top of page
  • Writer's pictureInwood Park Productions

Snow: A Daughter of Jovia | Book 1, Issue 1 ~ L'église Noire

By Harold Jackson


It's Good to be The King

Neige and her pedagogue, Gemini, faced each other inside the cramped roomette of the cubic spaceship orbiting the forested planet of Dialis. Darkness clung to the horizon of the vibrant exospheric landscape outside the window. Swirls of clouds danced above sky blue oceans and yellow-green continents. A sun was silently rising behind the planet. The sun beat on her face.

The roomette was about the size of one on a railcar. The floor and walls were covered in a black, low-pile carpet. A glass window engulfed one side of the room, encompassing the entire right wall and ceiling. A metallic door stood to Neige’s left. They each sat on booths with tufted leather upholstery. The roomette looked and smelled as if it was freshly manufactured, and they were the lucky first consumers of the modest craft. To the contrary, Neige had spent many voyages on these leather seats.

The descent was slow to the planet. They sat in silence as they noiselessly descended, immersed in the clouds. Gemini cleared his throat. Neige continued to look out of the window blankly.

“Your assignment . . . '' started Gemini. The cloaked figure was shrouded in shadow. He wore a drab brown cloak with a hood that covered his face, but for his wispy blonde hair and circular spectacles. For his larger body, his voice was mid-ranged. The end of his vowels rasped.

“ . . . is written on this parchment.”

Gemini’s grim appearance was extinguished with a well-to-do shift in his seat. His gloved hand was open towards Neige. A thick strip of parchment rested on his palm. Brash ink was scribbled on top of the parchment surface. His mouth lay solemnly below his spectacles.

Neige took the strip of parchment. The oncoming sun illuminated the slight transparency of the paper between their hands. Then, Gemini turned towards the tinted window. He squinted down at the forested planet.

There was a bright aurora emitting from Neige’s presence. Her platinum white hair twisted around her head into a wavy mullet. Her skin was pale and pink. Black liner wrapped around her eyelashes. A trefoil necklace of lapis lazuli hung from her neck to her Malryhe-plated chest. She wore a black under-armor layered with thin, marble plates. Fully armored, Neige didn’t really look sixteen, until you looked into her crystal-blue eyes and felt the persuasively honest stare of a child.

Neige held the parchment level with her metallic lapis necklace. Her eyes skimmed the scribbled writings. She examined the parchment as Gemini continued to stare out the window at the forested planet below.

“You can download it on your glass-slide,” said Gemini without turning his gaze from the planet. “Afterward, it must be destroyed.”

Neige retrieved her glass-slide from her waist, which was a glass tablet the size of a smartphone with far more capabilities. With a flick of her wrist, the strip of parchment fell above the glass-slide. For a moment the parchment hovered in the air. Then, electrons began to collect around the edges of the paper. The parchment landed atop the glass-slide and dissolved into the technoglass. The electrons dissipated around her palm. The parchment was gone. The words began to appear on the screen of her glass-slide.

On the screen, the inked handwriting was perfectly replicated. She attached the glass-slide back onto her waist. The marble armor reflected the dying flashes of the device. The lights on the edges of the glass-slide were illuminating a deep pink, causing the technology to appear as if it were glowing.

“The king of this planet . . . . this solar kingdom. Lance Marais,” stated Gemini as he motioned towards the planet below.

“What about him?” Neige asked.

“About a decade ago, the Jovian government allowed the wrong king to come into power,” he said solemnly as he shifted his cloak. “So to say.”

“So to say. What do I have to do? Kill him?” she responded.

“If it comes to that, Neige. But we have a better alternative,” replied Gemini as he pressed his glasses back up to his face and sniffed. Neige crossed her arms and looked at him as he continued.

“The next heir to the throne is the king’s cousin. In fact, his cousin is the true heir.”

“What do you mean by the ‘true heir’?” she asked plainly.

Gemini cleared his throat. Outside the window, the darkness of space was replaced with a vibrant blue ozone atmosphere.

