By Sumaa Zaffar Saleem
This is an excerpt from Silver Starlight, book one of Sumaa Saleem’s Celestial Momentum series. Available now on Amazon.
There was a morbid silence shrouding the table that night, the sort that can only fall when one finds oneself in deep deliberation or when something catastrophic has ensued. Sadly, both were true of tonight. Besides the usual allowance of low temperature on December the third, a more distinguished, dreadful cold had settled into the hearts of those cloaked and seated around the discussion board in the Chieftain’s study. Instead of rejoicing in the merriment of what was supposed to be a eagerly awaited break from their daily schedules, each of the teachers and associates of the Lunar Institute of Magick now found themselves huddled closely together and quite frankly, unaware of what exactly to make of recent events.
The voices of various groups of children wafted over to them in the pin-drop reticence, as they proceeded happily and, all the more unknowingly, towards the main doors of the school building to enjoy their Friday nights. This however, did nothing to ease the tension that had now established itself deep into the minds of each and every one of their teachers. “What could this mean?” They had asked when the Chieftain had summoned them all. “Who does it speak of?” The questions did not have answers, just as a woman named Vera Jacobs did not have an answer to what she had been thinking or doing when she spoke the words that, most of them were quite certain, had not belonged to her.
A man, fairly young in comparison to the rest of those seated around him, sat attempting to discern this very phenomenon while the others…well, it was rather obvious that they were patiently waiting for him to say something, speak his authoritative words of comfort and assurance to them and rectify their disorderly states of mind. But he could not. He could not explain, nor could he give any sort of believable reason for the baffling circumstance that had so suddenly befallen them all.
Acutely aware that he was being watched, Benjamin Lambert paid no attention to the expectant pairs of eyes that directed themselves at him, some from the large sofas in the corner of his study due to a fervent lack of space to accommodate twenty five people in a room built to comfortably accommodate about ten, and mostly from around the table whose head he sat at. He raked a hand through his wavy, dark brown hair and let out an audible sigh at the same time, thereby breaking the silence in the room that had been so for the past thirty minutes. He supposed the reason for this was the frightening tone Vera had taken when she had become possessed, but his personal silence was due to an unnerving need to understand and hence think thoroughly on possible interpretations of the events. He was not worried…no, he was simply perplexed beyond measure.
Unfortunately, he was not able to indulge in his required silence for very long after sighing, for his colleagues and associates assumed it was a mark of restarting conversation, rather than a frustrated display of helplessness. A handsome but gruff looking man to his far right, whose beard was far too unkempt to appear professional, named Tobias Flinn was the first to speak. ‘Benjamin what exactly did…’ he paused to turn his intense, dark brown eyes onto Vera, who met his gaze with deference, ‘Vera say?’
Benjamin looked up wearily at his old friend whom, he was rather glad, he had just recently convinced to teach at the Institute. ‘You were there Flinn.’
Flinn nodded, but in a way that implied that he had not finished speaking yet. ‘Let me rephrase…what do you think she said?’
The Supreme Chieftain closed his eyes and began to think of a way to answer without further alarming those around him, for though he knew Tobias was on a similar tangent to his, he could not expect the relatively inexperienced others to understand such ideas. ‘If I knew the answers to any of those questions, we would not be here Tobias.’
From the expressionless appearance that Tobias’ face adopted after hearing this, one could not easily conclude what he was thinking, but to Benjamin, his preference to discuss this at a later time had been conveyed. There was a loud cracking sound that came from the corner of the room just then, and Benjamin turned his head in time to see, much to his relief, the very first person outside the school that he had sent the news to about Vera’s unusual and alarming episode.
Flinn spoke the name before he could. ‘Finnigan? What are you doing here?’
The dark-skinned, hooded man quickly stepped out of the portal disguised as an archway in Benjamin’s study and strode distressfully down the three short steps to reach the level on which the rest of them sat. ‘Lambert called me,’ he answered Flinn in a thick Jamaican accent before turning an anxious eye onto Benjamin. ‘Did you come up with anything yet?’
Benjamin shook his head. ‘You told no one?’
The man held his right hand up and closed his black eyes for a period of five seconds before reopening them and saying ‘on my life.’
Benjamin nodded. ‘We need your help; Vera has had a…’ he trailed off to motion towards Professor Vera herself. ‘She will explain.’
Finnigan nodded tightly at him and strode quickly, his long cape and hood flapping behind him, towards the evidently distraught woman. He then kneeled before her and took one of her now pale hands into his darker ones. ‘Verasielle? Tell me what you saw.’
The woman, ordinarily considered quite confident and indeed, at times, defiant, crumbled the moment he touched her. ‘I…I d-don’t remember what I was thinking!’ She wailed loudly, causing everyone in the room to lean over their respective sides of the table and gaze at her sympathetically. Benjamin waited. ‘I…they t-told me that I said something, s-something I do not even recall!’
Finnigan nodded and patted her hand. ‘I understand, but you must know exactly what you said, do you not?’ She looked up abruptly and, as if trying to gather herself together, straightened in her seat and clenched her jawbone. Seeing this, Finnigan quickly added ‘I know it is difficult, but you must tell me so that I can help determine what we are to expect.’
