In the world of I-Star, an ancient legend speaks of a Divine Dictator who will bring about the downfall of the white magick that has dominated for centuries and activate a new era, ruled by vengeance. The I-Starians have no idea that this Divine Dictator is their president, Dmitri von Calvin: an odious man who wears a mask to hide his true intentions. Dmitri's followers are prepared to overtake the world in darkness, but first, there is the matter of a spell.
Part of the ancient legend refers to a Dark Messiah, a dragon in human form destined to rise with the black sword and assist the Divine Dictator in his mission. A spell has summoned the Dark Messiah, Cassidy Ann Mage, from hiding; however, Cassidy's backing is not absolute because she has defied the dictator in the past. But that was before she felt the power of the black sword.
Cassidy feels as though the black sword is controlling her behaviors and thoughts. Although this Dark Messiah believes the sword is meant to protect her, it may have evil intentions, and Dmitri is counting on its assistance as he is building an army of evil, beneath the guise of antiterrorism. Cassidy and her friends are I-Star's only prospect for defense, but first, Cassidy must escape the dominion of the black sword before it is too late.
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Legend of the Dark MessiahVolume II—A Wicked Storm
By J. Johnson Higgins
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 J. Johnson Higgins
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Informant on the Evil Agency
"Cassidy," Rede spoke. Cassidy stopped and turned around. "Take this with you." Rede handed her one of his XMs, a small, silver-colored firearm. It was easy enough to conceal but certainly a little bigger than something she would pick out for herself. She didn't even use them. "Something doesn't feel right about this."
"Excellent. Just what I needed to hear," Cassidy responded as she shoved the weapon into her purse. Rede was always right when he had unexplained hunches. It was one of his abilities as a dragon; namely, divine inklings and psychic dreams.
"Try to stay calm. Remember, even though you may not see me, I will always have you in my sight. I'll be close at all times," Rede reassured her with his hands on her shoulders. "Stay calm," he repeated before putting his forehead to hers just above her red gem. The green gem on his forehead touched her.
"Okay," Cassidy replied in a low but convincing voice.
Rede believed in Cassidy and for a good reason. She'd proven again and again that she could handle almost anything if she put her mind to it. It didn't matter how crazy, dangerous or unbelievable.
Cassidy had come far for a dragon who had only a few years ago woken up inside of an enchanted mountain cave with no memory of her past and no clue of how she'd gotten there—the cold room, as she referred to it. She and the other dragons were locked in the icy Mountain of Stars for over five hundred years because humans believed they were evil. She, of course, didn't know about all of that at the time. She didn't even know she was a dragon. She looked and felt human, so that was how she lived her life when she'd first woken up so many years later. She was the proverbial clean slate but became someone extraordinary.
In her time in Jennison, she'd learned about the vast world around her. Most of her time was consumed running one of the busiest hotels in I-Star's capital city, the Legacy Inn. She had a gift for seeing the beauty in ordinary things and in her spare time she dabbled with photography to express it. Her life really transformed when she was hired as a consultant to restore that capital's most treasured landmark, an enormous clock tower called Jennison's Watch Face. Her achievements gained her several recognitions all while she was still just an architecture student. Rede was amazed by what she had done.
By most accounts, Cassidy was on her way to becoming a Christy, or one of the top positions in I-Star's government. A Christy was an appointed title given to the president's closest associates. When appointed, their orders are of the highest authority and are considered to be as good as from the president if the president is not around. A Christy was female and the male counterpart was called a Guy.
If she'd become one of Calvin's Christies, she'd probably have been the head of Development—an agency that oversaw both law enforcement and economic growth; quite an honor. She exhibited potential in both areas. As a dragon in human form, she had special powers. She could read the auras of others without even trying, she could cause and manipulate fire with a single thought, and she could quickly learn skills that usually took humans years to master—all useful in such a position. But Cassidy did not become a Christy because she had another skill that got her into trouble. She could see that Calvin was wearing a mask and learned that he was a demented, violent, ghoul of a sorcerer and impostor set on world domination. For that, she refused to use her abilities to help him. She fought him and defeated him, so she thought. She and her friends have had to keep their movements a secret ever since. Now, they are considered outlaws and Calvin has been carrying on without a sign of hesitation.
