While hiding with Lord Owen, the Fae, and the human resistance, Aria questions everything she thought she understood. What are the Fae? Who is Aria herself?
More than refuge, Aria needs answers. Despite the appeal of Dr. Bartok's talk of grace, the Empire's darkness threatens to overwhelm Aria as she wrestles with questions of sin, justice, and love.
Colonel Grenidor has his own questions as he makes a new, powerful ally. How much can Edwin really be trusted? And what of the Slavemaster, who Edwin claims is an ally of the vampires opposing the Empire? Colonel Grenidor's research on the vampires has grown increasingly dangerous, with consequences for the Fae, vampires, and the supernatural entities on both sides of the conflict.
Following Things Unseen, this second book in A Long-Forgotten Song is a riveting Christian fantasy that explores the depth of sin and the miracle of redemption.
Niamh’s voice wove like a silver thread through the dark, clear and perfect as snow beneath a full moon. Why did I envision a full moon on snow, so bright the trees cast shadows? I’ve never been in a forest at night, and I’ve never seen snow under starlight. Ardghal’s voice was lower, stronger. Wind through oak branches. Cillian’s voice was so like Owen’s that Aria’s eyes filled with tears. He can’t sing now. Not the way he wants to.
The song brightened the darkness of the train station, at least for a time, and dispelled the ever-present chill. When their voices faded, Aria shivered.
Owen still lay motionless on the concrete, the Fae around him murmuring in low voices that did not quite reach her ears.
Aria chewed her lip and tried to imagine what Cillian might have meant when he said Owen seemed more human. The difference was subtle enough that Cillian hadn’t noticed at first, but now all the Fae seemed captivated by it. One, a Fae girl who appeared to be a little younger than Aria, even bent so close to Owen’s face Aria thought she meant to kiss him, but she merely sniffed him carefully, then drew back, her face perplexed.
Several of the Fae looked up, startled and wary. One of them stalked off into the darkness. What did they hear?
Eventually Aria rose and walked toward the lights in the human encampment near the other end of the platform. The shadows pressed upon her, dank and threatening.
There’s nothing to fear. She repeated the words to herself, knowing they weren’t true but needing the reassurance. She glanced over her shoulder; the Fae seemed like a distant island of safety in the echoing, inky blackness. Her steps quickened along with her pulse. By the time she reached the lights, she was running.
“What’s wrong?” Bartok caught her arm as she nearly collided with him, his pistol half-drawn.
She shuddered. “Nothing. I’m just jumpy.”
He held her eyes for a moment, then gave her a wry smile and slid the pistol back into its holster. “I can understand why. Do you have a minute?”
She followed him to where Gabriel sat with a few others, looking at books spread out before them. Electric lamps in the center of the circle cast harsh shadows.
Gabriel looked up at them and gestured toward the books. “Dandra sold history books. No wonder she’s missing.” He picked up one book and flipped through it slowly.
Levi added, “Plus two books on Jewish history and three Bible commentaries.”
Aria leaned across to pick up Memories Kept. She ran her fingers over the cover, a blurred picture behind crisp, slightly retro lettering. If I hadn’t questioned, where would I be now? Her bookmark was still between the pages, and she held one finger on it as she opened the book.
“Did you move my bookmark?” she asked.
“No. That’s the page where we found it,” Jennison said.
Aria frowned. “That’s not where I was reading.” A faint blue pencil line caught her eye on the right-hand page, underlining the words beside the wall.
She flipped through the rest of the book, skimming pages. The pages were devoid of other markings; there were no highlights, no notes. Aria never wrote in books, and Dandra was strict about her patrons not defacing the volumes. Few people were inclined to do so anyway, and fewer still had ever noticed this book. She remembered her conversation with Dandra about the colored pencil markings used in editing. Back in the old days, when they printed with big metal plates, editors would use blue pencil on the art boards because it wouldn’t reproduce photographically, and so it wouldn’t get transferred to the final layout. She ran one finger over the line again. Blue pencil was used for communication within the production team, not for everyone.
“I think Dandra did this.” Aria turned the book around and showed them. “As a message.”
Gabriel sent Bartok, Evrial, and Clint, a former police detective, back to Dandra’s that evening. Bartok, tall and lanky, with his kind eyes, was a comforting presence. Clint was an intimidating character, shorter than Bartok but broader, the sleeves of his jacket stretched tight around the muscles of his arms. His face had a hard edge to it.
