Noble Sacrifice: Chapter 11: Homecoming
Blinded Angels: Book 1: The Noble Sacrifice
More people arrived as the sun set. Ellis listened to Grey and a happier than he had ever seen him Peter talking about the natural history of unicorns.
A little while after sunset, River emerged from the shadows beyond the gate followed by a tall, muscular man who resembled him in some ways, but with long, flowing black hair.
Grey told them that was Dark Lord Michael Blackwood, River’s oldest brother.
The phrase dark Lord sent to chill through them. Any time they had ever seen that word in fiction, it meant trouble.
The two siblings parted ways just within the gate.
Michael walked over to Mother Soteria and greeted her with a gracious bow.
River walked straight over to Ellis. “Did you have a good day?” He asked, as if no one else stood around the table.
“I did. Grey took me to see the knuckers.” Ellis said, “Moriah studied magic, and Peter played with unicorns.”
River glanced at the ground and back up as if they were disappointed, then turned to Moriah. “I am surprised you chose to practice their magic before learning about the other kinds.”
“I didn’t.” Moriah said anxiously, “Sister Luna explained several kinds of magic to me. I haven’t chosen anything yet.”
River grinned. “Good. If there’s time, I will have to introduce you to my sister, she’s always complaining that no one shares her enthusiasm for the arts.”
“That would be wonderful.”
“Be careful with that.” Grey said. “Dark Lady Severina Blackwood likes her toys, but she tires of them quickly.”
“Are you calling Moriah a toy?” River asked.
“I thought we were all toys to your kind.”
Smoke seeped from the corners of River’s mouth. “Many like their games, but I assure you, she won’t lose a single drop of blood at the manor.”
“But what of her soul?” Grey hastily poured wassail into a glass and offered it to River.
River accepted and took a sip while keeping their eyes locked on Grey. “The sisters have outdone themselves.”
"Well, you know how much the fairies like to throw a party." Grey’s voice chilled the air.
Ellis missed something, but didn’t understand enough about this strange world to know what it was. “Grey said that there are dragons in the region.” They said to break the silence.
“Did he?” River asked, a pained expression on their face. “And what did he tell you about us?”
Ellis and Peter dropped their drinks.
“I see he didn’t tell you I was one.” River waved his hand, and the spilled wassail evaporated into a cloud.
“It wasn’t for me to say.” Grey said.
River smirked in a way that told Ellis there was a history between them that they needed to learn if they wanted to keep the peace.
“I hope you enjoyed your first day in Aernadael.” River said with a bow and walked away.
Ellis stepped closer to Grey to ask him what all that was about, but before they could, Mother Soteria took to the bandstand in her full habit. Dark black makeup surrounded her eyes and dripped down her cheeks in three wavy lines on each side.
She clapped her hands together, and thunder cracked.
All the conversations ended. Everyone turned to face her.
“Welcome to all our kith and kin who found the time to join us this evening.” Mother Soteria said. Her voice filled the space like she stood next to them. “It isn’t every day that we have the potential of welcoming some lost souls home, but tonight we have such an honor.” She gestured toward their table and a light shone around them with no apparent source. “Behold Peter, Moriah, and Ellis, three lost souls who found their way to the ara, and now have the opportunity to learn our ways if they so chose. Introduce yourself to them, but do that a bit later. Let’s open this fete right.”
The crowd cheered.
Mother raised her arms over her head, and a thick fog rose around her. Throwing her arms out to either side, the fog broke to reveal a drum kit, keyboard, two guitars, and a bass.
Voices sang out from behind the stage, chanting in a strange language. Five sisters marched out in procession from the fog, their voices melding into a heavenly chorus. One by one, they picked up an instrument.
When the chant ended, colored lights flared to life, and they started to play an oddly familiar song that Ellis was sure they’d never heard before. It was a rock or metal song from the ‘60s or ‘70s.
Mother Soteria sang with a powerful voice that reminded them of Grace Slick at the height of Jefferson Airplane.
