The metal pole was cold in her hand. That was what Angel focused on as she tried to breathe, to ignore everything else around her. “I don’t want to be here; I never asked for this,” she thought. There were days that this life was a blessing, but today it was like a curse.
To her right, on the other side of the casket, Danube stirred. He had pulled his riotous dreadlocks into a solemn ponytail out of respect for the occasion. He was normally ebullient and carefree, but today his face was wrought with concern for the woman directly ahead of Angel.
Delphi. Normally a block of ice around other Mages, today she was all cold fury. Tension was written throughout every line of her body, and she stared straight ahead, her face a rigid mask. For it was Antipater, her partner, who lay in the casket. “Former lover, too, I think, but now’s not the time to bring up THAT suspicion.” The secrets that had led to his death had rocked their cabal and set Delphi off into a fury none of them had ever seen before.
The last pallbearer to round out their quartet was the newcomer, Canute. He’d only been with them a couple weeks, barely long enough to get to know each of them. His features were calm and composed. The only one of them who didn’t look like his world had ended.
The four of them were standing in a long hallway lined with Impressionist paintings worth a fortune. In front of them was a set of double doors. On the other side of those doors was the assembled Consilium of Shattered Glass. All of Seattle’s Mages were gathered here in the Museum of Modern Art tonight. None of THEM were mourning the loss of their cabalmate. None of THEM had to identify one of their friends at the morgue a few days earlier.
Angel tried to get a grip on herself using the techniques that her Master, Cicero, had taught her. Though she was no longer an Apprentice, the two of them still kept in close contact. Her reverie was interrupted by the sound of a gong and the double doors opening soundlessly in front of them. The casket was light, merely symbolic, considering how little was left of Antipater. The monster had done a thorough job. Her robes swirled around her feet as they started walking. The four of them were wearing black for mourning, as opposed to the traditional sky blue that the rest of the Consilium was wearing. The symbols for their Path, Order, Cabal, and any unusual accomplishments were etched in silver threads, all except for Delphi.
Angel could hear the muttering, feel the stares, as they marched past the rows. Delphi’s left shoulder, where the symbol for Order normally sat, was bare. Angel herself still wore the symbol for Free Council, Danube for Mysterium, and Canute for Adamantine Arrow. But Delphi was blank, rejecting the Guardians of the Veil. The angry murmurs only grew in volume as they approached the dais.
After the death, Delphi hadn’t spoken for a full day, her fury was that great. She’d ignored all forms of communication, including the calls from her Guardian superiors demanding to know what had happened. Finally, after two days, Cicero had contacted Angel through the usual dead drop to set up a meeting. When they met later that night, he was wearing the disguise of an aging businessman and Delphi still had not contacted the Order.
“Grasshopper.” He greeted her with her nickname from when she was an Apprentice as he slid into the booth in the tiny obscure diner.
“Yoda,” she returned the greeting. Real names were too important to use when no one, not even her cabalmates and closest friends, knew that she spied for the Guardians.
“There still has been no contact. The board members are naturally concerned.” Cicero spoke in codes most of the time. You could never be too careful. The waitress, cooks, other customers, they were all Sleepers (non-Mages) who had to be protected from the truth. Or they could be Awakened, rogue Mages or worse. The Guardians whispered among themselves that the Seers of the Throne were looking to take Seattle back, the way the city had been taken from them nearly fifty years before. They came out in the dark of night, creeping through the back alleys, searching for easy prey.
Angel looked down at her coffee as she admitted, “I don’t know if there will be contact.”
“What do you mean?”
“My client is understandably upset. The company wouldn’t give her the information she asked her. And now that her partner is gone, she blames the company.” Delphi and Antipater had been chasing down a monster that had threatened the cabal, a hideous being worthy of nightmares. Their best lead on how to defeat it had rested in an old tome hidden away in a Guardian vault. The two Guardians had petitioned the Order for access, which had been denied. The cabal had narrowly defeated the monster anyway, but not without the loss of their leader.
Cicero cocked his head at her. “And you? You are also affected by this.”
Angel stirred a packet of creamer into her drink as she thought. “I am…and I am very upset with what happened…but, I can also step back and say that we don’t know for sure that the papers would have helped. I…”
“You have every right to be upset, too, Angel. I warned you that the corporate life was not an easy one.”
“My client has always been emotionless on the outside. She bottles things. Her anger over this matter is so cold and still that sometimes I think she will shatter with the force of it.”
“We can find her someone to talk to.”
“No. Yoda, you don’t understand what I am trying to say. I don’t think my client is coming back to the company. She’s done, leaving forever.”
The image of Cicero’s shocked face was still in Angel’s mind as they placed the casket on the dais. A funeral dirge was playing in the background, but she barely heard it. Danube had painstakingly etched their cabal symbol into the varnished oak and it stared back at her as she stepped away. The four of them fell into a line in front of the casket looking up at the Hierarch and Councilors. There was an empty chair where Antipater should have sat. A lump formed in Angel’s throat.
Karna, the Hierarch, was not here today so the ceremony was being presided over by Cronus, his right hand man. The four of them bowed to him and he nodded to them as he stood. His speech was brief and to the point.