“The king’s aunt was the monarch before him. After she died, her son went missing. Rumor has it that he was kidnapped. Due to our oversight, we let Marais take power. We never knew there was another claim to the throne.”

“Do you want him in hand-rings?” Neige nudged.

“Yes. But more importantly, we want you to put his cousin in his rightful place on the throne,” Gemini continued. “You must restore the right bloodline to power. We must make amends for what we’ve contributed to.”

“We? So, you’re sending a woman to clean up a mess between men – created by men – and the resolution will be more men making more decisions?” Neige cocked a white brow. Her blue eyes pierced the darkness of the cloaked spectacles. He stared at her before leaning forward.

“You’re the best one for the job, Neige.”

“I know,” her lips curled upward. “It’s too bad you’re not putting a queen in charge.”

“You and I both know you’d find that fairytale role insufferable,” the cloaked figure said blankly.

“That’s true.”

Neige nodded towards the forested planet below. The spaceship was moving in a counter orbital formation towards the onset of the clouds. The leather booths began to shake slightly with the pressure. The stars faded into the light of the sun. They were descending through the clouds. A flash of heat rippled outside the window. Their descent quickened.

Neige’s blue eyes glowed through the shadows. She pushed her platinum bangs away from her face with her palm. Then, Neige put her hand on the fiery window glass, which was cool to the touch. Far below, the people of the planet were starting another foggy morning as the sun cast itself over the horizon. The glass-slide lay absently on Neige’s thigh as the spaceship descended beneath the clouds.

The writing on the glass screen read:


Snow,

Look for the rightful heir at the FAVOR HOUSE LEXINGTON. His name is THE PRINCE HENRY LANGIS. Find TOBIAS in the EGLISE NOIRE in town. He is safeguarding PRINCE HENRY.

Escort HENRY to the “safe zone”. TOBIAS will know the location.

Locate KING MARAIS and apprehend him. His throne is in a cliffside tower on the outset of the capitol city of FALAISE. However, with his power, his forces can be found almost anywhere.

Best of Luck, Gemini King~


Foggy Morning in The Bordeleaux Cemetery

Neige was walking through the narrow cobblestone alleyways of residential Bordeleaux in the early hours of the morning before dawn. Her booted heels slid softly against the water droplets on the cobblestone. The sky was shrouded in a misty gray that was breaking free of the night. Thick drops of water clung to her gloves. Neige inched slowly through the narrow alley. Steep stone walls crept about her sides. The fog swept above the tops of the dewy vines.

There was a low grumble that drifted from the distance. A water barge was moving through the nearby bay. Another low grumble echoed louder. She could not see the water, but she could smell it. Fish and oil. Her boots tapped against the cobblestones. Vines slid against the armor on her back.

The small port town was snoring its final sleeping breaths before the break of daylight. The houses were small, close together, and made of cobblestone and thatched roofs. The streets and alleys were narrow. Moss, vines, and other small vegetation was common. The presence of thyme and sage dampened the aroma of fish. Neige made it this far without seeing another person, but she started to hear doors opening and closing about the streets.

A nearby crack. She heard the sound of a wooden wagon moving its way up the cobblestone. A toad belched from the vined tops of the alley walls. Neige continued down the alley toward a clearing.

As she approached the clearing, the cobblestone walls around her widened into a grassy cemetery. Neige stepped onto a mossy grass. The cobblestone of the alley ended abruptly and faded into sparsely placed stepping stones. On the other side of the graveyard was a small wooden church. The Black Church.

She stood on the edge of an open cemetery. Cobblestone dwindled into the patches of grass. Rooves danced around the outer edges of the cobblestone wall that surrounded the cemetery and church. Neige examined the quiet clearing.

Obelisks and gravestones were scattered across the grass. Vines and weeds stretched their bases. There was a coating of grass and dew beneath her boots. Behind her, the alleyway faded in fog and the shadows of the early morning. Neige looked down at her glass-slide by her hip.

