Reckoning and Revolution
As the secret society known as ASTRO-LABE comes under scrutiny, Elvira and her allies uncover Rozlyn’s most disturbing whereabouts. A daring and risky plan is hatched, one with repercussions that will echo throughout history. Meanwhile, the Brume Opera House finds itself a victim yet again, igniting a chain of events that will leave its mark on all involved.
During these tumultuous times, Rozlyn embarks on an expedition on her Revenant, leaving Elvira in a vulnerable state as her parents, too, are called away on their own separate missions.
Milo and Melura are summoned by the queen of Lluminox, who has a most ambitious request for them. However, citywide riots have transformed into flagrant insurrection attempts, with innocents caught in the crossfire, including Milo. During it all, Melura is approached by a young man with a questionable agenda, one that she finds strangely alluring.
Taking advantage of the nation’s fragile state and his lofty position, Director Newt Gribble edges closer to absolute power. Although he finds himself reminiscing on the past, he later exploits a CURSE attack on Brume to not only retaliate, but also attack the people he has long sought to eradicate: Aethaumaturges.
How will Elvira and her companions band together to galvanize the fractured state of things when they are being pulled apart? Can a brighter tomorrow truly exist even amidst all the darkness?
Excerpts from Reckoning and Revolution:
Chapter 10: Rest and Unrest
She looked like the walking dead.
“Can I get you anything? A glass of water? More blankets? Your wounds were further treated, I assume? Are you in need of new bandages?”
Slowly, a scowl darkened Rozlyn’s face, and her hoarse voice became more lucid. “I’m good, Vira. I just need to sleep without being plagued by these damn nightmares. Stop your fretting and go to bed.”
“If you remind me one more time that I’ve just been through Hell and need help, I swear to Oversoul—“ Rozlyn warned in exasperation, but Elvira interjected before she could complete her thought.
“You’re strong. You’re the strongest person I know.”
This response took Rozlyn off guard.
“I’m constantly in awe of you. When you were gone…” Elvira’s voice broke instantly as her eyes made the slow and difficult climb to Rozlyn’s. When their gazes found one another’s, Elvira’s heart stopped. “I felt like a zombie — unable to think. Unable to eat, unless it was binge eating to try and mask the pain. Unable to feel…anything. Anything other than anxiety, that is. I was a shell of a person. I didn’t know what I’d do if we didn’t get you back.”
Although her brows stayed furled, Rozlyn’s mouth softened.
Sniffing, Elvira asserted in a strong voice, “I know you’re exceptional. I know you’re tougher than most. I know all that. But, Roz. You need your support system right now. Whoever that may be. This may only be your first night back. But, please know, you had a lot of people here concerned about you and who are absolutely and devotedly here for you. Day or night. You don’t have to do this by yourself. You aren’t alone anymore.”
Something faint shimmered in Rozlyn’s dark, glossy eyes for a fraction of a second. However, her body then straightened, erasing all signs of the broken and damaged girl. She even lifted her chin ever so slightly in what could only be interpreted as pride.
Despite Rozlyn’s fragility, Elvira felt like the other woman was still somehow a force to be reckoned with. Elvira was a moth, caught in this spider’s web. Shaking. Transfixed. Vulnerable.
Rozlyn’s head tilted back cavalierly as she rasped in an informative tone, “At the end of the day, we’re all alone, Vira.”
Something dark and forlorn passed over Rozlyn’s eyes as she dropped her gaze.
Then, with that, she turned and melted back into the shadows, the creaky sound of her door somewhere nearby sliding closed the only indication she didn’t simply dematerialize into a phantom.
Chapter 18: Never Again
Eris’ head was cocked to the side as she watched him in perplexion. “Are you okay?”
Newt forced himself to make eye contact, and it was like a bolt of lightning shot through him as his cheeks heated. “How can I make this work?” he asked, his voice whisper-thin and barely audible.
Eris shook her head. Had she not heard him, or was she jilting him?
“Please,” he beseeched, desperation saturating his voice. “Eris…”
“Newt,” she said, and his name fell from her lips like a stone being thrown. “I can’t.”
He shifted forward, leaning over the table between them, imploring her to accept him. He wasn’t even sure why he needed this so badly now at this time in his life, why he suddenly couldn’t move on from their past. These visions were opening him up, leaving his wounds raw and exposed.
