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Wiser: Grims' Truth, #5

Wiser: Grims' Truth, #5

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Wiser: Grims' Truth, #5

Length:
451 pages
6 hours
Released:
Aug 23, 2021
ISBN:
9781622538720
Format:
Book

Description

Mayuri is broken and lost, as everything he once believed in is fading into the mists of time. Torn between loyalty and fear, he embarks on a mission to commit one of the most egregious crimes in the history of the Universe.

Know this: everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen again.

Mayuri hopes for a better future, but the only way forward is to deceive those he cares for most. He must discover the culprit behind the Decimation of the Messengers before the killer finds him, but he slips into a sea of darkness, where deceit and lies prevail, drowning him in a battle of illusion. Only a new and questionable Akira seems to offer any hope for survival in this broken world for Mayuri, as he masquerades as the Doll known as Wiser.

As he and the other Guardians play a deadly game of cat and mouse, Mayuri must wait for the dust to settle before discovering if his plan truly is Wiser.

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS the fifth 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
  • 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:
Aug 23, 2021
ISBN:
9781622538720
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

Wiser - Isu Yin

The world we see is shrouded in darkness. In our blindness, we are captives of our personal trials, every one of us facing the demons that await us in dark. Countless roads stretch out from a solitary path—some beckoning a possible journey—others beckoning an end.

You can choose an easy road to tread—one that many have taken before you. You will not reap great rewards but, if you are lucky, you can avoid looking into the Abyss to see what is staring back.

The road I chose to walk was a difficult one. I chose the road of uncertainty, a road wrought with echoes of the Void and terrors that howled in the darkness. Yet, I chose to hope. Do not think me noble—I also chose to hate, because what you see when you look into your own darkness will alter the very fabric of your being forever.

I chose to start a war... and in a way, I did just that.

The distant, blurring lights of Yuikimori City twinkled below the apartment complex where Mayuri stayed. He sat in his office with his back pressed firmly to his black leather chair, as though it would ease the burden of the decision that circumstances had forced him to make. His shirt stuck to it uncomfortably.

Papers buried the desk before him, with documents from the Council overlapping reports from the Reapers and parchments of the Grims. With Jackyl and the new Akira running the Colloquium, the workload had been piling up. Mayuri sometimes questioned whether it was a good idea to have two negative forces in charge of such a large number of influential souls. They’d already made many mistakes, thanks to the hot tempers and unstable emotional states of the Organization’s leaders. He wondered if they could ever accomplish the goals they’d set out for themselves.

He turned his chair slightly and gazed out of the window that overlooked the mortal city bustling below. They referred to this as the 7th Mortal Realm, to most a world that never truly existed. He found solace in the mundane lives of the Mortals, their problems so miniscule by comparison. In some regard, he had a duty to watch over them, as instructed by the Grandmaster, but he found it difficult when the Ethereal Realms roiled in such disarray.

On one hand, he loved the human beings and all their flaws, and on the other, he found them oblivious and offensive to those suffering around them. How could an entire breed of beings be so unaware of the forces driving their existence? They believed in God but hadn’t the faintest idea of what that meant or the origin of their beliefs.

Mayuri sighed. These truths often, and too easily, preoccupied him. Not a bad thing right now, perhaps, as it helped him focus on something other than the death of Bedad and the Chaos now shaking the world of the Organization, and all those entrapped within the madness they called the Game.

If not for the Game, this 7th Mortal Realm never would have existed. Even so, it barely clung to the fabric of time and space. Everyone inside this rift would someday cease to be... if they ever truly existed to begin with.

It was all a trial, even the world itself. He had set up a school to train potential Guardians, and had even gone as far as to recruit several promising members, but the flood of requests coming from Niall grew increasingly impossible to manage.

Mayuri pushed up his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. This is the first ring of hell. Oh, Sheh, what a beast you’ve made.

Everything in his world felt convoluted. The past, present, and future lay on his desk in a heap of clutter, much like the burden he carried. If only he’d stopped it when he had the chance, he could have vastly altered the results of the struggle.

He closed his eyes, trying his best to close out the bloodshed and utter pandemonium that struck the Beyond so long ago, but the old wound surfaced no matter how many times he forced it back down. His panic about the present dug up these Echoes of the past, like a dust storm from which he could never escape.

Memories of his peers flashed before him, lining the aisle before the crystal Throne of the Universe. He saw these people as family. They’d embraced every one of the Grandmaster’s trials together since childhood, and yet he’d done nothing to stop their demise. He couldn’t do anything.

