came to him. The memories changed colors and meaning; one second he felt the happiness of the moment, then the tragedy of the aftermath attacked him. He saw them drinking and laughing behind
the school. They had life figured out. They didn’t know it was the last time they came together. They’d reached a fork in the road, but none of them realized what it meant. I would’ve
thanked them for the good times.
The emotions sped up. They appeared and vanished before he registered their presence. He was helpless, he felt frustrated, he was lonely, but then filled with joy. He laughed, he cried, he cursed
the paint off the walls. He relived every memory he had, but he recognized what they meant in ways he never did before, and it made them sting all the harder.
It all came to an abrupt end. He thought he heard the snap of a finger echo around the chamber and the coolness of the stone beneath him returned. The candles flickered alight and the torches burst
into flame. The warm golden glow returned to the chamber, and the silent people in their togas returned with it. He shivered in his place when a Priest approached him with an outstretched hand. How
much had he revealed? Had they seen all?
He took the hand and sat up, the calloused fingers scraping against his palm as he dismounted the altar. His knees nearly buckled and his thighs burned with every step as he followed the Priest out
of the pyramid. He kept his eyes glued to the statues to avoid their eyes, to escape the shame as the warm wool of the toga settled on his shoulders.
He clasped his hands in front of him as the Archon approached with a golden cup in his hands, adorned with rubies and embossed with vines. ‘’A sip for the worthy.’’ he intoned, looking down at
Aiden from beneath his bushy eyebrows.
‘’A cup for the blessed,’’ the crowd followed as one.
Aiden took it from his hands and flinched where his fingers brushed against the Archon’s. The heat radiated off of them in waves, yet the cup felt cool to his touch. He’d met the man before, had
shaken his hand, and felt nothing of the sort.
His eyes roamed across the people in the stands. They looked the same, but the edges of their bodies were distorted like concrete in the scorching summer heat. He heard voices hiding within,
laughter and cries, every one similar to his own. With another snap of a finger, they disappeared as if someone had closed the curtain on a stage play. The blank faces morphed into the ones of
outrage and grudging approval.
Aiden raised the cup to his lips and drank. Cool water splashed over his tongue and he greedily swallowed it down. The water spread down his chest. He’d felt it before, the few times he’d been
truly thirsty when the water reached pipes in his chest that hadn’t been flushed in a long time. This time it went further, down his legs and past his elbows to the tips of his fingers. Everywhere
it touched, the fatigue disappeared, the pain receded and he found himself standing up straight again, his mind clearer than it had been in months.
The face of the Archon, the Head of the Three Priests, one Edward Winthrop, crystallized in his eyes. The thin mustache upon his lip, the grey eyes, the aquiline nose and the combed black hair. He
saw the chest hair peeking out from behind the midnight robes, the muscles rippling beneath his loose skin. A powerful man, a man I better fear.
He swayed on his feet but the hands of the Priests steadied him. He hadn’t seen anything in Mr. Winthrop, but now he sensed the curtain and feared what might hide behind it.
The people in the stands stood up as one. The Archon bowed and they followed his lead. ‘’In the name of our ancestors, we welcome you, brother,’’ he stepped aside as the stone beneath the last
stair slid away to reveal a staircase into darkness. ‘’To the Order of the Star.’’
Aiden bowed his head and waited as the Three Priests came to stand in a line before him, Winthrop leading the way. As one they moved towards the hole and disappeared down the steps. No torches
lined the tunnel but the bright light at the end of it kept total darkness at bay. He put his hands on the smooth marble to steady himself; his knees no longer threatened to buckle, but his senses
Lavender perfume and wine replaced the smell of incense. A pleasant warmth slowly settled upon him like a shroud the further down the steps he went. Aiden stopped in his tracks when he reached the
bottom; a large, cavernous hall stretched before him, fit for the grandeur of Versailles. A dozen crystal chandeliers hung from the arched ceiling, bathing it in light, the walls lined with
Aiden caught a glimpse of himself in one. He looked no different aside from his mussed-up hair that stood up on end as if a current had gone through him. He retained the acne scars that littered
his cheeks like bomb craters litter the fields of France, his brown eyes hadn’t acquired an unnatural glow and no fresh set of muscles hung from his slim frame. I look the same; it’s
everything else that’s changed. He put such thoughts from his mind and marched behind the Priests to the dais at the end of the room while the blood members walked behind him with their
heads bowed. When they reached the table, the Three Priests moved to the side to assume their seats while the rest stopped in their tracks.
