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Prince of Shadows: Grims' Truth, #4

Prince of Shadows: Grims' Truth, #4

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Prince of Shadows: Grims' Truth, #4

Length:
404 pages
5 hours
Released:
Nov 5, 2018
ISBN:
9781622538706
Format:
Book

Description

Everything that has happened, is happening, will happen again.

After the collapse of Inoue, Jackyl finds himself leading the Reapers and shouldering the weight of the Guardians against his better judgment. Unfortunately, he already faces warnings of catastrophe as a dark force moves through the Reaper City of Niall.

With far too much to handle and a small boy in tow, he quickly stumbles into another perplexing conundrum—an imposter Akira. Jackyl forges ahead into the unknown as Mu falls apart. Feeling disparaged and frustrated, he struggles to overcome impossible hurdles with a handful of people he trusts. Even against all odds, he must succeed or the war for Mu will be lost and the Guardians will cease to be.

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS the fourth book in "Grims' Truth," a truly epic series that will sweep you into a whole new universe. [DRM-Free]

THE "GRIMS' TRUTH" SERIES BY YIN & YANG:

  • Book 1: The Spinner's Web
  • Book 2: Conundrum
  • Book 3: Chaos Theory
  • Book 4: Prince of Shadows
  • Book 5: Wiser [23 Aug 2021]
  • Book 6: Soul of a Doll [29 Nov 2021]
  • Book 7: Lightfoot [2 May 2022]
  • Book 8: Twice Fallen [12 Sep 2022]
  • Book 9: Gilded [28 Nov 2022]

MORE GREAT FANTASY BOOKS FROM EVOLVED PUBLISHING:

  • Shadow Swarm by D. Robert Pease
  • "The Sundered Oath" Series by Ciara Ballintyne
  • The "Essence of Ohr" Series by Parris Sheets
  • The "Hellbound" Series by William LJ Galaini
  • The "Stormbourne Chronicles" Series by Karissa Laurel

 

 

Released:
Nov 5, 2018
ISBN:
9781622538706
Format:
Book

About the author

For as long as we (Isu Yin & Fae Yang) can remember, we have been either plagued or blessed with dreams of the vast universe we call Euphoria. The fascination and devotion we share for these dreams, and all the people inside them, has driven our artistic visions for decades. We have studied photography, linguistics, graphic art, video editing, traditional art, and literature, all with the intent of sharing this massive story and vision. Though many obstacles may lie ahead, we look forward to embarking on this journey with whomever may find a vested interest in our work.

Book Preview

Prince of Shadows - Isu Yin

If I told you the truth, would you believe me? When you read the lines on these pages, will you sense the pain seeping through the ink? If only for a moment, hear me. I don’t plead, especially not to the ignorant.

Listen and learn, or suffer, as we have, to defend your kind.

In this age, we are ignorant of the ways of the Universe, thriving on the belief that we are the smartest, most cherished beings in existence. We have opened our eyes to new technology and closed our minds to the beliefs of the past. We have come to fear and chastise the darkness from whence we came, and thus, we have turned away from the truth of our existence.

This way of thinking will be our undoing, for the forces that stir in the darkness are soon to awaken and, when they do, the cold blackness of space will swallow us whole.

The villainy we seek to punish dwells within ourselves. It is the denial of a measly pawn set upon a chessboard. We have nurtured these delusions, hidden our misdeeds, and grown to believe the web of lies we’ve spun.

Time is an illusion, a mirage we created to escape our mistakes. Know well, we cannot hide forever, for we have left marks in space, and the ripples will creep in. Forget not that we are pawns, no more than disposables amongst a sea of luxury pieces.

There is a game to be won and, try as you might to escape your participation, you’re already playing.

Particles of blue and violet light floated out from the chasm to the Void. The glowing orbs outside the window sang like tiny bells.

Jackyl watched as Leon-Ru pressed his hands against the glass and waited for Akira to return, while the others sat on the two office sofas, thinking deeply about their predicament.

Besil, in his rare and most personal adult form, crossed one leg over the other. His wavy hair concealed part of his face, but the blue aura wafting around his form ebbed and flowed with the same burden exuded by his soul.

At times like this, silence said more than words.