He could only watch as his fellow Messengers and their Master disappeared without a trace. They all possessed the strength to stand beside the Grandmaster, even surpassing the ability of the Lords in spiritual energy and wisdom. For precisely this reason, he knew that only a pair or individual from the Messengers themselves could have committed such a grand scale crime.

As the images flooded his vision, he braced against a horrid ache, gasping and holding his throbbing head. Miasma lingered around his body, reminding him of the recent visit from their newest Akira; already, the man brought devastation wherever he went. This gave Mayuri little hope for their future goal of returning the Balance, but he had few confidants to whom he could express such misgivings.

The memory of the Grandmaster and his Messengers reminded him of those remaining after the attack. Other than himself and his Bound, few still lived who carried the grief and the burden of the wrongs committed that day. One of them, if not two, also bore the weight of their crime against the Messengers.

For this reason, he remained hidden behind the guise of the Doll known as Wiser. The crime perpetrated in the Beyond made the matters in Mu seem trivial, and it fully explained Bedad’s hatred of the oblivious mortals wrapped up in this universal scheme.

Every day, Mayuri faced the threat of discovery. Now, with the loss of Bedad, he would also need to step forward and risk exposure, just like the children and peers before him.

The haunting path of a Guardian meant servitude and suffering. The mess of variables and possibilities tormented him, and yet it was exactly what he wanted.

He took one last heavy sigh before he could cope, and reviewed the material again. Behind the endless applications from potential Guardians, he found notations on his new portal and his plans for future action against the Council. He sifted through the papers, reading line after line and committing everything to memory. The Organization’s success relied on the team’s ability to collect reliable resources, and doing so required reliability, which Reapers lacked despite their many wondrous traits.

Mayuri’s determination blazed as he faced the desperate odds that arose after losing Bedad, Barloc, and one-half of Fate to the battle over the Capital. They mourned the loss of three of the Lords they needed to win the Game. If the Organization intended to continue, they needed to win the next battle.

He pressed his fingers to his forehead, trying to ease the pain. With another long, slow inhale, he shed the suffocating stress.

The Organization must stop the Council—at any cost.

The battle had already cost them the Capital, but as much as their losses pained him, he pressed onward, reminding himself that no matter how much he grieved, he could not recover what had been lost without embracing the future. He needed to focus on the battle for Tir Na Nog.

Still, try as he might to escape, his thoughts returned to the events that led to the fall of Beyond. He fought the despair, removing his glasses and resting his head heavily into his hands. The heartache was too great. Tears welled in his eyes. If only he had been able to save the children.

The miasma is going to be the death of me. No, this new Akira is going to be the death of me.

A knock at the door forced him to withdraw from his emotions. He instantly feigned a smile, collected the glasses from the desk, and popped them onto his face. Glasses were to Mayuri the equivalent of the Reaper’s masks, a sheer disguise against the pain he sought to bury. He wore them to remind himself of when he should endure. This may have been his fascination with the Reapers, for behind every mask hid a story to uncover. As a protector of life and creation, he wished to discover the stories of every soul he encountered.

When the door opened, a Reaper in a tiger mask entered the room. He stood, tall and lean, waiting for the opportune moment to speak.

Mayuri watched as the Reaper studied him and awkwardly tucked back the light hair that swept across the side of his mask. He had not expected word from Niall, which was strange, because he was seldom surprised.

Once the Reaper considered the timing appropriate, he spoke softly. Sorry to trouble you, Wiser.

The name Wiser sounded foreign, even though he’d been using it since the Council sentenced him to erasure. In the end, he preferred discomfort to expunction.

Jackyl had done well using the name and spreading the habit across Niall. From there, it passed into Mu, providing a solid cover for Mayuri’s illusion of Wiser.

He should have been thankful for his existence, yet it felt more like a prison and less like a fresh start.

His attention finally returned to the fretful Reaper standing in his doorway. In his most frivolous voice, Mayuri replied. Don’t be silly. I always have time for the young and lovely.

The Reaper shifted the collar of his black coat and averted his eyes.

Perfect. Better to be embarrassed and uncomfortable around me than observant.

Mayuri grinned. So, what brings you to Sclera, my dear beautiful boy?

A summons, Wiser.

He maintained his welcoming expression despite the gravity of the situation placed before him. Every time the Grims summoned him, it implied a matter of great import.

With a quick nod, he stood and collected his jacket from the closet by the entrance hall. Inform them that I will leave immediately.

The Reaper bowed and vanished into a cloud of black smoke.

Always so polite. Mayuri smiled as he tossed on his jacket and left his room. Reapers have style.