Aiden continued straight on, up the small staircase and onto a linen-covered table. A throne waited for him there, a gilded chair with wooden armrests and a velvet cushion. It signified
the taking of one’s position, a callback to times when a man had to scheme and murder his way into the Order. He jumped off the table to show he held no regard for
the delicate sensibilities of the members, sat down on the velvet cushion, and put his hands upon the armrests. ‘’Be seated, my friends, and by the name of all that is good and holy, let us
feast!’’ he repeated Calypso’s words and the row of people that stretched down the hall raised their heads.
A murmur went up from the crowd as they split up into groups, the strict protocols of the ceremony discarded in favor of a more relaxed atmosphere. The musicians began playing Vivaldi’s Spring as
the members laid down upon the cushions. Some sat down on the sofas with stiff backs and others glanced at Aiden as they murmured among themselves.
The doors opened to his left and his right; a row of women in golden dresses emerged from the left, while men in tuxedos poured in from the right, carrying platters filled with champagne glasses
and delicious treats; strawberries dipped in melted chocolate, melons with prosciutto, beluga caviar and tiny slices of baked bread.
He raised the glass and looked to the left, ‘’Ladies,’’ he nodded his head and looked to the right. ‘’Gentlemen. To the Good Spirit! To Zeus Soter! To Hygieia!’’ They raised their cups to toast the
Gods and drank.
A weight lifted off his shoulders now that the ceremony had ended he took another sip if only to get the chance to enjoy it. He tried to keep from squirming in his chair and his eyes roamed over
the super-rich and the famous that sat lounging before him, every move of their bodies screaming of their belief that they belonged.
‘’A most auspicious ceremony, Mr. De Clare,’’ the woman to his left leaned in to whisper.
‘’How so?’’ Aiden asked, keeping his eyes ahead. You don’t know anything; there’s no point in pretending.
The Priest smiled at him. Barbara Cunningham was a woman of bright blue eyes, straw blonde hair, stern features, and wrinkles above her mouth from a lifetime of pursing her lips. ‘’It’s been a long
time since a true stranger graced these halls. It is a portent of things to come, the cry of the Gods challenging our credo.’’
‘’And what might that be?’’
Her steely gaze forced him to look at her. ‘’Freedom and prosperity,’’ she whispered.
Goosebumps ran up his arms and he did his best to repress a shiver. One look around the room, at the carefree laughter and the self-satisfied mannerism, and questions began to pop up. He feared a
great many things, once upon a time. Now he feared a great many people, and they’re all sitting in this room.
‘’You will get to witness a great change one of these days, Mr. de Clare,’’ Barbara murmured from his side after he failed to respond to her cryptic declaration.
‘’Would you mind elaborating?’’
She gave him a quicksilver smile. ‘’Soon enough, Mr. de Clare, soon enough.’’
He looked to the side to find Winthrop giving her a look of disapproval. They sat in silence and sipped on their champagne, watching the party grow before them. It might be smart to do as
they do; he forced a straight face and kept his interest at bay.
The Archon leaned in and caught his attention. ‘’You’ll come to find a bit of rebel streak isn’t such a bad thing.’’ He murmured, echoing Aiden’s previous thoughts.