Jackyl sat on the sofa opposite, his nose pressed to the fold between his hands. Neither he nor Besil had the energy or the heart to argue. Not now.

The events of the Capital battle lingered in Jackyl’s memory, especially the sight of the massive Grim unleashing the darkness that had swallowed the rivalling factions.

Akira had been sick for a long time and in no condition to partake in the battle over the Capital. His relationship with Besil hadn’t helped the miasma dissipate as much as expected. Anyone could sense the heaviness and ailment in the air whenever he was around. It could drive a person to madness.

Jackyl glanced at Besil and leaned forward, as if compelled by some invisible weight. There was no point in trying to atone for the past. It had been too long and, despite Besil’s attitude, he had likely moved on. They both felt guilty for the horrors that occurred in the Ethereal Realms long ago.

Everything that has happened, is happening, will happen again.

A stabbing pain struck Jackyl’s shoulder blades. He winced and reached back to press the tender spot. The pain reminded him of someone dear to him.

He looked at his gloved hands, wishing he could manipulate time, but also feeling grateful that he didn’t have the responsibility. His impulsiveness would have further disrupted the universal balance.

Besil turned his head a smidge and stared hard at Jackyl, his expression pleading rather than angry.

Jackyl pursed his lips on one side and averted his gaze. He preferred the usual glare to this horrific guilt. Anything was better than this.

Leon-Ru sat at the window nearly unnoticed until he peeked over his shoulder and stated, Mr. Fox is back.

The moment he finished his sentence, Besil shot up from the sofa and rushed to the office door.

Akira entered, pausing in the doorway with blatant rumination. Most of his face hid behind a red turtleneck sweater, making it difficult to read his expression. His eyes shifted momentarily back and forth, as they would when he pondered. Jax, come. Bes, you stay here.

Besil’s gaze followed Jackyl, at first with surprise, then dismay. Wh— But why?

Jackyl kept his head low as he passed by. He wanted to avoid, as much as possible, deepening the strain between himself and Besil. The tension often agitated his depression.

Besil gripped Jackyl by the arm and pulled him back. A spark seemed to pass between them, forewarning of a fight, but the glint in Besil’s eyes subsided and the pleading returned. Whatever happens, don’t leave his side.

Jackyl said nothing but averted his eyes again. If he walked away now, it would cause unnecessary friction, so he made a low hum of agreement before following Akira.

They traveled down the right side of the long outdoor hall, closest to the barracks. The dark sky droned above, causing the phantoms to vocalize as their luminescent forms slithered across the looming shadows.

Niall had always been comfortable for Jackyl. He felt safe in the darkness, and relieved by the faint light that seeped into the environment. However, at this moment, nothing soothed the storm raging inside—torn between his anxiety over Akira’s peculiar behavior and his rage at the people who had caused his friends and family pain.

Akira’s back appeared unusually small as he strode through the hall. His air of confidence had dispelled, leaving behind the shell of a person who had once held hope for the future.

Jackyl straggled along, watching carefully. This man had been responsible for a majority of his teachings, and his place in the Organization. The team had become his family.

At the end of the long corridor, they climbed three steps onto a platform and stood at the farthest edge of the chasm. They had often sat out and watched the phantoms together while discussing their next journey through time. This place held fond memories of the laughter they shared, and now, it also held Jackyl’s fear of the path ahead.

Flakes of miasma drifted away from Akira’s body and dissipated into the air. His gaze lingered on the phantoms with surreal, infelicitous tranquility. He’d sit and watch the phantoms at the end of every journey, as though waiting for something. This time, he reached into his pocket and handed Jackyl a journal bearing a gold embellishment of a sundial.

Jackyl scanned the black cover more closely. What’s this?

It’s a list. I need you to deliver that journal to the next Lord of Time, Akira said, keeping his eyes fixed ahead.

An echo of the past rippled through Jackyl’s memory, and the pain struck his back again. It sharpened as he breathed. You mean....

Akira exhaled deeply. It’s time.

What are you talking about? What would make you say that? The journal had been personal to Akira. He’d not allowed anyone to touch it—at least, not anyone living. Not anymore.

Akira hugged himself with one arm. I wanted to do something good, at least once. I wanted to stop the cycle, but did I even make a difference? A silent sigh left his body.