He hurried down the hall to a vast white chamber. Everything within the confines gleamed just as he liked. This project would be his second chance at success, the one thing of beauty that had emerged from his mess of failures.

He drew in the air. Merely standing inside the chamber purified him. He slowed his stride and approached the panel, where he gently ran his fingers over the smooth, metal buttons and dials. Let’s change things, shall we?

A man’s voice arose from behind. Do you often talk to yourself?

Mayuri turned to a figure in green Council robes standing in the doorway. Even if he’d been blind, the man’s familiar honey-sweet scent would have divulged his identity.

Mayuri called him by name. Haylel, always good to see you. Strangely, he actually meant the words. Of all the Council members, Haylel was the only one he could tolerate, let alone call a friend. If not for Haylel, they would have erased Shehariah, making it impossible for Mayuri to repent for his mistakes.

Haylel crossed the threshold and extended his arms with a broad smile.

Mayuri embraced him warmly.

Something about Haylel comforted him. Perhaps all the hardships they’d both endured reminded him that he was not alone. He stood back to get a good look at his friend.

Haylel had always been a strikingly handsome fellow. His never-changing face brought back a hint of nostalgia, but the light in his eyes seemed to have faded a bit. Time had not been kind to either of them.

Mayuri jested while scooping up his friend’s long, brown hair. I thought you were going to get rid of this.

Haylel scanned the chamber with his verdant eyes. Never. It is part of my charm. You may have turned your back on the old ways, my friend, but I will stand by them until I end.

Says the man who broke every rule there was and then went back in time to do it again. Lie to someone else.

Haylel flashed a devilish smile. You know me too well.

Mayuri’s heart swelled before his friend. He could trust so few, so he needed to hold on tightly to those he could. I really can’t thank you enough for helping with—

Haylel stopped him with a raised hand, and the smile faded from his face as darkness washed over him again. I am not here to speak about that, friend. That is for another time, and we have yet to pay for our actions.

Mayuri nodded, knowing of the many risks his friend had taken to do the right thing when faced with horrific odds.

Haylel continued. "You have really done it this time. You are already pushing so many boundaries. It is only a matter of time before they find out that you are... well, you. There are only so many master illusionists to go around, my friend. Keep this up and they will find you, and then they will inform the Watchers."

There’s room to move. It’ll take some time before they figure out I’m alive.

I hope for your sake that you are right... and my sake, for that matter. Do you not think of your Bound?

Mayuri snapped, You know I do! He remembered the attack on the Messengers again, and a chill raced down his spine. His Bound would also be at risk. If any of the other remaining Messengers discovered that they still lived, they would most likely be murdered—or worse, erased.

Haylel heaved the weighted breath from his lungs. They are still in an uproar about that stunt Jackyl pulled in Niall. You should have stayed out of that. What were you thinking? Sisera? That leaves only me to open portals. She did not need to be well-liked to be missed.

I was thinking they murdered Akira.

Please, Mayuri, the Universe was done with him. As unpleasant as it is, we cannot fight the truth. You know as well as I that no one can intervene where the Universe is concerned. Those who do are erased. Do you really think that the Council would have a hand in such matters? We follow the laws... just like you are supposed to.

That’s what concerns me, friend. The orders make less sense by the day. They should have never committed that crime.

That crime? Haylel hesitated for a moment, as he tried to recall the crime in question. His eyes grew wide and he pointed at Mayuri. You mean Sheh. She crossed the line, and you know it. Iblis had been established as the mate of the next Grandmaster, and Sheh intervened. She broke the law—not just any, but one of the highest.

Please! Iblis was never particularly clever or charming. She was a good, sweet child, sure, but she was never meant for him. I raised the boy more so than anyone. He could barely tolerate her. He could barely tolerate anyone, and if you really want to pull apart the details, he was intended for Fenix and rejected him too. Where were you during all of this, old friend? You can’t act like you didn’t notice.

Haylel disputed. I am not blind, Mayuri. I am not the one who ventured into the Void.

Charming.

You do not like the truth.

I’m afraid it’s not me who won’t see reason this time. I understand, believe me. I didn’t want to see it either, but it is what it is, and I won’t hide behind the Council’s rule any longer.

No, you will have them slaughtered.

Damn it, Haylel, you know that’s not true. It has never been my intention to harm. It’s not my nature.

So, you were not there?

Mayuri growled, trying desperately to expel the building tension in his body. Haylel was a reasonable man and a good friend; the fact they were arguing proved the world was in disarray.