“As a Consilium, we face many dangers. Those of us who have Awakened to the Watchtowers walk a dangerous path and it is only those to the right and left of us who truly understand the dangers we face. Today we are here to mourn one of our own, Antipater of the Tattered Page cabal, who fell in the line of duty, protecting his cabal. It is the noblest form of death and today we honor him for his sacrifice.”
Canute stepped forward from the line as the Consilium began to hum behind them. It was a low base hum that resonated throughout the bones of every Mage in the room. Canute raised his hands, moved them in a short, quick gesture, and began to chant in Atlantean. Every one of them felt the pulse of magic from him as the casket burst into flames. Angel could feel the heat from where she stood. The fire burnt hotter than any natural fire, and soon there were only ashes left. The last trace of Antipater disappeared from the earth. He would never again wear one of his perfectly tailored suits or scold her and Danube for one of their crazy experiments exploding in the backyard. Never…
Beside her, Delphi squeezed Angel’s hand. Angel realized with a start that she was crying and that Canute had fallen back into line. The humming died off as the four of them bowed to the Hierarch (in absentia) again. Delphi turned and strode to her seat with long, angry strides.
Angel and Danube moved to stand on each side of Canute. Each of them reached for one of his sleeves and in unison they tore away the strips of black fabric covering the gold rings. They came off easily, only being attached by a few stitches just for this purpose. Other than the Hierarch, the only people in Consilium allowed to wear gold on their robes were the Councilors. Each Councilor was the head of one of the city’s six cabals. Having effectively announced Canute as their new Councilor, the three members of the Tattered Page bowed once again to the Hierarch. Angel and Danube headed for seats next to Delphi while the newest and youngest member of their cabal headed for Antipater’s council seat.
The angry murmurs rose a crescendo as they sat. Cronus stood and announced, “The Consilium of Shattered Glass welcomes it’s newest member and Councilor, Canute, of the Adamantine Arrow!” but there was only weak applause. They’d known that this was going to cause a stir, but they’d had good reasons for doing it…
Earlier that day, they had all gathered in the living room of their Sanctum. Each of them was already dressed in their robes, though Danube was still putting the finishing touches on Canute’s hem. Delphi sat on the other end of the couch, ramrod straight, staring straight ahead. Angel took a deep breath and broke the silence, “Look, before we leave, we need to decide on who our new Councilor is going to be. The Hierarch is going to ask us to name one.”
The three of them all looked at Danube who was the next most senior Mage after Antipater, but he didn’t even look up from his sewing before shaking his head. “Not me. I don’t want that kind of responsibility, you know?” Silently, Angel agreed with him. Danube wasn’t a slacker really; he was a real whizz at his magical studies and he took excellent care of their sanctum. But the kid had no ambition. None.
“We should not be replacing Antipater already. It is too soon,” Delphi said coldly from the end of the couch.
Once again, Angel silently agreed. Antipater had been their leader for as long as she’d been part of the Tattered Page. It didn’t seem right for anyone else to take the job. But, “The Hierarch is still going to insist that we name someone. And I don’t think we should piss him off. Which is why,” Angel took a deep breath, “I think it should be Canute.”
The other three turned to her in shock. “Me? I have only been here for two weeks,” asked Canute in his thick nordic accent.
“I think we can all agree that none of the three of us want the job for different reasons.” Delphi and Danube nodded. Angel continued before either of them could say anything. “But more importantly, Canute NEEDS this job.”
“What do you mean?” Danube asked.
“He’s a newcomer to the cabal AND an Adamantine Arrow. It’s supposed to be his job to protect the cabal. That’s what the Arrow does. But barely two weeks into his watch, the cabal head dies.” The other three started to protest in various stages of anger. Angel continued over the top of them. “Look, I know it’s not his fault! But that’s what the rest of the Consilium is going to see. More importantly, what the Arrow is going to see. If we want him to make it in this Consilium, then we have to make a gesture of faith in him, to show people that we know that it’s not his fault.”
“It’s the Guardians’ fault,” Delphi said bitterly. “But you are right. We should support Canute.”
“Makes sense, I suppose,” added Danube as he cut the last string and sat back inspecting his work.
There was a moment of silence before Canute capitulated. “I do not deserve this. But if this is what you guys want, then I will serve as I must.”
Angel pulled a pair of gold embroidered circles out of her pockets and tossed one to Danube. “We haven’t got much time before we have to leave…”
Around Angel were the sounds of Consilium breaking up. “Whatever,” she thought. Danube would fill her in on anything important that she missed while she zoned out. Groups of people were moving towards different corners of the room as the Orders assembled for brief meetings before everyone broke up to socialize. The Tattered Page was one of the last cabals to get moving, Angel last of all. The Free Council met all the way in the back corner, and she had to pass most of the other Orders to get there. As she drifted through the room, she saw a stern figure in black approach the Mysterium. The entire room fell silent as Delphi strode seriously up to Hypatia, head of the Mysterium. The older woman brushed her bangs out of her face in shock at the tiny woman standing before her.
“Delphi?” she asked.
“I wish to join the Mysterium,” Delphi announced coldly.
Angel’s feet slowed as she looked across the aisle to the Guardian caucus. Most of them looked horrified, Cicero most of all. “I will never be that good of an actor,” Angel thought to herself.