Jackyl slipped the journal into his pocket, his mind racing and failing to form a proper response. An unrelenting numbness set into his feet and lungs, as though he were sinking deep into some inescapable pit.

Akira pulled down his sweater and uncovered a feeble smile. I wonder if I will become like the phantoms, or if I can become the smoke by which you travel.

Jackyl shook his head as the pressure built inside his chest. A lump formed in his throat, and his vision blurred with tears, but he didn’t cry. He cried only when he had lost all hope. They had been walking the tightrope between life and death for a long time. This was just another day, another chapter in a long story.

Aki— Jackyl stretched out a shaking hand, and stopped as Akira spoke again.

I’m not upset. Finally, he faced Jackyl and his smile grew. I’m afraid. Large tears poured from his polychromatic eyes.

As Jackyl saw this, he remained frozen in place. All of his joints locked and his body shuddered. The pain from his back surged over him with a violent spiritual tremor.

Akira’s feigned smile broke. I don’t want to fade away. I’m afraid.

The world pulled away from Jackyl as he watched, petrified. He knew not if he should attempt to hold Akira’s spiritual energy together, or if he should embrace his friend.

Again... not again.

They had exchanged warnings of Akira’s demise for eons. He had been ill for so long, Jackyl had doubted the end would ever come. Seeing Akira as he did now, the reality of his friend’s plight struck Jackyl hard.

Akira was their leader, the founder of the Organization. He had guided the members through countless battles, joking even when matters seemed bleak. As he plodded along, he endured the criticism of all those around him, merely laughing in response.

Now, that same man stood at the chasm, crying towards the opening of the Void as if pleading to something or someone.

Jackyl reminded himself to breathe. At that critical moment, he lost all ability to think or act. His friend hurt so deeply, and he could do nothing to fix it.

Akira wiped away his tears with the back of his hand, and a light shone from the silver ring on his finger. Tell Bes I’m sorry. He curled up and buried his face in his hands. I can’t do this to him anymore. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for everything.

Jackyl reached towards Akira’s back. Don’t apologize. It’s okay. We always pull through, right? As his hand made contact, it passed through Akira’s body.

He pulled back, gasping.

Akira rose with a slight stumble and embraced Jackyl. Thank you for being my friend... even though you knew the truth.

You knew? Jackyl dispelled his shock. No. Don’t be ridiculous. You’re okay. It’s okay. We’ll be fine... just like always. He pushed Akira back carefully, pressing a hand against his friend’s face, relieved that it didn’t pass through as before. See? Still in one piece.

Another tear rolled down Akira’s face, but his pained expression waned and a flicker of relief shone in his eyes.

With the Eyes of the Abyss, Jackyl could still see the thick red haze pouring out of Akira’s body. This had been a constant occurrence since the mask broke off, certainly the cause of his distress and the odd leak of spiritual energy. If they could just find a way to seal it up again, he would recover.

I’m going to help you, he said. We’re going to find a way to make you better.

The remaining tension faded from Akira’s facial expression. Yeah. Okay.

Jackyl smiled. There was still time to make things right. Good. Now, let’s get you back to Bes before he skins me. He turned back towards the office, dragging Akira along by the corner of his sleeve, but Akira wouldn’t follow. Aki?

I’m really... so glad.

Jackyl frowned.

Akira had withdrawn his hand into his sleeve and pulled back gently to hold his wrist. Again, orbs of white light pulled off his body and floated into the air.

Jackyl’s hand lingered in the open air as he watched hundreds of these tiny lights fly away. He’d never seen anything like it.

Akira’s spiritual energy refused to stay within him. It flowed with unremitting persistence, and yet he kept composed. He slipped the ring from his finger and held it out. Take it. The journal and this ring are all that will remain of me.

Jackyl continued staring at his friend, Akira’s tears flowing freely with the harsh reality before him.

Jackyl!

He snapped from his stupor and looked at the silver ring. Taking it meant accepting Akira’s erasure as a reality. It meant accepting that they had failed yet again to protect their loved ones.

Please take it and return it to Bethshan. Make sure he knows I don’t regret staying beside him.

With this, Jackyl couldn’t refuse. As he opened his mouth to respond, Akira’s entire body burst into orbs of light and scattered across the shadows of Niall. The silver ring fell through the air and clinked against the path.