Cassidy turned and made for the door of Sebastian's grand mansion, the Sanctuary. Before leaving, she turned to face Rede once again. She came back and kissed him before she disappeared through the door, a thank-you for restoring her shaken confidence. It was a quick motion, almost stolen if it hadn't been for the appropriately paired action of leaving. Rede did not anticipate the gift but wished he had, in order to reciprocate. She was already gone. On the other hand, Rede was glad to see that Cassidy had gotten her strange enthusiasm for the situation back. It was what he liked about her: her immediate tasks always became the most important things in the world to her and excited her. It didn't matter if it was something trivial like getting to a movie on time—before going into hiding anyway—or something much more serious like her current meeting with a special informant regarding an agency considered much more evil than average. She left the door hanging wide open. It was a reminder that Rede should be on the move almost immediately after her. He would do just that, but before walking out the door, he went over his supplies. Everything was in order. He was on the move.
It was calm walking through the gardens of the Sanctuary, a temporary safe-house for government resisters like her. It was nothing like how it would be once she made it further into the city of Duri-alus: busy, loud, and exposed. She passed through the large metal gate and continued down the steep sidewalk. It was a beautiful city in its own unique way, but Cassidy had an eye for architecture, and she only found Duri-alus impressive because it was so uniform and neat. She was convinced that there were no older parts to this city and that it all just popped up at once—and recently at that. Similarly, everything from the lawns to the buildings just looked functional rather than artistic. She put it out of her mind and caught a bus once further along.
Though mostly out of sight, Rede on occasion crossed Cassidy's vision. He was not completely clean-shaven like he usually was; instead, he had a small mustache. This was a deliberate and convincing disguise that was not as silly looking as it sounded. He was like a different person. He also wore a hat and coat and carried a side bag with him.
Cassidy had altered her image significantly too. She'd darkened her hair from the obvious dusty rose pink to a near jet black, cut it shorter, and even wore a scarf and sunglasses. She wore brown contact lenses beneath her shades to disguise her naturally rainbow-flecked irises, which lacked any one solid or dominant color. People often saw what they wanted to see in her eyes, but today they needed to see brown without question.
The two covert dragons could not afford to be spotted by anyone during this operation. If they were randomly checked by authorities, she even had a fake ID to prove her name was Rain Silverly, not Cassidy. Rede's said "Joseph." If they could have done anything about it, they would not have been out in public at all, but this had to be done. Dmitri von Calvin was still in office, and from what they'd heard, he was planning something big. An unknown force was compelling her to briefly come out of hiding to meet a special informant, despite the risk of being discovered.
As Cassidy walked through the city, she became more and more paranoid. The number of people she passed increased. She had a constant fear that she was being followed. She walked faster, looking harder at everyone as she passed. She was again put at ease with the thought of Rede. She checked the time. It was 11:41 a.m.
But that did not matter. She could see that the person she was looking for was right across the street with her face buried in a newspaper. She considered jaywalking, but decided it was better not to attract the extra attention. She crossed at the crosswalk with everyone else.
This was definitely the meeting place. Cassidy saw the mall across the way with dressed manikins in the windows. She slowed her pace and approached the reading woman.
"Did you drop this?" Cassidy asked in the Sapphire language of the Far West. She handed the reading woman a small, powder case that was, at first, resting on the ground beside her.
"Yes. Thank you so much," the woman replied in the same language, stroking her brow. Cassidy copied the motion of stroking her brow, and the message was received. They were both the people they were supposed to be. The reading woman's name was Day, or at least that was what she called herself. She was a Blue Society resistance member, and she knew major secrets about the unspoken fear that gripped I-Star. She knew of the Dark Storm Death Project that Calvin recently set into motion. "Walk with me," Day insisted.