Mayuri had known that Jackyl’s transgressions would stir trouble, as they often did. No matter how he’d tried to stop the boy, Mayuri’s efforts had been futile. I tried to stop him, but you know how he is.

Haylel clenched his jaw and swallowed hard. "Yes, he does make things very difficult to manage. The two of them always complicated matters. You are too close to this... to them."

And you are too close to Isis and the Council. Can you control what they do?

I am managing the situation as best I am able.

Isis tried to murder Hero and Fate. In fact, she is rather proud of her actions.

She feels very strongly about the Tainted. Can you blame her? You know how many deaths they are responsible for.

I could say the same for Isis, and she doesn’t have miasma poisoning.

Haylel shook his head slightly. You underestimate her, friend. She has already accomplished a great many things.

Too many. That is exactly what concerns me. She means to make herself High Queen of Mu.

The Council cannot leave Mu unattended. With the tragic death of Heqet, the rule falls to Khnum, but in his grief, he wishes only to return to Thule.

Mayuri laughed in a pained and mocking manner. Grief? Ha, that man has no soul to grieve with. He had no love for Heqet. He wants power, as does Isis, which is exactly why they played us all the way they did.

This is not a game, Mayuri.

Funny, it seems that the Universe believes it is, and it keeps urging us to play. How long can we really stand aside without participating?

Haylel avoided Mayuri’s simple truth by redirecting his attention to the machine. He walked to it and ran his fingertips over the smooth surface. The Council is having a meeting right now about this device of yours.

What of it? Mayuri followed Haylel, wondering if his friend saw the brilliance in its design.

Haylel most likely saw it as a weapon, while Mayuri saw it as a new breath of hope. That’s why he wanted it white and shiny. The buttons glowed in a stunning array of colors. His machine was a representation of the New World.

Haylel drew his mouth to one side. In his eyes shone a plea for hope. Please, tell me you have something for me to return with. They mean to erase you for treason. Again, only as someone else. I do not think I could bear to lose another friend.

Treason? Ha. Those idiots.

This is not a laughing matter. Have you not learned from the events of Mu? When is it enough? You have suffered too long. It is time to stop.

Mayuri cleaned a smudge from the white panel with his sleeve. That’s why I built it.

"You really want an all-out war? You are one man! One man against an Empire and the Council? You saw what happened to Shehariah."

Mayuri put his hand up. Don’t say it.

Haylel bit his tongue but his eyes still pleaded for reason.

Mayuri chuckled. They are idiots because they jump to conclusions. I guess that makes you one too.

Haylel said nothing. He simply twisted his head to the side and gave Mayuri a sideways glance.

Once again, Mayuri spoke. This machine is for Isis.

Haylel’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open.

Oh, don’t look so surprised. I imagine it will serve her quite well. So, the Council should have no complaints, and definitely should be thanking me instead of holding a trial in my honor. To think... a world without me.... What a travesty.

Haylel narrowed his eyes. Did you know I was coming?

How could I possibly know such a thing? Does the Council announce your departures and arrivals?

Huh. You are up to something, friend, as you always are, but I am truly thankful that you have the foresight to secure your well-being. This could be the first step to a safe return. You know I will help in any way I can.

Mayuri smiled, knowing that Haylel would only deliver the pertinent information, omitting his own feelings and inklings. For this, Mayuri remained ever thankful. I always secure the well-being of those I care for, more than my own. You know this of me already.

I do. This is why we are friends. You are a good person. We seem to be in short supply of those these days. Haylel’s thoughts drifted to an unknown place, his eyes fixing on something dark and distant. This habit always revealed the oldest souls—the most haunted.

Mayuri put a hand on Haylel’s shoulder. As are you. If only because of us two, a world of hope remains possible.

Haylel returned Mayuri’s grip. Fortunately, we are not the last. I will send you reinforcements. Fear not, the Balance may still prevail. For now, I must return with your response. We will still have to present you as the Wiser, as you well know, but there will be a time to announce your return. Of course, I will put in a good word, for what it is worth.

With that hair, anything is possible.

You think you are funny.

I am! He retorted as Haylel exited through a portal.

For a moment, Mayuri remained in thought, the space deep within his mind dark and empty. Nothing but the sound of his breathing and heartbeat resonated in him. His fear of the unknown had always been his biggest hurdle, and facing it left his mind blank. Curiously, this phenomenon made him understand Jackyl and Akira a bit more.

He held his hand over his pounding heart and fixed his eyes onto the spot where Haylel had been. No going back now, he said aloud, hoping to convince himself.

Mayuri glanced over his shoulder at the machine as though it would give him courage to face his next step into the unknown. With so much happening in the present, he lacked time to lament the past.