Jackyl’s mouth hung open as the ring first spun, and then fell still, where Akira had stood just moments before. After fighting an endless battle against time, the echoes had swept in and taken all but the ring and the journal.

Nothing else changed, not the scenery or the phantoms. The Universe and all its inhabitants continued on their path, unaware of Akira’s end.

An element of shock remained as Jackyl knelt down and retrieved the ring. Such a tiny object held the love, hope, and fears of his friend. It held memories of Akira’s journeys through time and the deep affections he had buried.

Jackyl followed the path back to the office, his ears ringing and the sky spinning.

When the office door opened, Besil blocked the path. Where is Akira?

Jackyl returned his gaze to the ring in his hand and held it out for Besil. The world began shifting back into place, forcing him back into the moment, to the realization of Akira’s demise.

Besil took the ring in two fingers, peered through the middle, and gripped Jackyl by the shirt. Where is he? Say something!

The answer echoed in Jackyl’s head, and reality struck him harder as he attempted to respond. His mouth shaped the words but only a heaving cry left his throat. The air left his lungs and he sank down against the doorframe.

"He’s... gone?" Besil must have known before Jackyl arrived because of his pact with Akira. Even so, he had wanted to ask. He wanted confirmation that his fears had been realized, and he had not been there with Akira as he faded from existence. His grip tightened around the ring and a sharp gasp left his lungs.

They all needed concrete proof that Akira had been erased, and that he would never again walk Euphoria.

Jackyl labored to breathe. It hurt worse with the throbbing from the mark on his back. This pain, or brand, reminded him of a lost promise and a deeply buried secret. He opened his arms out to Leon-Ru as the boy approached.

It’s okay, Leon-Ru said, patting Jackyl’s back. He’s not hurting anymore.

Jackyl pressed his hands against his face and cried. He hadn’t believed that Akira was going to disappear and, therefore, had done little to stop it.

Besil’s darkness grew with his anguish, until it enveloped his body. What will I do? He pressed his head against the wall, drew the ring to his chest, and balled-up as though to envelop it. "Bedad."

Jackyl closed his eyes tightly.

Again... I’ve failed to stop the cycle. How many people must die?

Jackyl slumped back on the sofa in the office, holding a wine bottle in one hand and Akira’s journal in the other.

At his side, Besil still cried within the comfort of his darkness, his eyes gleaming from the oozing haze.

Leon-Ru slept on the sofa across from them, covered by Jackyl’s trenchcoat.

The silence went on and on, each passing moment driving the pain deeper.

Jackyl drank from the bottle as he scanned the sundial embellished on the journal’s cover, then he rose from the cushion and slunk down the hall with the bottle dangling from his fingertips.

Besil followed, carrying Leon-Ru in his arms. He could have stayed, but perhaps he didn’t want to be alone.

Jackyl’s gaze trailed across the miasma-stained bed and empty desk. When he saw this, he tilted back the bottle and drank from it to choke back his tears. It didn’t help. The lump in his throat hurt twice as much as before.

He ran his fingers along the desk and examined the soot-like marks left on his skin. Few objects remained in the room, as though Akira had pre-planned his departure from their lives. The reminder of his illness hung in the air like ash scattering in the wind.

The journal left behind held all of his most important thoughts and plans, but its existence in the world suggested that someone else had written inside, as nothing that belonged to Ra Bedad remained.

Besil’s eyes widened. He imposed Leon-Ru upon Jackyl and sifted through the bookshelf, tossing numerous books to the side, until he dug out his blue photo album.

From over Besil’s shoulder, Jackyl spotted the photos of Akira, who hadn’t disappeared from the photos themselves but had become a distortion.

Besil flipped through each page and patted the photos while sobbing. Oftentimes, he displayed this album when Akira wasn’t around, claiming Akira as his love and pride.

Jackyl considered his own pain miniscule by comparison. He couldn’t compare his bond with Akira to the pact with Besil had with him, but he understood the depth of Besil’s pain and recalled something he had been avoiding.

Besil wrapped his arms around the album and clutched it to his chest as his darkness glided through the room. Pain provided strength for darkness elementals, so their loss only made them stronger.