"I'm surprised; I didn't think you would come," Day said in a shy and wary fashion. Day was shorter than Cassidy and had the face of someone she thought she knew or maybe someone she would want to know if it weren't under these circumstances. She was also surprisingly younger than expected. She must have been just a teenager after a better look at her. "Nobody wants this information, because it's so dangerous." Cassidy could feel Day's nervousness. "Let's keep moving. We can't stay here."
"I have some questions," Cassidy started as they crossed another intersection.
"Not now, it's not safe here. Wait until we get to that restaurant." Day eagerly led her around the block.
Day and Cassidy entered the restaurant and squeezed between several people. They took a booth against the wall. It would have been a perfect spot in any normal situation, but Cassidy could feel the uneasiness in Day. While she liked that there was a window that looked out onto the street, there were too many obstructions between them and that window for it to be much benefit. There were too many blind spots: patrons, other tables inside and outside. The angle was odd too. Cassidy assumed more cover was better, but Day insisted that a more exposed spot would allow them to see early if someone was following them. Hiding would also make them easier to surprise if the situation changed or if assailants already knew their location. She followed Day's lead. It was the best they could do. They both only ordered iced tea, as this should only be a brief stay.
Day immediately spoke. "Before we get started, I just want to say that you are not what I expected at all." Day shook her head.
"What do you mean? I assure you, I can handle this information."
"No. That's not what I mean. I'm sure you can." Day leaned back. "I'm just saying that you seem kind of upbeat for someone who knows about what's going on. I admire that. I always meet the ... unpleasant people." Day smiled briefly. "I still can't believe I'm really talking to you though. Your name is well known among us. Did you know that?" Day knew of Cassidy's true identity. She just couldn't speak her name. Cassidy—Rain Silverly—was the one who had confronted Calvin in an all-out resistance once before and had actually won, before going into hiding. That alone was a major accomplishment. "You just seem rather ... normal. Different from what I expected. That's all."
"You're not the first to say that."
"But let's begin before we get too far off topic. And we should speak quickly, so we can get out of here soon. It's not safe to stay in one place like this for too long. Okay?"
Cassidy nodded and posed her first question, in a whisper: "What is the Dark Storm Death Project, specifically?"
Day leaned forward while glancing out the window. "My sources tell me that the Dark Storm Project is the creation of some kind of deadly weapon of mass destruction," she explained.
A weapon? Cassidy thought. "I know it must have been difficult enough to get ahold of that information, but do you have an idea, any guess at all what kind of weapon it is?"
"All our evidence indicates a virus."
"Damn it...." Cassidy closed a fist as she seemed deeply troubled by this. She was thinking that if she had only done more to stop Calvin before, none of this would be happening.
"But not just any virus," Day continued. "It's a curse of some kind, too. Transmits like a virus but curses the infected. A magick plague. Magick seems to be the most important component. Calvin plans to use it on the 'children of the Noble gods,' which from what I understand, is a euphemism for everybody except his loyal followers."
"Who exactly are his followers?"
"That's the important question, and we've worked hard to figure it out. I have some leads. We're still trying to understand who he really is so we can better understand his true followers, but no one outside his circle fully understands any of this." Day shook her head. "The man running this country is not the person he says he is. He's an impostor. But you already knew that."
"The next detail is new," Day continued. "His followers are a secret fraternity of dark sorcerers called the Willwrights. They're all Black Cauldron Mafia, and they behave like a professional association. They open and close doors, move agendas, and eliminate opposing forces to black magick within and outside the system. Calvin has empowered the fraternity by giving them a public-friendly face in his newly created counterterrorism program called the Agency of Willwrights. He does not advertise that the mafia and the agency are one and the same, but with some deep digging, you can find that connection. Not all members of the Black Cauldron are part of the Willwrights, but we are certain that all Willwrights are also Black Cauldron, their secret's kept though clean records or expunged criminal records. This gives them the latitude to enter and exit traditional streams of influence in order to accomplish their goals.
