Home > The Hourglass Throne

The Hourglass Throne
Author: K. D. Edwards

 


THE REJUVENATION CENTER

“—ucking cut you!”

I slapped Brand’s hand away from the radio dial and swerved back into my lane. “Why do you always jump to cutting?” I demanded. “Use your words if you don’t like the radio station I picked.”

Since the pop rock song was off and he’d got his way, Brand settled into the passenger seat with a smirk.

I was driving our beat-up old Saturn toward a corner of the city almost exactly due south of Sun Estate. While summer brought the earliest sunrises of the year to New Atlantis, we were still a half-hour shy of one. The air around us was the gray-tinged black of pre-dawn.

Nothing short of an emergency would have normally got me out of bed before sunrise, let alone two hours before it, which is when Lady Priestess had called with an urgent request. All I knew was that an unknown barrier had appeared around the rejuvenation center, and they couldn’t reach anyone inside by phone or text.

I’d given myself thirty minutes to add a few stealth and infiltration spells to my sigils—at her vague recommendation—while an even-grumpier Brand went from room to room assembling his leathers and chest harness.

“It takes so much longer to get out the door now,” he yawned. “I miss Half House.”

“No, you don’t. You’ve got dozens of people to boss around now.”

“I’ve got dozens of people who need to be bossed around because their heads haven’t grown out their ass yet, which is the state they’d need to be in to do what they should be doing without being told. Why didn’t Lady Priestess tell us any more about what to expect? Were there any background noises?”

“What sort of noises did you expect me to hear?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Scions-clutching-their-pearls angst? Man-being-eaten-by-crocodile screams? We usually know more before we take a job.”

“Good thing it’s not a job then. Can you hand me my coffee?”

I waited a beat, but no coffee edged into my peripheral. As streetlamps sliced blades of yellow across the windshield, I gave him a quick look. “What?”

“This isn’t a job?” he asked.

“No. It’s a favor. I guess that’s the sort of thing Arcana do for each other.”

“So we’re not getting paid?” he asked, louder now. “Is this the sort of thing we can look forward to now that you’re a part of the Arcanum?”

Okay, maybe he wasn’t grumpier than me, because my temper flared. “How should I know? Did you see me leave the last Arcana meeting with an orientation manual, Brand? There was no orientation.”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” he said, but handed me my coffee.

I sighed into the plastic lid. “Thank you.”

He waited until I’d taken a long, caffeinated sip. “But she emphasized stealth spells? That’s all you have stored in your sigils—stealth spells?”

“Hell no. Most of my sigils were already topped up. Oh! Addam lent me a sigil with Telekinesis in it. Well, I stepped on his head by accident first, but then he woke up and lent it to me.” I predicted the turn of Brand’s face. “Air conditioning is out in our room, so we slept on the floor. But, hey, Telekinesis. That’ll be fun if I get to use it.”

He flicked a look my way that had us both almost smiling, because let’s be honest: we’d been cooped up on the estate for a while, and the truth was that we really, really hoped we’d get to use more than stealth skills.

We’d relocated to Sun Estate months ago. New Atlantis had been no different from the rest of the world: we struggled with the birth of a novel coronavirus. A heavy investment in magical remedies had allowed us to contain our outbreak so we no longer needed masks or social distancing. But we’d also had to close our borders and cut off contact with the human world until they found their own vaccine solution.

Personally, I’d spent the quarantine months focusing on little except the rehabilitation of Sun Estate. I’d picked up my father’s mantle and was the Arcana of the Sun Throne, and I needed a base of operations. I needed a compound. I needed, eventually and pointedly, a heavily fortified compound.

Kicking out all the ghosts and ghouls that had taken up residence in the ruins of Sun Estate was an expensive and tedious process. Every literal square foot of safe ground we gained was measured in hundreds of dollars and hours of spell-work, largely using an incredibly difficult and special magic taught to me by Lady Priestess—which explained why I was on her radar. But we’d finally reached the point where a sizable percentage of the estate was safe behind wards and other protection.

We’d moved the Dawncreeks onto the estate as well—Anna, Corbie, Layne, and a newly rejuvenated Corinne. Anna, Max, and Quinn spent half a week with us, and half a week at Magnus Academy learning how not to stab someone with the wrong fork during a formal dinner. I had just started holding regular court sessions, which meant I had homework of my bloody own. Things, in all, had been very domestic lately.

“So you and Addam are dressing in each other’s sigils now?” Brand asked.

“I’m not going to be baited.”

“Just making conversation. Take a left up there.”

“It’s easier if we—”

“Left,” he barked. “Look at the windows on that building. There are green and amber lights around the corner.”

His instincts were always quicker than mine. I turned left, and sure enough, there was commotion around the bend in the block ahead of us.

“Does that mean you don’t like Addam being around so much?” I asked him after a pause.

“Don’t you dare fucking use me for cold feet.”

“I don’t have cold feet! I was just worried it might feel weird. I’m checking in with you. Addam’s practically moved into the estate.”

“Yeah, and it was weird the first time he wandered into the kitchen in his boxer briefs. Now it’s called morning.”

“He still hasn’t officially joined the Sun Throne. He’s still technically a member of Lady Justice’s court.”

Brand turned in his seat so hard that the seatbelt groaned. “Why do you sound worried?”

“I didn’t say—”

Brand tapped his head, indicating it hadn’t been anything I’d said out loud.

But amber and emerald lights were now dancing across the hood of our car. Ahead of us, just around a corner, was a line of wooden sawhorses blocking off the mouth of an alley.

Immortality was a myth. Sort of.

Through closely guarded rejuvenation magics perfected by Lady Priestess’s court, Atlanteans could make their bodies go on forever. The mind was another matter entirely, though, which is what made immortality a myth in practice. After half a millennium, most people, one way or another, found ways to die.

I always suspected that those who lasted longer, like the Tower or (reputedly) the Empress, were just smarter at knowing how to reinvent themselves. I suspected the trick was building a mental firebreak between shitty life experiences in order to find the desire or motivation to attempt another hundred years on the same rickety roller coaster.

That said, nearly all Atlanteans of even modest means took advantage of Lady Priestess’s magic. She practiced rejuvenation at two centers on the island, and the particular center before us was the premier facility, where heavily funded courts sent their people for complete life-cycle rejuvenation. It was a process that involved several stages and weeks of residence.

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