Ellis, Peter, and Moriah turned from one to another, dumfounded by the sights and sounds before them.
The sisters performed with all the polish and prowess of rock stars. Maybe this was how nuns behaved in this world.
After the shock wore off, Ellis, Peter, and Moriah started dancing.
Grey offered a hand to Ellis, and they set off to the dance floor.
Ellis never had a hot guy ask them to dance before. They read nothing into it. Life was so different here. The last thing they wanted to do was to make more out of Grey’s gesture than he intended.
They all stopped and applauded at the end of the first song. Some whistled, others howled in approval.
As the next song started, River pressed through the crowd to them and asked Ellis for a dance.
Without a thought, Ellis joined River. They couldn’t help but repeat in their head, I am dancing with a dragon over and again.
After the applause ended after the second song, Peter and Moriah came over and they all danced together.
Grey danced on one side of Ellis, River on the other.
The music fill the air and cushioned their footfalls on the hard dance floor. Only the impacts that coincided with the beat of the song rang out.
Ellis danced between a wolf and a lion. They didn't believe that either would intentionally hurt them, but at the same time, their soul cried out for them to run.
Nothing in their life could ever have prepared them for something like this. So a dragon and someone who, at the very least, was a wizard wanted to dance with them, and there was no love lost between them. What should they do?
Like the brave and heroic person they felt they were in their heart, Ellis did everything they could to ignore the rivalry around them.
Fate, it seemed, didn't find that solution quite entertaining enough.
Mother Soteria began singing a slow song, not just any slow song, but a love song.
Ellis turned away from the stage as fast as they could, and wended through the crowd at between a run and a gallop.
They refilled their glass with wassail and drank deeply from the cup.
Their head swam by the time they reached the bottom of the cup. The beverage was alcoholic. All the exotic spices and fruits that steeped in it masked any sign of the intoxicant.
They weren't drunk, but they were definitely tipsy.
Brilliant, how were they supposed to not make a fool out of themselves in front of these people if they allow themself to get drunk at the party.
They shook their head and repeated the word, “no,” repeatedly as if it were in fact magic and would erase the alcohol from the bloodstream. It didn't, but they're probably were some magical way to become instantly sober.
Ellis searched the crowd for any sign of sister Lydia, but couldn't find her anywhere. If they possess more courage, they could simply ask one of the other sisters for help.
It should've been blatantly obvious that this was the sort of party that would serve alcohol. There were no children here. In fact, Ellis and their friends looked like they might be some of the youngest people in attendance.
What were they going to do?
Everything was so warm. Maybe it was too hot for their insecurities to stay up.
To their great relief, no one came over to talk to them until the song changed.
This one had a much quicker tempo, and an infectious groove that reached deep down within them and made them want to dance.
They forgot about their fears and concerns. Such things didn't belong on a dance floor.
The rhythm increased, and they've joined it, and its impetuous fit of motion. They allow their joy to move their arms and legs.
Nothing mattered, not a single little thing. It didn't matter what the headmaster wanted, they would be back.
They shook their head, that didn't make any sense. They graduated from school years ago. It didn't matter what anyone in charge thought. No one would take this life away from them, not now, not ever.
Ellis threw their glass at the high stone wall and reveled at the sight of it shattering. How dare they think they would fall for the same trick twice?
They shouted, "freedom!" And spiraled onto the dance floor.
Periodically, they reached out for a ghostly hand that never took theirs, but someone else would. They didn't care whose hand it was, so long as they weren't alone, when they were alone, that's when the darkness got them.
Their heart fluttered in their chest, and they saying all that was in the oohs and the ahh’s along with the crowd even though they didn’t know the songs themself.
It didn't matter, nothing mattered. Everything before this was a lie, a silly, deliberate, hateful lie.
Ellis laughed. They broke their chains. They were free. It didn't matter what anyone else said. They didn't need approval this time. When have they ever needed anyone's approval?
No one was going to take this life away from them. This life was theirs. They found it fair and square.
They danced under the moonlight, lost in the music finally amongst their own people.