October 29, 2010

Artwork by Lauren T. Hart

Meline loved a party as much as the next person, but she had her reservations about social gathering that she had come to be at by means of a summons. Particularly when that summons came at the behest of a leader best known for his intolerance of those who went against his laws and her very existence went against his laws.

That Anna had once again met with painful disaster while en route to said social and probable execution and she had thus far been unable to reconnect with her, was also putting her a bit on edge.

Galen huffed as a barefoot woman wearing a summer dress and no shoes came to stand near a microphone in the center of the room. "If you would all be seated," her gentle voice, floated through the sound system.

"Who is that?" she whispered.

"Camille," Galen answered. "She... speaks for Argus; Like an intercom. It's a little unnerving if you've never seen it before. Or if you have," he added.

Camille moved her arms in wide arcs while waving her hands up and down as if they were tiny wings as she motioned for everyone to sit.

Quite suddenly her arms fell to her sides and her head slumped forward. The room fell silent. After a few seconds she lifted her head again, her entire demeanor not her own, and surveyed the room. "Thank you for joining me," she spoke. The voice was hers, but the tone and cadence were not. "You honor me with your company and your allegiance."

Jonas, and the man Anna had told her was their father, Dain, entered from behind a large tapestry hanging on the far wall behind the Argus-Camille. They took flanking positions on either side of the Argus-Camille. Three couples, man and woman, followed them taking position in a row behind them.

Meline's heart nearly leapt out of her chest when she saw Anna at the far left of the stage. Galen acknowledged her startle by putting his hand on her thigh, but he did not turn to look at her. She wrapped her fingers around his hand and tried to remain calm. Anna was the frantic, intense one, the fighter, and she appeared perfectly calm.

"We have reached a new age in our existence," the Argus-Camille said. "An age that began with the rise of the first Sovereign Elite and the first immortals born of the blood since the time of Gods and Goddesses."

Hushed murmurs flittered through the room. The Argus-Camille had to be talking about her and Anna.

"An age reaffirmed by the birth of a second generation in this line." The murmurs grew with this comment, and included a few disdainful scoffs.

She-He could only be talking about Ashe. A son she had thought about - and had to force herself not to think about - every day. Galen looked briefly toward her, but she could not bring herself to meet his eyes, keeping them firmly on her sister instead. Willing her to let her into her thoughts, to ease her fears.

"An age defined with the rise of a my equal, a Sovereign, born of the blood."

Gasps and grumbles sounded among the murmuration.

"As many of you bring questions and arguments of law to the forefront of your thoughts I would remind you that I am the law." There was a long pause as the Argus-Camille, surveyed the assembly. "To commemorate this new age, as it is the wish of the one I have named my equal, the Sovereign born of the blood, my first official act..." The Argus-Camille wavered for a moment and her arms sprang up to her sides as if to catch her balance. Her eyes darted around the room looking momentarily confused and then she smiled, strolled to the aisle at the center of the room and stood.

The audience as well as those on stage looked around confused and unsure. All except for the man next to Anna who turned and offered her a slight smile. She offered her own in return.

Galen and other men and women around the room began to stand as the man next to Anna stepped forward.

Meline caught sight of Dain as the man stepped past him. He was staring directly at her, as if he knew who she was. She glanced quickly to Anna then looked away.

The man stood for a moment, surveying group as the Argus-Camille had done a moment earlier. "I step from the shadows and reveal my identity to all my subjects." he spoke. "I am Argus. I am your Sovereign King."

The standing Elite bowed their heads to him. Everyone else began to kneel. Meline followed their lead. A moment later Galen reached down and took hold of her hand, pulling her to her feet.

"It's alright," Galen reassured her anxiousness, motioning toward Argus.

Argus nodded to her. "Sister," she heard his voice in her head.

Anna suppressed a smile as she stood behind him. The couples next to her were kneeling.

Across the room, a couple rows back, Camille held her hand out to a kneeling blond. Reluctantly, he took her hand and stood. He looked so much like his father, she knew at once who he was. "Son," she heard Argus's voice in her head once more.

Meline's gaze went immediately to Galen, who was gazing down at her. His expression didn't appear as though he had heard his voice. "I... I'm sorry I didn't tell you," she whispered.

Galen shook his head. "I've known who you are for quite some time now," he said.