In a gut-wrenching jolt of devastation, he knew he had been wrong. For the first time in his life, Newt understood Eris had never been the culprit. His mother had died, and it was his fault he didn’t return to see her before she was gone.
“I was wrong,” he ground out, his voice raspy and naked. “I know that now. It wasn’t your fault. My mother… You were never to blame. You never did anything wrong.”
Alarmingly, Eris’ eyes began to sparkle. She had stopped breathing. Was this something she had held onto her whole life? Had she been waiting to hear him say these words all these years? Had she even possibly begun to believe she had been accountable?
Newt swore under his breath. What had he done?
“Eris,” he repeated, reaching out for her hand, but she viciously swiped it away. Fire suffused his face and neck, and his own eyes turned wet with unshed tears. “I was an idiot. A young, foolish, cowardly idiot. I'm sorry."
Eris looked positively aghast to hear him admit such, but her expression was venomous.
“I never should have left you.”
“Don’t,” she warned in a hiss. “Don’t you do that. You don’t get to do that,” she insisted, her words underscored by a growl. “You don't get to think you can erase years of damage with a couple words and a far-too-late apology. You abandoned your daughter and me without an ounce of remorse before you even saw her face. You asked that I kill her in my womb. I had to raise her by myself before I was even done with university, and when she was able to start asking questions, I was the one that had to come up with all the excuses for why her daddy wasn't around, until she was finally old enough to understand for herself. You never even met Octavia until she was an adult. You disparaged Sloan Swanley when they started dating. You never once—” her voice broke, and air escaped her in a shuddering breath. Eris took long, deep inhales, seeming to gather her dignity, and when she spoke again, it was in a quiet whisper, so as to not draw attention to their small corner of the coffee shop. “You’re a vile human, Newt Gribble. I know the sort of man you are and the unspeakable things you have done. You may have once had potential. You were once capable of at least some human decency and character. Now, you’re…a stodgy, humorless, shriveled up old man, as disgraceful as a person can possibly plummet.”
He was shaking his head, but a part of Newt knew she was speaking the truth. He had allowed himself — no, he had clawed, exploited, gaslit, and slain his way into making himself into the self-centered man he now was. Caring about others was a weakness, as was evident presently.
“I’ll never support you, Newt,” Eris went on. “Just as you abandoned me, all those years ago, today, you finally get to feel what that’s like.”
Newt willed his eyes dry as his mouth twisted down into a distorted frown, tugging at every cheek muscle.
He had never let others in, because any time he had cared about someone, it hurt too much, and it had been his undoing. Over the years, his skin had grown thick and calloused, and his emotions were stamped down and chained in the farthest reaches of his consciousness, so that he wouldn’t have them interfering with his day-to-day tasks and agendas. He had become cold and unfeeling, worse than a machine, for automata didn’t purposefully go out of their way to harm, manipulate, or frame others the way he had. He was everything Eris had said and more. He knew it, and a part of him accepted it almost with an air of pride. His meticulous scheming, his wicked wit, and his ruthless actions had granted him the ability to be handed everything he had ever hoped to achieve. And those traits would only help him achieve more...
His brows knitting together, Newt smiled. “You’re right,” he decided. “What can I say? I'm a monster.” He chuckled softly and took a sip of his coffee, feeling somehow lighter. Freer. Her rejection had left him without a single thing tying him down. He was now able to return, in full force, to the man he had worked so hard to become.
“You’re a coldhearted bastard,” she snarled, rising from their booth.
As she made to leave, a small, insignificant part of Newt broke. In that moment, he felt what was left to care about anything at all die completely. Any light, morality, or good he may have had in him ceased to exist. All that remained was hate, hostility, and a dull numbness.
Rather than storm out, though, Eris paused by his side.
He hadn’t turned to see her go, but her presence had a weight to it. Strangely, his heart fluttered at her nearness. Perhaps, what humanity he had possessed was capable of being reborn…if only given the chance?
Had she reconsidered?
Then, all the world came crashing down in a catastrophic wave as she uttered her final words to him like a demand in his ear.
“Never see me again.”
Air escaped Newt's mouth as he tried to formulate a snappy rejoinder, but she cut him off before storming out.