“Rose. What is this place?” Neige’s voice was solid against the thick air.

The glass-slide illuminated a bright pink glow. A voice started out of her glass-slide.

“This is the graveyard of the Eglise Noire,” Rose answered, the artificial intelligence programmed into Neige’s glass-slide.

Neige walked into the foggy grass and through the cemetery. Her blue eyes wandered around the engravings on the obelisks. The closer she got to The Black Church, the thicker the trail of gravestones. Her hand grazed the peak of an obelisk. Neige turned towards the gravestone. Her eyes were low. Her black eyelashes were angled towards the description etched into the rock. The sound of the barge in the distance grew quieter.

“Rose,” Neige spoke absently as she gazed upon the gravestone. Dozens of bodies were buried within the yard. The black stone that she touched was engraved with the military emblem. “Who lies here?”

“Here lies…” the glass-slide blinked and faded in a deep pink. “John Mahony. He was a Saint of The Queen Langis.”

“Seems like a rugged place to bury a saint,” Neige said quietly as her eyes drifted to the vines of the stone walls that surrounded the graveyard.

“According to the Jovian Archives,” Rose continued. “John Mahony was buried with a dishonorable assent. After the queen died, Mahony joined swords with a rebellion against the Marais regime. They called themselves the Saints of Eastwood. Mahony and the Saints inevitably lost to the hand of King Marais and his Royal Guard.”

“John Mahony,” Neige said under her breath. “I hope by fixing our mistake your death will not be in vain.”

Neige sighed as she quickly realized she was taking ownership for the actions of Gemini and the Jovian government. She was not responsible for his death so many years ago, when she was just a toddler. Still, as an agent of Gemini, she felt the burden of his consequences in his stead. Neige squinted around the graveyard. She slowly started stepping as she asked, “Rose?”

“Yes,” replied Rose as the glass-slide illuminated a bright pink glow.

“How many of the buried in this yard are from the rebellion conflict here on Dialis?” Neige asked as she reached the center of the acre.

A great black church loomed above the graveyard and cast a triangular shadow over the gravestone. Neige’s blue eyes and her pink glass-slide glowed in the foggy darkness.

“All but two bodies buried here belonged to members of the Saints of Eastwood rebellion,” Rose responded as the glass-slide blinked and faded. “The other two belonged to old priests. They were caught in the fighting and were killed.”

“Rose,” Neige asked as she stepped further into the foggy shadow. “This isn’t a public cemetery, is it?”

“No,” Rose answered affirmatively. “This is a private, religious graveyard.”

“Who owns this yard?” Neige said as the fog engulfed the entrance of the alleyway behind her.

“This graveyard is owned by L'église Noire, an extension of the Favor House Lexington, the Langis family,” Rose answered.

“The Black Church,” Neige said as she looked up at the black building.

Neige stepped toward the steeping church. The wood was a dark walnut, making the church appear as a looming, black structure. Old stone stairs led up to the stained wooden double doors. Fog flooded from the corners of the aging wooden structure. Grass and vines climbed up the base of the church. The structure resembled a gothic chapel. The building was rich with niches and enclaves that hooked up and around the exterior. Two towers lifted from the arcade of pinnacles. The only color could be found in the dusty stained-glass windows, which were the last remaining evidence that the decaying building housed more life than death at one point in time.

Neige stepped up the stairs toward the double doors of the church and pressed her metallic black glove against the doors. The worn wood produced splinters and films of paints that dissolved as Neige pushed against the doorway. Fog rushed into the askew doors as she moved into the entrance. She glanced back into the fog. Then, she closed the doors. The graveyard remained lifeless outside in the early morning.



The Black Church

The wooden doors creaked shut behind her. The doors matched the woodworks of the interior of the dimly lit church. The imagery on the stained glass windows were blurred with a thick coating of dust.

There was candlelight from the far side of the church that spread across the open room. Hundreds of skinny candles cluttered the stage. Wax ran down the sides of a center table. Sacred wooden trinkets were organized around the candles. There was the smell of burning sage.