She did not deserve his love. She shook her head. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you about... your son."

Galen's brow furrowed as he followed Meline's gaze toward Ashe. Ashe's eyes were on Anna, but he turned to look at them as they stared at him. His brow furrowed just as Galen's had. He pursed his lips and looked away.

"Does he know?" Galen asked.

Meline shrugged. "Anna raised him."

Galen followed her focus to her twin, standing alone on the stage.

"Please rise for your Sovereign Elite, my first and my friend, Dain DelaCrosse," Argus said.

Everyone stood. Galen and many of the other Elite placed a hand over their chest and bowed their heads to him. Dain looked unsettled, yet determined as he dipped his head slightly in return.

"And for the immortal born Sovereign, Anna Victoria."

Meline could tell by the look on Anna's face she had not been expecting this. Dain turned and offered his hand to her. She graciously stepped forward and took it. He said something to her that caused her to suppress a smile and then she nodded to the assembly who offered their respect in return.

"Be content," Argus said after a moment.

Easy for him to say, Meline thought, but apparently all he meant by it was have a seat. Or at least she assumed that's what he meant as the Elite took their seats again and others followed suit.

"Change is the only constant as you, my kindred, well know. We must be prudent and mindful in this new era. To an immortal born of the blood, immortality is a birthright. This new era does not change the ban on the creation of new immortals. For too many the gift and the responsibility of the call to immortality is taken for granted. I do not condone its offering or issuance lightly."

Argus's brow furrowed and he took a half step back from the microphone. He brought his hands up and tapped his fingertips together three times, then stepped back up to the microphone. "For some time now there have been rumors of a rogue war. These combative rogues are a minority. They believe that divinity can be theirs by campaigning, intimidation, and coercion. Immortality came easy to them and they are under the misconception that dominion is somehow owed to them.

"As is intended for immortality, sovereignty is a birthright and a calling. It cannot be gained by force, by threats, by murder or by simply deciding one is entitled to it." He paused again, thoughtful. "The rogues behind these acts will not negotiate nor surrender. And I will not engage them in their continued efforts to start a war.

"Their actions have not gone unnoticed by mortal authorities, including those who are unfamiliar with our kind, but have been made aware of our existence. These two entities seem the best fit for each other and as history has demonstrated time and again, humankind will not stand for enslavement."

There was a resurgence of murmurs throughout the crowd and even Galen scoffed at this sentiment.

As the meeting adjourned several people made their way to the center of the room, to shake the hands of the Sovereigns. As Meline realized that Galen was directing them toward an exit, she let go of his hand and paced toward the center of the stage.

"Mel," Galen called after her.

"Meline," Jonas smiled as she approached.

Her sights were set on Argus, but she stopped. Looking first at Jonas. The man she had thought of as her father. the man who had abandoned them more than eighty years earlier. And then to Dain, the man who was biologically her father who, until what must have been very recently, never knew they existed. "Hello," she said to Jonas then stepped past him. "I have a question," she announced loudly.

Argus turned. At first glance there was nothing extraordinary about him, but it was a different thing entirely to meet his deep blue, penetrating gaze.
"Meline Adora," Argus said, offering his hand to her.

It was unsettling that he knew her middle name. Not even Galen knew her middle name. "Did Anna tell you my middle name?" she asked.

"No," Argus suppressed a smile. "But that was not your question."

"What about those - immortals - held captive by the rogues?"

"There are no innocent victims among the rogues," he said. "Even those who would contend they are prisoners," your sister, she heard his voice say in her head. "To the only side of immortality they have ever known, have but to decide they want something different and walk away."

"But it's not always as simple as that," she countered.

"Sometimes we need to be rescued," he offered.

"Exactly," Meline said.

"And those who aren't ready to be free from their oppression will fight to keep it," he said. "While those who must have freedom will fight tooth and nail for it."

She couldn't escape the idea that he was talking about her and Anna as much as he was talking about the rogues.

"The secret to happiness is freedom. The secret to freedom in courage."

Meline nodded, conceding to his judgment and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek. "All-seeing," she whispered. "Is that how you know my middle name?"

He chuckled softly in her ear. "Meline Adora," he whispered. "I named you."


Chapter 44 - Who Is Brave, Is Free

(c) copyright 2010-2016 Lauren T. Hart