"The design is ingenious. As Agency of Willwrights, they operate legitimately to monitor and control terrorism—specifically black magick, so of course they're experts in it. It's a facade that allows them to cleverly hide or divert attention from their own activities. This also ensures that key conspirators are never really brought to justice. Most of I-Star's terrorism is domestic; therefore, Calvin's fraternity monitors all domestic establishments and activities. All the legitimate channels of authority and information-management have been compromised in this way." Day named notable examples: "Police, the courts, budget offices, academia, you name it. This has been going on much longer than we thought in one form or another, and it goes all the way to the top."
"How many people know about this?"
"Other than the members of it? Very few. And good luck explaining this to someone who hasn't been paying attention! You'll look crazy. They're professionals, trusted and highly regarded as magick experts to the public. You can't go to the authorities, because somewhere in the chain of command they are the authorities. People who know what we know can't use the justice system, because they'll see to it that we don't make it that far—legally or otherwise. Every time someone's gotten close enough to understanding much more than what I'm telling you now, they've ended up dead. He's started placing his followers in the highest positions—as consultants, oversight, and administration. He even has a private expansionary force that operates the same way. From what I gather, the details of Dark Storm are only known by the president and his closest associates." Day paused. She seemed distracted.
"What's the matter?" Cassidy asked.
"There's a man outside standing against the wall across the street. I saw him earlier, and I think he's following us." Cassidy was about to turn her head to see. "Don't look at him straight on." Day stopped her. "Here ..." She removed the powder case from earlier and opened it. "Just look through this mirror." Cassidy did, pretending she had something in her eye. She saw the man and studied him.
"It's okay—he's with me," Cassidy assured her informant after realizing the man was Rede. He was sipping on an iced coffee, one of his favorite beverages at about this time of day.
"Oh, he's one of yours?" Cassidy nodded. Day closed the case. They remained silent for just a brief moment when Day broke that silence. "I don't have much more information to give you except to keep your eyes on the agency. I think they're planning something really big soon. They're fully mobilized. None of us are sure what it is, but it's big." Day hesitated and then continued. "There is one more thing I want to say." She gently grabbed Cassidy's hand. "I know what they say about you. I've heard the stories." Cassidy was suddenly at full attention. "But you have to promise me you won't let the evils of this world control you. We're really counting on you. Not a lot of people know what you know now."
Cassidy stared at Day. "You know about the legend?" Cassidy asked.
"I check out everybody before I meet them in person," Day nodded.
Excerpted from Legend of the Dark Messiah by J. Johnson Higgins Copyright © 2012 by J. Johnson Higgins. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Dmitri and the Strong Outside Party....................xvii
The Informant on the Evil Agency....................1
How Confessa the Christy Gained a Noble Confession....................14
Of a Feud Concerning the Importance of Her....................26
The Prison That Doesn't Exist....................32
Sealing the Deal with Captive Number Four....................36
The Tragedy of Errors....................50
Feeling Dmitri's Moon Spell....................67
Darkness before Sundown....................77
The Dragon Spoke to the Cliffs....................86
The Black Duke's Insurance Policy....................93
The Reason No One Should Ever Cross Shelly Holliday....................95
The Debt of Darkness to an Angry Sword....................109
A Toast to the Madness: A Confessional....................128
The Nature of Fire....................138
The Knights of Gaea....................149
Ostara at the Ruins....................159
The First Pearl....................168
Cassidy and the Shadow That Is Not Hers....................172
The Horrible Death of Captain Goris....................183
A Curious Object through a Spyglass....................189
One Part Wisdom, One Part Curse....................198
On the Relevance of an Evil Me....................210
Meet Air Marshal Fen Mathison-Hawkins....................218
Operation Wärl-ick and the Fear Machine....................233
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