Trapped in a strange, fantastical new world with the only familiar her lover who doesn't even remember her, Elly is thrust into more trouble than she could ever imagine.
That trouble includes finding out more about the Heaven Stones, the source of most of her troubles in the new world. Unfortunately, following on their heels are mysterious men with even more mysterious motives. Shade's past, too, stalks them into more problems when he's unwillingly called on to solve a mystery that involves life and death, and the space in between.
Their adventures lead them up and down the city of Senexitas, where they meet foe and friend alike in their search for answers. As they delve deeper into the seedy underbelly of the infamous city, Elly and Shade begin to realize that maybe they aren't chasing as many threads as they first believed.
I knew I was dreaming, but what could I do? Dreams have a way of trapping you inside them, forcing-feeding you your own insanity as you struggle to make sense of the insensible.
This dream, however, was different.
I stood at the top of the stairs in Rodney's home. The lights were dimmed and the shadows crept out of their corners, grasping at me with their cold tendrils.
As I stood there, a sound came to my ears. The noise came from the front parlor. I clutched the banister in one shaking hand and eased myself down the stairs. A feeling of dread fell over me so thick and horrible that I felt as though I was slowly suffocating.
I reached the bottom and inched toward the open doors. The sound grew louder, and I recognized the voice as that of a child. I grasped the door frame and dared peek inside.
There were no lights on in the room, but a small fire burned in the hearth.
Its flickering light cast a soft glow over the parlor and revealed two figures at the couch. One of them lay over the cushions and a blanket covered their unusually still form. The other was a young girl, perhaps ten, who knelt beside the couch. She wore a plain white dress and her short hair bunched up about her neck. The girl grasped a delicate hand that hung out from beneath the blanket. There was a cold pallor in that hand that made my breath catch in my throat.
Whoever lay on the couch, they were dead.
The sobbing came from the young girl. The firelight cast her features in darkness, but her body trembled and the sobs rattled her small form. The noise wrenched at my heart.
A final figure stood with their back to me and facing the fire. Their stiff, full form told me they were a man a little above average height. One of his hands clutched the mantel and his head was bowed.
I hesitated, unsure whether to interrupt such a mournful scene. As I stood there a sense of urgency crept into the back of mind. The flickering shadows seemed to loom closer, crawling across the walls and floor toward me. Time was running out.
I cleared my throat, but no one turned their eyes to me. "Hello?" I whispered. The reply wasn't quite what I expected.
My eyes shot open and I started up, startling what had stood on my chest. Blackbeak fluttered backward and landed with a ruffle of feathers at the foot of the bed.
It took me a moment to realize I was back in my room in Rodney's house, wrapped tightly in my blankets with a new nightshirt over me. The adventure from a week ago came roaring to life in my mind and left me a little swooning.
"Stupid human!" he snapped as he folded his wings against his body. "This is the last time I wake you up!"
I rubbed the sleep from one of my eyeballs and arched an eyebrow above the other one. "Why are you waking me up, anyway?"
"Those two fools want to speak to you downstairs," Blackbeak explained as he turned around to face the open door to my bedroom.
Both eyebrows shot up and I crawled across the bed to grasp a foot post near him. "About what?"
He shrugged. "How should I know? Just get those stupid things on, your clothes, and get down there." He opened his wings and flew out the door.
I climbed out of bed and shut the door behind him before I leaned my back against the wood. The men wanted to see me. That sounded ominous. I hadn't seen them together since that night Pawn had invited me on the long walk. Without my permission, of course.
I slipped into my clothes and hurried downstairs. The light from the early sun shone through the windows and dressed the floor and walls with its soft glow. I found the men in the front parlor before the dead hearth. Seeing that brought back memories of my strange dream, but those thoughts were soon pushed aside for more pressing, and real, matters.
Shade sat in his customary chair and Rodney stood before the fireplace with one hand on the mantel. They turned their faces to me at my coming, and Rodney smiled and gestured to the couch. "Good morning, Miss Elly. I hope you slept well."
"Not too bad," I replied as I took a seat on the edge of the couch. "So what's up?"
"You related to us your adventure at the home of Mr. Ward and mentioned that he had several crystals in his possession," Rodney mused.
I nodded. "Yes. He pulled them out of his coat."
"Did you happen to see how many he might have held inside his jacket?"
I shook my head. "No. The room was too dark and I wasn't really paying attention. I just kept hoping he wasn't going to pull a gun on me, or worse." I paused and looked between the men. "Why do you ask?"
"Crystals are generally considered useless," Rodney explained as he paced the floor in front of the dead fire. "Thus they have little value other than for trinkets and toy things for children. However, of late their prices have begun to climb. We suspect Mr. Ward's interest in them may be inspiring this increase."
My eyes flickered over the pair. "But you're not sure?"
Rodney sighed. "There are some doubts-"
"We don't have any idea," Shade spoke up as he stood. That bright yellow eye stared down at me with an emotion I wanted to describe as longing, but maybe it was just curiosity. "We need to investigate the matter."
"Which means what?" I asked him.
"Which means, Miss Elly-" Rodney spoke up as he smiled at me. "That perhaps you might wish to go on a short excursion with Shade here and keep him out of trouble."
My eyes widened. "Me?" I pointed at the window. "Out there?"
"You are rather stuck here for a while, so learning the city would be of use to you," he pointed out.
A shadow flew through the open doors and Blackbeak landed on the back of the couch. "Are you insane? Ward will be at her in a moment!"
Rodney chuckled. "These winding roads are not as barbarous as the trails of the dark forests, and Shade will be accompanying her."
Blackbeak fluffed out his feathers. "Then I'm coming, too."
"I don't need you," Shade insisted.
Blackbeak hopped onto my shoulder. "Do I have to remind you who was the first one to find out she was missing?"
"And I need those sharp eyes for another task," Rodney spoke up.
Blackbeak tilted his head to one side and narrowed his eyes. "What for?"
"Another assignment, but one which will assist us in protecting Miss Elly," he assured our avian friend.
Blackbeak ruffled his feathers, but nodded. "Alright, I'll stay, but this better not lose me any feathers."
I couldn't help but smile before I returned my attention to Shade. His eye hadn't left me. "Are you sure I won't be in the way? Or get us both killed?"
"I would have you at my side more than any other place," he returned.
I felt my cheeks redden and dropped my eyes to the floor. "Then I'll go."
"Excellent!" Rodney affirmed as he clapped his hands. "Now off to the Market with the two of you and don't come home until you've brought me some information!"