Sapphire Tablet – First Chapter

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I could feel the broken bones in my arm scrape together under my skin, like wooden blocks covered in sandpaper. Puriel lifted me up from the pile of rubble that used to be my childhood home and carried me to the black sports car. It was so quiet, I thought my ears must have been damaged, but then I could hear Puriel’s voice. He was asking me something, something about how to drive the car. I shrugged and rolled my head.

I’d been in JDRI since I was nine, and driving lessons were never on the curriculum. I looked around for Sitri, why wasn’t he driving? Then I saw him, or at least the dark furry shape he’d become. The impossibly large, wolf-like creature. He was waiting for us in the middle of the road. Howling at us. Puriel finally figured out the mechanics and the car screeched out of the suburban coldesac. I could hear sirens getting louder, and we passed several police cars and an ambulance. I blinked against the harsh flashing lights. Puriel kept checking the skies. I looked up as well, expecting a helicopter, but instead I saw a flash of wings and a glimmer of silver shapes, illuminated by the early light. The sun hadn’t risen yet, so I only saw silhouettes against the dark sky, but I knew what they were. Hunters. Dozens of them.

“Why aren’t they attacking us?” I asked. 

“I don’t know,” Puriel said. “But Zeus isn’t going to want us to reach Nevah. Not with the shears.

The Golden Shears. 

I looked down, and sure enough, my pale fingers were still clenched around the golden metal, almost like they’d melded with my fist. My arm looked like a spiked hammer. The shears radiated power, and I could feel a pulsing. A throbbing through my whole body. I didn’t know if it was my own heartbeat, or the shears. 

My hands felt sticky, and I realized they were covered with bright blue goo, that shimmered when I moved them. Pure divinity. Zeus’s blood. I shuddered, resisting the urge to wipe it against my clothes. 

“Do we have a towel or something?” I asked. 

Puriel looked physically pained, and his eyes were coal black, with unusually wide pupils. He stared at my hands with more than just concern. It was hunger. This much energy, right here, it was taking all his strength to restrain himself. 

“You… want this?” I asked, holding my wrists out.

Hunger took over his face, and for a moment I worried he was going to lose control and bite my hand off. Instead he reached for my hand and held it up to his mouth. He gently kissed my fingertips, and I felt his tongue flick over my skin. It should have been erotic, but it wasn’t. I knew this disgusted him as much as it disgusted me. But after what we’d been through, he needed strength. It must have taken a tremendous amount of willpower to resist Zeus, and Puriel had refused him. He’d given me the shears, and I’d stabbed Zeus in the thigh. Nobody could question his loyalty now. He’d had his shot at redemption, and he’d chosen us.

Tall fir trees tore past us. I looked behind us and saw Sitri keeping up, running impossibly fast. We were going nearly over 100 miles per hour. Puriel was hugging the curves tightly, his white knuckles gripping the wheel with singular focus. I couldn’t believe he’d never driven before.

The Olympic forest expanded before us, inviting us in—a hundred miles of virgin territory, as far as anyone else knew anyway. But up ahead, I could see the a small road that cut through the forest to Nevah; Able’s private sanctuary for heirs, roots and magical creatures. 

But something looked different this time. Something was blocking the road, some kind of wall. Puriel slammed on the brakes when we got close enough to see clearly. The wall was actually a tight lattice of hunters, their golden armor glistening, swords glowing with divine power. There were at least thirty, and streaks of light overhead told me more were arriving every second. They spread their wings in uniform, and it was like drawing the drapes closed. Puriel slammed on the brakes and the car screeched to a stop. I heard a growl as Sitri launched himself into the wall of hunters, barreling through the middle. He tossed one hunter up in the air with a flick of his jaw, and pinned another to the ground, tearing at its neck with bloody jowls.  

“Stay here!” Puriel shouted. He tore the door off and held it with one hand like a shield, then he grabbed his sword and darted towards the fray. His sword didn’t glow like the hunters, who were connected with Zeus’s energy, but after feeding straight from the source, he was much stronger. He cleaved hunters in half with raw strength, slicing through their metal armor. He cut through them like a lawnmower, tossing up bits and pieces.

Someone’s head bounced off the windshield. I hit the wipers, and watched them spread the glowing, silver blood across the glass. A tiny stream of soap shot out, and the wipers worked furiously until I could see again.

 I gripped the door weakly and tried to push it open with my shoulder, but pain radiated down my arm. Hunters materialized by the door. One of them ripped the side door off and tossed it aside. He grabbed me by my clothes and threw me to the ground outside. I didn’t think they’d kill me. I was far too valuable, and too dangerous. Unless, now that I had the shears, Zeus didn’t want to take the risk. 