He could read Aiden’s mind. He could lay bare to all his deepest—
‘’We can’t read minds, Mr. de Clare,’’ Edward smiled as he dropped a cube of ice in his glass and poured himself a measure of whiskey. ‘’But we can sense a man’s mood and predict where his mind
might take him. Have you never guessed your friend’s thoughts?’’ He lifted the bottle and glanced at Aiden’s glass as if to give him an example.
‘’I see what you mean,’’ Aiden said as he watched him pour whiskey into his glass. The dry ice crackled as the amber liquid surrounded it. In the chamber he’d seen the curtains close on the ghosts
of others but he never considered they remained open on his own.
‘’We are but humans,’’ he said and stoppered the bottle. ‘’Albeit a bit more advanced.’’
Aiden settled for a nod and turned his eyes back to the party. The room spun around him at Winthrop’s words and he had to take a deep breath to make it still. Winthrop never took his eyes off him.
‘’Though I have to admit you’re somewhat different.’’ He mused. ‘’I expected more cues to follow.’’
‘’Indeed.’’ Barbara agreed. ‘’Hesitant to jump to conclusions?’’
‘’Always.’’ Aiden shot back. It was a knee-jerk response. He’d been charged with separating the harmless from the dangerous once and it taught him a valuable lesson.
‘’And how do you find the States compared to England?’’ The third Priest by the name of Christopher Lancing asked from his seat at the end of the table. He had thinning grey hair, a gaunt, long
face, and a grey pallor to his dark skin, though his eyes stared at Aiden with uncanny strength.
‘’Not all that different.’’
‘’Have you ever been to the States before?’’
‘’Never. I always wanted to come, though. I studied American History at the University.’’ He looked down as he took a bite of toast, but he felt them exchange looks.
‘’Your father’s blood sings, hmm?’’ Barbara asked. They shared a look of understanding.
‘’I never thought of it that way,’’ His mother cursed his fascination with American history. I suppose it makes a lot more sense now.
‘’There’s a great many things you’ll have to see from another perspective in the future, I imagine,’’ Mr. Winthrop chuckled as he dipped his mother-of-pearl spoon in the caviar and carried it to
‘’I suppose.’’ Aiden didn’t mind being toyed with, as long as they reveal something. He offered a polite smile, his ears pricked for any slip of the tongue.
The servants returned, but this time they carried bottles of whiskey and vodka on their platters and one quickly found its way to Aiden. They poured him another measure. Aiden took a sip and
frowned at the overly sweet taste. Then suddenly the lights in the room flared and screeched across his vision. He exhaled in relief and the walls he’d put up went down of their own accord, as
though someone pulled a lever and his mind responded. He glanced to the left and to the right. His pride flared at the presumptuousness of their attack. ‘’Is it customary to poison a man here?’’ he
‘’On Initiation Day?’’ Barbara asked, and he knew sharks surrounded him. ‘’It’s something of a tradition.’’
‘’You are a good man, Aiden de Clare,’’ Edward continued as the room began to spin around him, ‘’But there’s a darkness lurking inside you. I suggest you embrace it.’’ He looked him right in the
eye. ‘’It might serve you well.’’
Aiden saw the pool of blood on the concrete. The ruined shoulder where the bullet had struck and Jason’s expression. Jason’s expression most of all. He looked down at the glass
again. Don’t fight what you can’t escape, Calypso advised him. He surrendered to the moment. He took another sip and the last of his defenses crumbled. The party flared to life
and the party animal inside him demanded he joins.
Hands guided him from the dais into the crowd of people. He saw laughing faces and naked bodies swirling with the growing tempo of the music. They guided him into their midst and surrounded
him as he moved with nothing held back, dancing as he had never danced before. Wine, vodka, and whiskey dripped down his toga as he poured drinks into his mouth with no regard for the morning
The lips of a dozen women pressed to his and he shouted and sang until his throat ran hoarse. He grabbed at every woman around him, dazzled by this feast for the senses, and he meant to drink up
until Judgement Day.
Only darkness came faster. Darkness, darkness, and foreign hands taking him he knew not where.
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