With the release of Heart of the Raven looming, it’s time to meet the characters! But why just read a stale bio, when you can have a flash-fiction introduction? These take place the day before Heart of the Raven begins. Think of them as mini prologues. They will not appear in the book and this is the only place you can read them. Enjoy!
Neil hurried down the corridor, fastening his gray coat as he went. He skidded around a corner and through the doorway of the guards’ office. “Sorry I’m late.”
“Again,” the vampire behind the desk snapped impatiently. “You shouldn’t have taken the extra shifts if it was too much for you.”
“It isn’t like I volunteered to take them forever,” Neil said. “It was just supposed to be while Gerard was on vacation.”
“Well he’s on a permanent vacation now – or a fifty year vacation at the very least.” He signed his name in the book and passed it to Neil. “If you don’t like it you could always put in to be a greater guard. There’s several slots open. Not that you’d get one.”
Neil ground his teeth and turned his attention to the sign in book. It was only when the other guard had left that he looked up. He wasn’t interested in being one of the greater guard and going out on missions with the Executioners. All he wanted to do was sign in for his regular shift, sit at his desk, sign out and collect his paycheck. He didn’t need excitement and adventure. Gerard was an example of someone who had wanted excitement. He’d wanted promotions; he’d wanted to do something. Well good going, Gerard, because now he had fifty years imprisonment for conspiring to commit multiple murders. That was the sort of thing that happened when you looked for excitement – that is if you lived through it.
Neil dropped into the chair and propped his feet up on the desk. It was getting late. The sun would be up in a few hours and he’d have to sit there, board off his butt, while everyone else slept. Though since the attack the night before last there were others who were stuck awake all night. Heightened security, they called it. As if Malick was going to come back in the daylight to destroy them.
He unconsciously rubbed his head. Thank God he’d missed most of the battle. He’d started out on the front lines with the other lesser guards. He remembered an explosion and pieces of metal and stone flying through the air and then nothing until he woke up in the infirmary. They told him that a piece of shrapnel had gone clear through his forehead, but since it hadn’t pierced his heart he was fine. Others weren’t so lucky. The debacle had cost too many lives, many killed by Malick himself.
Neil still didn’t understand why Malick had turned against his own Guild. He was the one in charge, so technically didn’t that mean he’d revolted against himself? Why? He’d tried to discuss it with his fellows, but their answer was, “He’s a master. What do you expect? Thinking like one of them is above our pay grade.”
But wouldn’t they all be masters someday, too? Assuming they lived long enough.
The door opened and Neil stiffened as the head of the Executioners walked in. Ark was tall, slender and terrifying. His cool green eyes and the medallion around his neck both said he’d happily squash anyone who got in his way.
Neil jumped to his feet and saluted. “Can-can I h-help you?”
“I’m here to collect the Executioner applications.”
Executioner applications? Neil had no idea what he was talking about. “Um, yes, right. Of course. Um, just let me, um, look for them.” He scrambled through the contents of the desk, praying that the papers would materialize.
Ark tapped his foot. “Should I find them myself?”
“N-No,” Neil stuttered. If he could sweat, it would have been pouring down him. They had to be there somewhere – didn’t they? He turned and brushed against a stack of papers. They scattered to the floor in a snow colored avalanche. He collected them hurriedly, but paused when he noticed the word “Executioner” printed on one. It was the applications!
He stacked them as neatly as he could and stood, holding them out like an offering. “Here you are, um, sir.”
Ark snatched them from him and flipped through them. “Yes.” He turned on his heel and strode from the room without so much as a thank you – but there was no reprimand, either.
Neil sank into the chair and glanced to the desk where another stack of paper sat. He picked it up absently and rifled through it. It was – “More applications!” He jumped to his feet, and then he imagined Ark’s cold face and angry eyes. He’d already handed over a pretty big stack. How many applications did they need, anyway?
He looked around the office quickly, checking for observers, and then sidled sideways to the trashcan. The papers slipped from his fingers and he carefully dropped a few blank sheets on top. He mopped his brow from habit rather than need and moved quickly back to the chair. It would all be okay. It wasn’t as if they’d be forced to settle on the wrong candidate or anything. There were probably perfectly good choices among the papers he’d already given them. He was just helping narrow it down a bit.
Right. Just narrowing it down.
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