The shears. I rolled to my knees and held them up, feeling their power. Zeus was afraid of me. I’d hurt him. The look of surprise on his face filled me with courage. I took a deep breath, and focused on the slender threads of the hunter’s lifespans. They shone like siler glowsticks in the early light. But when I tried to reach for them, a numbing, icy pain shot through my elbow. With my arm broken, I couldn’t lift my hand high enough, which meant I couldn’t grip the threads and also cut them with the shears, not with one hand anyway.

But that didn’t mean I couldn’t do any damage. I tucked the shears into my pocket, then lashed out and flicked the thread with my bare fingertips, and watched the nearest hunter crumple and writhe on the ground. The other two froze and exchanged a look. I got to my feet and dusted off my jeans, then looked up at them with a smirk. I curled my fingers like talons, just before one of them swung a fist at me. I ducked and hooked his thread, winding it around my finger before pulling sharply. He dropped like a stone. Two others grabbed my arms and held them in a vice-like grip. A third grabbed the shears, attempting to rip them out of my pocket. An arrow appeared in his neck, and he slumped to the side. I looked up to see Mist flying towards us, loosing arrows nimbly. Dion and Tori were right behind her. Dion charged through the hunters like a bull, skewering them with his double scimitars. 

The hunters kept coming, like flies to meat, swarming around us. But then the sky darkened. Able and Stephanie, holding hands, descended in dark splendor, with some kind of dark lattice of energy between them. They sucked out the light, causing temporary blindness, except for the small portal under their arms. 

We passed through, with Stephanie chanting, and the gateway closed behind us. The sealed passage swallowed up the sounds of battle. We’d made it back to Nevah safely. My knees buckled and my face hit the dirt, for the third time this morning. 

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I woke up in the infirmary. Alice was by my side, sending currents of warm, healing light over my arm. The throbbing pain was gone but there was a still a tightness in my muscles. I stretched my fingers, playing with the morning light coming through the large bay window. Nearby the fountain of Asclepius[, Alice’s grandfather, tinkled magically, surrounded by ferns and sweet-scented Jasmine. 

I woke up in the infirmary. Alice was by my side, sending currents of warm, healing light over my arm. The throbbing pain was gone but there was a still a tightness in my muscles. I stretched my fingers, playing with the morning light coming through the large bay window. Nearby the fountain of Asclepius[, Alice’s grandfather, tinkled magically, surrounded by ferns and sweet-scented Jasmine. 

I sat up suddenly. 

“Where’s Sitri?” I asked. “And Puriel.” 

“Safe,” Alice said. “We’re all safe.”  

“If the others handn’t come to save us, we wouldn’t have made it back. I screwed up, again. Is Able pissed?” 

“I’d say he’s dealing with a wide range of emotions, but excitement is probably at the forefront.”

“Why?”

“The shears,” Alice nodded.  

“Personally, I never thought they really existed,” came another voice from across the room. Mist was leaning against the window, watching me. So still I hadn’t noticed her before. 

“I thought it was all a foolish legend, and I couldn’t believe Able had let himself get so caught up in hope that he bought into it. Even when he brought you here, even after what you did to me, I still didn’t believe it.” 

“And now, here we are,” Alice said, wrapping a shawl around my shoulders. 

“Able wants to see you,” Mist said. “I’m to escort you upstairs.”  

I nodded, though my chest tightened in dread. At least I’d brought back the shears, but I’d probably get a lecture for sneaking out again.

I trailed behind Mist, up the wide, curling staircases of the mansion. I realized it was still early morning, most of the household probably wasn’t even awake yet. We passed the kitchen and my stomach growled at the smell of bacon and coffee, but I knew I couldn’t delay the inevitable. 

Able’s office was exactly as I remembered it, a large, round hall filled with books and antiques. Sitri and Puriel were sitting on the leather couches, looking like chastised school boys, and still covered in blood and sweat from the battle. 

It was the first time I’d seen Sitri since his transformation. I wanted to run to him and feel his arms around me, but I resisted. He didn’t look up to meet my eyes. Puriel nodded at me, and I realized at least his hands were unrestrained. That’s something, at least. 

Stephanie and Able were standing in front of the desk, blocking my view, but I could just make out the golden glow of the shears behind them, on a stand in some kind of glass box.

“You may go,” Able said to the others. “Mist, find Puriel a room in the house.”

Mist’s jaw nearly dropped open, but she quickly replaced it with a sneer and crossed her arms.  

“I’m not his keeper,” she said. 

“Now!” Able’s voice made the room tremble. 

After they were gone, Stephanie gestured towards a seat, but she and Able remained standing. On edge, and I realized, putting themselves between me and the shears. Like they were afraid of how I’d use them.

“Puriel and Able told us what they could,” she said, “but we’d like to hear it from you.”

“I had a dream,” I said quickly. “And I realized where the shears were. I thought we could just go get them, and be right back – Puriel, Sitri and I – we’re not gods, we’re harder to track. I didn’t think Zeus would notice.” 

“What happened when you got the shears?” 