Evrial murmured in her ear, “Don’t worry. He doesn’t bite.”
Niall accompanied them; he’d volunteered for the duty by showing up at Aria’s side as they were leaving. He gestured at her.
“You want to go?”
“All right.” Perhaps he would see something they couldn’t. Bartok nodded to Niall, so Aria knew that he’d made himself visible, at least for a while.
Everyone was silent during the long walk underground. Aria shivered in the cool, still air of the tunnels, and even more once they reached the surface. They emerged from the tunnels through an access hatch hidden beneath a small overpass. Deep in the shadows, they waited for a car to pass on the lower street before darting out and around, up the embankment to the upper road. Dodging the cold lights of halogen street lamps, the group walked another two blocks before Niall stopped at a back door in an alley. White stenciled letters marked it as the rear entrance to Dandra’s Books and Maps.
Clint tried to pull the door open, but the lock held. He rummaged in his pocket. “Wait a minute. I can probably get it open.”
Niall reached across him to touch the door handle, and it unlatched with a soft click. He pulled it open and gestured for them to enter.
“That’s a handy trick,” Clint murmured.
Niall inclined his head, the gesture reminiscent of Owen’s courtesy.
Inside, they risked using tiny penlights in the storage room, though it would be too dangerous in the main shop. With the wide glass windows, any light from the sales floor would be visible to passersby.
“‘Beside the wall.’ Which wall?” Clint spoke in a whisper.
“I don’t know.” Aria stared around, biting her lip. “I’ve never been in the back before.”
Two walls were lined with shelves filled with labeled boxes. Self Help. Science and Technology. Children’s.
“History books aren’t labeled,” Aria said.
Bartok shone his flashlight along the rows of boxes and made a thoughtful sound. “Or travel or religion or classics.” His frown deepened.
Niall turned away from the light, motioning that he was going into the front. They turned the lights off while he slipped through the door, then flicked the flashlights back on and played them around the walls, shadows dancing in their wake. They covered the whole room, then began again.
“There.” Bartok pointed. “What’s that?”
A shallow desk, barely more than a foot deep, stood in one corner against the wall. A gooseneck lamp was clipped to the right edge, the head pointing down toward the empty desk top. Beneath the desk lay a blue pencil.
They moved forward and studied it, not touching anything.
“I don’t see anything,” said Aria. “But that’s the blue pencil. It must be around here somewhere.”
“I don’t see anything either.” Clint sounded confused. He shifted and considered the pencil and desk from a different angle, playing his light around crack between the desk and the wall.
“There.” Aria and Bartok spoke at the same time. Bartok reached down to brush one finger against a blue mark on the floorboard near the wall, then pushed it firmly.
The other end of the board twelve inches away rocked upward, revealing a dark hole. Bartok moved forward to shine his flashlight into the space. The gap was barely wide enough for his hand, and he had to twist and turn pull out a thick, leather-bound book with papers folded into the front cover. He played the light around again and pushed the board back into place.
“How did you notice that?” Clint asked.
“The pencil tip pointed at the mark.” Bartok stared down at the book in his hands.
“What is it?” Aria asked.
Bartok was silent, and Aria moved closer.
Finally Bartok murmured, “It’s a Bible.”
He flipped open the front cover and removed the papers. Everyone huddled closer to read in the glare of the flashlights.
If you’ve found this, I was forced to flee. You were searching for answers. This book has answers. You were searching for the truth. This book has the truth that will set you free.
I regret that I cannot explain it to you myself. I knew my time here was limited and dangerous, but I had hoped to have longer.
This may seem cryptic, and for that I apologize. I cannot put much in writing; it risks others. I can say only this: many outside the North and East Quadrants are appalled at what has happened here. The Empire has committed crimes of a magnitude we could not have imagined.
But you are not alone. We cannot, and will not, risk an open war. Not now. Perhaps not ever. But there is more to be won than physical victory. My party is concerned with souls. The Bible will be of use to you. Study it, but keep it hidden. The Empire does not look on it kindly, and you would do well to stay unnoticed.
Stay away from the man who frightened me that night. I do not know what he spoke of, but he knew too much about me. He may be an agent of the Empire.
Aria frowned. “This last part might be about Owen. That doesn’t make sense.”
The group looked around again, but found nothing else. Clint led the way back to the tunnels, and Niall shadowed them, invisible and silent in the dark.