Jackyl reflected on what Akira had said back at the chasm: I wonder if I can become the smoke by which you travel.

Akira may not have been able to become like the phantoms he admired, but he could certainly become the smoke of all the darkness elementals whose souls he had touched.

Jackyl glimpsed at the sundial again and pondered the existence of the journal. He peeked inside at the handwriting, and read Akira’s long, slated penmanship.

This journal contains a list of my regrets and mistakes on my journey through time. I can only hope that when you finally receive it, you will know what to do and avoid making the same blunders that I have.

During my lengthy and torturous plight, I have made many decisions based on my selfish desires. Sometimes this meant seeking vengeance, and sometimes it meant fulfilling a fleeting whim. In the end, I truly believe that I became a monster, as previously believed.

Please do not repeat this mistake. Do not lose your identity as I have lost mine.

When a person loses their way in time and space, it is easy to lose sight of memories and loved ones. This is where I begin my list. Please heed these instructions carefully.

One name dominated the center of the page—Besil. No surprise, really—Besil’s devotion had shaped the man they called Akira.

Jackyl closed the journal. If he read any further, he’d be trespassing. Akira had not intended for him to read it, only to find its rightful owner.

He left Akira’s room, returned Leon-Ru to the sofa in the office, and stood there for a time, watching the small boy.

How am I going to get around with this kid? I can’t trust the Reapers with him. Wiser? Is that a good idea?

The door creaked, and he glanced without moving his head. How did you know I was thinking about you?

I always know, Mayuri said, leaning against the doorframe. You haven’t been in contact.

I’ve been busy. Jackyl waved the wine bottle from side to side, then set it down on the table.

Mayuri plunked down onto the sofa next to Leon-Ru. So, this is their son. His facial expression turned to one of bafflement and realization. He looks like—

Jackyl spun his head sharply. Don’t say it. We don’t know what it could do.

Mayuri gazed back, seeming graven. And if it is him?

It’s painful to consider. We have enough to worry about now that we’ve lost Bedad. Our primary focus should be finding the next Lord of Time.

Mayuri exhaled, as though trying to expel something heavy from his chest.

Jackyl showed Mayuri the journal with the sundial. This journal is written in Akira’s handwriting, but everything else that belonged to him has vanished. Even the photos have been distorted. The paradox has caught up. The least we can do is fulfill his wish and get this journal to his successor.

Mayuri leaned forward and studied the journal without touching it. If that’s true, we must take great care with it. If we lose that journal, we lose everything.

Jackyl moved swiftly towards the built-in shelves behind the sofa, retrieving a large book with a black spine, and carried it back to the coffee table. He flipped it open, scanning the information recorded inside. Let’s think about this carefully then. Where should we begin our search?

Mayuri moved to the edge of the cushion and peeked at the book. Perhaps... the 7th Mortal Realm.

Jackyl had kept a notation of their actions and decisions in their journeys throughout time. His finger followed the words as he reviewed the details of their experiences.

Akira based his entire way of living off the concept of fractures, to which he owed his existence.

Inside the journal, Jackyl had written down Akira’s explanation of this phenomenon. He skimmed the information briefly in search of a hint or reprieve.

The Mirror of Space and Time reflects all the events that construct our vast Universe. When Akira stepped inside the Hall of Eternity, the mirror shattered. He said that when he rebuilt it, he used the fragments to create a new pattern.

This new pattern was designed like a collection of snowflakes, each different and comprised of smaller fragments—fractures.

According to him, a fracture occurs when a powerful soul shatters and creates paradoxes in space-time. He built this New World concept around fractures, and spiritually traveled across the Universe to pick out the most favorable solutions.

However, he feared that if he were to perish, the New World he built would collapse along with him. His ability to conjure and manipulate time has permitted him to seal off these timelines into loops. If broken, they will fall apart, so they must be handled delicately.

He works hard not to cause ripples in his design, therefore refuses to speak to anyone about what he knows. That said, only a Lord of Time can manipulate the variables as needed. Either that, or we require someone else with the Eyes of the Universe.

Jackyl leaned against his hand and sighed. We might have to travel numerous fractures until we can find the next Lord of Time, but we don’t have enough worlds for that kind of gamble.

No matter what, Mayuri said, we must hide the fact that he has died.