“Zeus showed up. He forced Puriel to bring them to him, but at the last second, Puriel threw them to me.” 

“You had the shears. Zeus was right there – why didn’t you cut his thread?” 

I bit my lip, and cast a glance at Sitri. I didn’t want to get him in more trouble. But none of this was his fault. “When we were in Greece, when we fought Athena, Sitri almost died. Zeus told me I could save him.”

Able squeezed the desk so hard I heard the wood crack.

“And you believed him?” Stephanie asked.

“I didn’t have time to think about it,” I said. “I just, I couldn’t let him die.” 

“You did this without his knowledge,” Able clarified. “Sitri never knew what you’d done for him?” 

“Not until last night,” I said. “I didn’t know how it worked, I didn’t know what I’d done. Not until I saw it.”

“Saw what, Dear?” Stephanie asked.

They leaned forward, eyes wide, as if compelling me to answer. I realized, I hadn’t even had time to share this with Puriel and Sitri. 

“Zeus’s thread, it’s bound with hundreds of others, maybe thousands. Including Sitri’s. It’s less of a thread, and more of a tangled ball of yarn.”

“And you hesitated,” Able said, his voice dripping with scorn.

“You wanted me to get the shears, right?” I asked, pushing back. I was tired of being lectured. “They’re right behind you. I got them for you, and I couldn’t have done it without Puriel and Sitri. You should be thanking us.”

“Is that what you think you deserve?” Able glowered. “After failing to kill Zeus. The shears are useless if the one person who can wield them doesn’t have the courage to use them.”    

“I won’t apologize for not killing thousands of innocents, or Sitri.”

Able looked like he was going to yell at me, but Stephanie grabbed his arm and shook her head slightly.

“You care about him,” she said. It wasn’t a question, so I didn’t bother to answer. Everything was out in the open now. I’d saved Sitri once, with some kind of magical voodoo that tied him to Zeus. It gave Zeus an extra layer of protection we hadn’t expected. Honestely I was surprised all three of us made it back to Nevah alive.

“We got the shears, that’s all that matters.” I had other questions, but I was tired of being grilled. And hungry. So I kept my mouth shut and raised an eyebrow.

“Are we done?” I asked, crossing my arms.

“One more thing,” Stephanie asked. “Puriel said you stabbed Zeus.” 

“In the thigh. And twisted. You should have heard him scream.” I said. 

I could have sworn I saw the smallest glimmer of a smile on Able’s face, but he turned his back to me so I couldn’t see it. I turned back at the door, unsure where I was even heading. I was excused, but I really wanted to talk with Sitri. We locked eyes, but he made no move to follow me. I guess the others still had things to discuss. I realized, I wasn’t anxious to be cut out of the loop if they were making plans. 

“So what happens now?” I asked over my shoulder, glancing from Sitri to the others. I hadn’t told them about what happened to Sitri. Able must know what he is – the last of Zeus’s guard dogs, and the last hound of hell. I wondered if they also knew how completely Zeus had been able to control him. I didn’t think that had anything to do with the knot I’d tied. That connection was older, ancient. Like Puriel, Sitri had been bred for service. Following orders was in his DNA. But Puriel, unlike Sitri, had been able to resist.

“Zeus attacked once before, for you. Now that you have the shears, I don’t imagine he’ll wait long before trying something else. For now, we’ll stay here. You’ll continue your training. Get some food, and some sleep. We’ll talk again later.” 

I made it back to my room and shrugged off my clothes. I put my hand against Sitri’s door. I wanted to talk to him. I knocked timidly. I thought I heard movement on the other side, but he didn’t answer. It seemed like ages ago he’d slept outside my door to make sure I was safe.

My head had[ barely hit the pillow before I was out cold, drifting through dreams of white wings and gleaming armor, and long fangs and sharp claws. I was running, and falling, and then there was an earthquake so strong it shook me awake. I sat up, dizzy, and momentarily confused as I watched books fall off my shelves. 

Not a dream. I sat up just as Sitri burst through the door. The look on his face woke me up like a shot of adrenaline. 

“I’m fine,” I said, throwing off the blankets. “It’s not me.” 

We raced down the hall, and saw wisp of smoke from under one of the doorways. Sitri kicked the door open and I followed him inside. The room looked like a charred-out shell of a campfire, everything smoldering and black. But the roof was intact, and instead of a flood of armored hunters, the center was a young girl. She looked up at me with wide eyes and I gasped. She looked so familiar, but I was sure I’d never seen her before. 

“Who are you?” Sitri demanded.

She looked up through her blonde hair, tears hanging from her round blue eyes. They seemed too large for her face, which was square and angular. Still, I recognized her, even before she opened her pretty mouth.[ 

“Kai, it’s me. Sarah.” 


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Emerald Tablet
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46,923 of 75,000 words
Book 3 of the Scarlet Thread series - based on Egyptian mythology.

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