Neige stepped onto a dulled maroon carpet that covered the wooden planks of the church floor. A dozen rows of pews were installed on either side of the carpet. Small wooden pillars stood on the outer portions of the pews. The wood creaked under her boots.

A large, bald man sat in the front row of the pews facing the stage. Only his head and torso could be seen from Neige’s point of view. Candlelight danced around his body.

Neige stepped down the aisle and stood in front of the man. Her back was to the stage of candles. Her blue eyes were taxed under her black eyeliner. They fixated on the man. He was silently praying with his eyes closed.

The large man was covered in a white robe. His wide shoulders surrendered upward into a broad jaw. The man’s dark skin contrasted slightly with his clothing. His hands were pressed together and pointed towards the wooden planks of the ceiling. Even while seated, he towered above Neige.

Hundreds of tiny flames swayed behind her. The man’s eyes remained closed. His position was fixed. Neige squeezed her fists, her blue eyes scaling the robed man.

“I am looking for someone.”

“Ah, my lady. Who might you be looking for?” the man’s eyes flashed open. Pale gray met with lined blue. He was blind. Neige’s gasp was visible but quiet.

“Do not be frightened. I am only blind,” said the man calmly.

“How did you know?” Neige said.

“Hm?”

“How did you know I was surprised?” Neige swayed with the candlelight.

“After eleven years of blindness,” the man started slowly. “Knowledge reveals itself in other ways. The brushes of your movements. The footsteps of a young woman. And you smell clean, very unlike the humble fishing people of this town.”

“I see,” Neige said. She couldn’t stop staring at his pale eyes. Their emptiness hid the man’s emotions.

“But there is something that puzzles me,” he said at a regained pace. “Your hands and feet are covered with metals. And now your accent. You do not sound like you are from Dialis.”

“Maybe I’m not,” Neige squinted, analyzing the man. “My identity and gear are classified...”

“But your purpose? You are looking for someone, are you not?”

“Correct. I must speak with someone called Tobias.”

The man smiled and stood. His chest towered above Neige’s head. The man looked down at Neige with blank, pale eyes.

“You have found him! I am Tobias. But most people around here know me as Toby,” the man stepped onto the aisle without a stutter of footwork. His heavy body was gentle with the floor below him. His dark skin glowed an ember in the candlelight.

“It is good to meet you, Toby,” Neige said firmly but blankly. “I was sent by Gemini on a secret mission.”

“It has been a while since I’ve seen Gemini . . . Who are you?” Tobias’s tone shifted from warm to short.

“I am Agent Snow.”

“Your accent, Snow. You are not from here. You are not from Dialis. You are not from Jovia City.”

“I am not,” Neige answered coldly. Her black eyeliner twisted together as she glared at him. She didn’t want to talk about her past with a stranger, even if Gemini would allow it.

“I see, Snow. You are quite young. Surely - Gemini did not send you to this forsaken kingdom alone,” Tobias rolled from his tongue in a boom.

“Gemini sent me here alone with full faith of my success,” Neige said slowly as she glanced towards the church stage. Intricate wooden carvings of flowers and animals sat between streaming candle wax.

A stream of sunlight crept around the fog outside the windows. Shadows outside the windows shifted. Tobias’s face wrinkled as he seemed to be listening carefully. His large mouth frilled into a deep frown. A bead of sweet crept from his bald head and trailed down his neck. Neige stood coldly, her eyes fixed on the enormous castle of a man. His blank eyes continued to look in her direction.

“Why do you seek me, agent of Gemini?”

Neige turned around without answering. She drifted softly towards the shrine table. The cluster of candles and wood carvings were almost ancient. It reminded her of an old world she left long ago. Her blue eyes raged in the fire of the candlelight.

“I was ordered to seek your help,” Neige replied without looking away from the contents of the table. “I seek your aid and guidance in finding Prince Henry. I have been ordered to escort the Prince to a safe zone. Gemini said you would know where the safe zone is.”