Jackyl’s heart jerked. Hide it?

If anyone learns of this... our balance will collapse. We must give the journal to its owner and continue the cycle.

Jackyl scowled, considering the insult they would be dealing to their lost leader. And what... make everyone believe that Akira is still alive?

Don’t give me that cold look. If we don’t do this, his death will have been in vain. We must quickly pass on his wishes.

Jackyl ran a hand over his face. He hadn’t prepared for Akira’s death, not emotionally or strategically. His memories held answers to things that had happened and would happen, and this left him unsure of what to do. Who do I give it to?

Mayuri opened his hands to each side. Isn’t it obvious? Leoht.

Jackyl hung his head with a small shake. Is that really the right thing to do? I’m supposed to give this to the next Lord of Time. If I accidentally give this to the Lord of Chaos instead, we could destroy everything that Bedad set out to accomplish.

What else could you possibly do?

Jackyl’s gaze traveled to Leon-Ru.

Mayuri trailed Jackyl’s gaze to Leon-Ru and nodded. I’ve always found you difficult to understand, but I can sense your thoughts this time.

If my suspicions are true, then it should be obvious who the next Lord of Time is. Although Jackyl said this, he wanted to refute it. The loss of Akira dug into him like a tick burrowing under the skin. One side of him grieved, and the other was irritated by the team’s necessity to wash over the incident.

Akira’s fear, and the sensation of his cold hands, lingered in Jackyl’s memory and being. No one else had seen it, so he understood how they could push it—him—to the back of their minds.

Mayuri often appeared calm on the outside. It would be best to pursue both Leon and Leoht until we know for certain. Everything is at stake. It’s better to be cautious than reckless.

Jackyl closed the large journal and placed it back on the shelf. Regardless, we must move quickly to uncover the answer. I must see the Oracle for guidance. For now, it is my duty to watch over Leon, and only you know where Leoht has gone. We can’t afford to fail again. We’re out of time.

He gently rested a hand over his heart. A deep-rooted anxiety forewarned of an approaching storm. He only wished he knew what it meant.

Mayuri rose from the sofa and exited after giving a final blessing. May we travel safely.

Jackyl trekked up the low stairways of the Reaper City, passed the stone buildings, and proceeded towards a white structure known as the Temple of Enlightenment, which towered in the distance. It stretched so high into the sky that, even if one tilted their head back, they couldn’t see the top.

His shoulders ached as he approached the massive opening of the Temple. The weight of his guilt perched upon them, whispering reminders of his mistakes. He walked briskly past the servants that traveled the hallways. Each bowed, but he was distracted by the etchings on the walls—messages inscribed in the Language of Ages, remnants of all the spiritual leaders who once lived in the Temple.

Far across the Temple, Myrna stood guard outside a pair of golden doors. She bowed her head to Jackyl and pressed a hand against one of the doors. Ianthe is waiting for you.

Of course, he said, stepping through the doorway as Myrna allowed him passage.

Rows of pillars reinforced the aisle that led to Ianthe’s platform. Water poured through the carvings in the floor and down each side of the path, which glowed around her in a blue light.

She opened her eyes as a drop of water fell and splashed into the stream that passed through her platform. She always submerged herself within the water to maintain her flow of spiritual energy, or ether. Her robes of anima stored this ether for later use.

Ianthe’s eyes had grown accustomed to the Realm of the Spirits. She had sacrificed her vision, but she could still see Jackyl’s aura and sense his presence. I perceive that you understand Lord Akira’s reason for finding me. He waited a long time to find another Oracle. There wasn’t much time for him to secure me here.

Jackyl’s eye twitched. He disliked thinking that Akira had known about his demise. It left a bad taste in his mouth.

If not for Besil retrieving Ianthe, they likely would have lost another Oracle. They wouldn’t have been able to replace her easily—Oracles had been increasingly scarce.

Now we have time to plan and fill the spot left in his absence, Ianthe said. He is gone, and someone must step up to ensure the Balance doesn’t collapse. I believe he placed this faith in you.

I’ve done nothing to help him. Why would he entrust the Balance to me?

"Because, aside from Bes, you were his closest friend. I gather that Besil will not have the strength to press forward now that Akira has gone. In order for him to return to his full strength—no—to

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