This seemed to register with her, for she then relaxed her tense posture and let out an exhausted sigh. ‘Alright…’ Upon casting another quick glance at Benjamin, perhaps in the hopes that he would take the task from her and spare the traumatic effect the words seemed to have on her thoughts, Vera was met with an encouraging nod of his head. She turned back to the man. ‘Jerome, I said:
“Blood of the gifted will spill,
When the Blood of Death rises once again.
History is to repeat itself,
But the wrath of vengeance shall only be conquered,
By the one whose blood is a legacy.”
Vera drew in a fearful breath of air after she had reestablished the silence that once again, much like the horrible trepidation, consumed the room. A long pause followed her short but bloodcurdling regurgitation, broken by the one who had done so the last time.
‘What do you think, Jerome?’ Benjamin’s voice was steady and did not at all mirror the sheer anxiety that showed so palpably on the faces of his colleagues. But, for those who knew him well enough to notice, there was something tense about the way he carried himself as he spoke, the muscles in his arms flexing ever so slightly under his long black cloak.
Jerome turned to look at his friend with the same tense look distorting his soft features. He shook his head, his woven, stringy brown plaits whipping around the sides of his face as he did. ‘Blood of Death…’
Benjamin nodded, effectively thinking exactly what, he was sure, Jerome and Tobias were. ‘By the one whose blood is a legacy?’
‘Vengeance?’ They turned their attentions to an attractive, brown-haired woman sitting to the farthest left side of the table, who had, up until that moment, been as silent as stone.
‘Alexis,’ Jerome nodded at her. She did not, however, remove her intent gaze from Tobias Flinn, who now appeared to be in heavy deliberation.
‘What is it, Tobias?’ Benjamin had also turned his attention towards the gruff man.
‘“History is to repeat itself,” he answered blankly, still deep in thought.
Jerome shot a subtle, side-ways glance at Benjamin before he said slowly ‘what are you thinking?’
He raised his head to meet Jerome’s anxious gaze with an introspective one. ‘I am thinking the royals-’
‘-No,’ Benjamin interrupted him sharply, casting a fairly unnoticeable eye onto Jerome, who then directed the same onto Tobias, ‘the royals would not do that; they have no reason to pick a fight.’ Tobias, very subtly, raised an eyebrow; implying that the royals were attempting to pick a fight was not what he had wished to suggest, and Benjamin knew it.
‘Tobias is right Benjamin,’ Vera cried. ‘The prophecy spoke of those with the blood of death. They have that.’
‘They do not cause death Vera,’ a petite, black-haired woman said from across the table in a low tone of voice, indicating the level of her annoyance. ‘You know that.’
‘Benjamin is right Vera,’ Flinn interjected, realizing his friends’ implications of a later, more private, discussion. ‘The royals are no longer threatened, there is no reason-’
‘-Then why does it speak of vengeance?’ Alexis said. ‘Why does it speak of the blood of the “gifted”?’
‘You are not the only ones gifted Alexis,’ a platinum-haired man whose black eyes glinted dangerously in the light of the room sniped.
‘Alexis,’ Benjamin’s voice was a low warning. Alexis, who had just been about to prepare for heated debate, realized it and sat further back into her seat, a tolerant and expressionless look plastered smoothly across her face. Benjamin turned his gaze onto Evander Russell. ‘Evander, this prophecy may well be speaking of a time that has passed, like many of Vera’s visions do.’
‘Vera’s visions have never gone that far in time before, Ben,’ a burly, broad-shouldered man named Robert Cowell said. ‘It’s been years since the fight happened.’
‘Even so,’ Benjamin told him before turning a sharp eye onto Alexis, ‘we are not making any assumptions.’
‘It said…’ They all turned to look at a very young, brown-haired and boyish man who sat on one of the sofas in the corner of the room, ‘it said vengeance shall be conquered only by the one whose blood is a legacy…Ben may be right; when the fight happened, he was the one who…’
The man trailed off, leaving the whole room now consumed with the idea that seemed most probable at the moment. Benjamin chose to use this to his advantage. ‘So then it is settled: the prophecy has spoken of a past event that we have all known and witnessed, until proven otherwise.’
From the looks on some of their faces, there was many a thing some of the Chieftain’s colleagues wished to add to that, but after hearing the finality of his tone, chose wisely to remain silent. It was only after they had departed, and Benjamin was left with the two people he had initially wanted to discuss the topic with, that he spoke freely. ‘Do you think it could be more than that?’ He asked Jerome when the others were well away from being able to hear a word he said.
Jerome nodded. ‘Things like these never do appear unless they are a warning.’
‘What could it be?’ Tobias asked pensively.
Jerome shrugged his shoulders. ‘It could be anything, but we must keep on our guard regardless.’
‘Do you suppose it really does have something to do with the royals?’ Benjamin said, his expression giving away that he already had an idea of the answer he would receive.
As predicted, Tobias and Jerome exchanged a long, intent look between them, and then turned back to Benjamin. ‘No,’ they replied together.
Meanwhile, some one hundred and fifty kilometers away, a seventeen-year-old boy lay deep in slumber, completely unaware of how drastically his life was about to change.