“I see,” Tobias said briskly. He walked towards a door on the far left side of the small church. His clothes hung to him like that of a poor clergy. His quiet footsteps caught Neige off guard.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“One moment. Allow me to collect my properties,” Tobias said quickly in a rush. He was moving toward the door with haste.

“What is wrong?”

The enormous man’s face was strained. Tobias quickly opened the wooden door, which gave way to a quaint cabinet. Neige peaked around the edge. The cabinet was full of linens and other clothes. Tobias quickened his movements. She could sense he was nervous.

“I must hurry,” Tobias said with a loud whisper from the cabinet as he began grabbing at items inside. He picked up several leather pouches and tucked them into the sleeves of his robes. He lifted a large leather sword holster. Sweat ran across his fingers.

Neige’s eyes shifted quickly toward the windows. The stained glass was glistening in the new morning sun. Vague shadows of figures passed in a swift blur on the other side of the window. Neige squinted. Her blue eyes cut around the church. Someone was walking around the graveyard.

“We must go,” Tobias said. He was holding a massive, double-edged two-handed sword in his left hand. Tobias quickly strapped the sword to his back with leather straps. There was a silver cross-necklace hung from his shoulders with the word ‘Saint’ engraved onto the soft metal. He put on black sunglasses that covered his pale, senseless eyes. The silent giant turned into a booming jovian warrior.

“What do you mean?”

“They know you’re here. They have spies… satellites…” Tobias said. “Gemini warned me that they would know.”

“They who?”

“The King and his Royal Guard. They must already know you’re here. We are forsaken if we remain.”

Tobias ran toward the table on the stage of the church with the candles and wooden trinkets. Neige stepped back quickly. In a heave, Tobias kicked down the table. The candles and wooden sculptures crashed on the floor. Candlewax littered the wooden panels. Broken wood figures wept as liquid wax showered their crumbled bodies. The wooden floor quickly engulfed in flame.

“What are you doing?” Neige asked more calmly than she thought. Tobias turned to her.

“We must go to Prince Henry. He is at the House Lexington in the Eastwood. It will not be safe here for long. You must trust me, Snow.”

Tobias leapt onto the burning stage. His feet smashed several wooden figures. The floor shook. Smoke drifted around the ceiling.

More shadowy figures disrupted the glistening light behind the stained glass windows. Voices whispered from the door. Flames crackled on the dark wood. Neige looked up at Tobias on the stage. His sunglasses reflected a sea of fire below him.

“Come with me. Let us vanish,” Tobias yelled across the rising flames.

Neige jumped onto the stage. The floor shook again. She stood next to Tobias, who was glaring at the closed double doors of the church.

“Get ready!” Tobias yelled over the commotion as he hovered his head with his enormous hands.

BOOM! Suddenly, the double doors of the church exploded. Millions of wooden splitters showered the entrance of the church and the edge of the pews.

Several Royal Guards, all in full plated armor and metallic helmets, charged inside the church. They were wearing space exo-suits with plasma rifles attached to battery packs on their backs via tubes. Their faceless silver and copper helmets covered their heads.

“That’s the Knight and the Spy!” shouted one of the Royal Guards. His voice was muffled from his metallic helmet. “Traitors of Dialis, surrender!”

“Never!” cried Tobias over the flames. Neige squinted again and ducked.

“Open fire!” roared one of the Royal Guards standing at the door.

The Royal Guards aimed their plasma rifles at Tobias and Neige. Slops of proton energy flashed towards them. Explosions ignited against the walls around them as the firing squad started shooting their energy weapons at the church stage.

In an instant, the wooden floor below Tobias and Neige gave way. Kindling dark wood buckled beneath their feet. Flames shot up between them and the Royal Guards. Shattered and burned wood scattered above their heads as they fell into an open shaft below the church. Cement walls grew cold around them as the morning sunlight disappeared. On the run, they fell into the fray of darkness.


To be continued . . .


Komentarai


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page