He opened a new portal to Niall. Moving through space-time had lost its meaning after ages of jumping, but he lingered to admire the shimmer and hum of the dark mass—yet another reason he felt grateful to Shehariah. Her wisdom still rested with him; he forced himself to stop every so often and admire the things that most people took for granted.

It concerned him that Shehariah had been on his mind so much. Something ate at him, but he hadn’t time to consider such matters. He remained focused on Sclera and the Colloquium, who needed to take their next step. Their joint efforts were the only thing stopping the collapse of the Mortal Realms.

The Organization needed to succeed for the Grandmaster’s vision to be recognized.

Mayuri stepped through the portal and set foot down just outside Niall. The familiar musky scent of the Abyss tickled his nose. The rustle of creatures scurrying in the darkness behind him caught his ear. He didn’t bother to turn around, for the harmony in Niall was like no other, a stillness resounded here. Not to say it was inactive, for it bustled with life and activity, yet the air always hung inert, regardless of whether or not a breeze blew. He often wondered if it was a state of death, a place not of the Mortal Realms and not of the Ethereal.

The Grims kept their practices secretive, and the Council wanted to help keep it that way. Since the fall of Nex, the Council had grown more brazen in their efforts to bury the past, and the Grims were nothing if not a reminder of that past.

Niall had grown since Mayuri’s last visit. The massive city astounded him. Tiny glowing orbs rose from the ground and drifted upward into the crystal stalactites far above. The combination of the two appeared much like the vastness of space. He marveled at how it could be—simultaneously—so silent and still, yet so full of life and motion.

Niall rang of a long-forgotten dream, the air filled with ringing. It reminded him of Shehariah’s creations, a crystal instrument made up of thousands of tiny bells. The mere thought of her caused a shudder in his soul. Guilt gnawed at his insides. The memory of her haunted him too consistently for comfort.

Is this your doing? Are you still reaching out of the darkness?

He entered the city through the gates and bypassed the Reapers’ watchful eyes. Their animal masks and cloaks of darkness gave them an ominous presence to visitors but, to him, they were just children, displaced in a needless war—orphans and misfits with no home or family but Niall. At least they’d found a safe haven here, and by the look of it, it grew safer by the turn.

More Reapers appeared in wisps of black smoke to watch Mayuri. He found it strange that the Colloquium was sister to Sclera, and yet the Reapers seemed more distant from him than ever before. The implications of a storm unsettled him. Every now and then, he could sense the echoes in the Universe forewarning of catastrophe.

He approached the steps of the Temple of the Damned, staring down towards the underground entrance. Paranoia set in and the rattle of anxiety wracked him as he descended. Once he saw Jackyl’s familiar face, however, the feeling numbed.

He marveled at Jackyl’s ability to dismiss protocol, and said, You just can’t get used to the mask, huh?

Jackyl smiled brightly, tapping the mask he had used to hold the hair out of his eyes. And hide this beautiful face?

By all that is, no. It would be a crime!

Agreed, he said, throwing his arm over Mayuri’s shoulder.

Your numbers have increased considerably.

They entered the temple and strolled through the entryway towards the main chamber. The dimly lit passages emitted a gritty crunching beneath their shoes as they drew closer to the Containment Room at the heart of the building.

Jackyl boasted. What can I say? I have that effect on people.

Mayuri laughed despite the heaviness in his lungs and chest. Is that so? Perhaps I’ll join your little team too.

Jackyl poked Mayuri’s cheek. Don’t be a tease. He swung open the doors with a bang. They had reached the passage before the Containment Room, greeted by three or four Reapers in skull masks, the highest classification, S Rank.

Mayuri cringed at Jackyl’s level of disrespect. He had always wondered why Bildad made the Daeleris so different from everyone else, but no one could really question the Grandmaster’s decisions, not even his trusted advisor.

Jackyl’s frequent disregard for formalities had earned him a bad reputation with his elders. He had been this way since the beginning of time, but no one knew why.

The Reapers never seemed to pay it mind. One of them, a woman in a cervine skull mask, even bowed her head to Jackyl after his entry.

Mayuri bowed to the Reapers, quickly trying to separate himself from his friend’s actions. He knew the Reaper woman as Shaerlin, someone as old as himself and his fellow Messengers. Although he wondered why she bothered continuing her esteem of Jackyl, he kept his thoughts to himself to avoid being rude.

Jackyl tugged him along again without responding to the Reaper’s greeting.

It had been ages since the Grims last summoned Mayuri, and he sweated as he pondered the reason behind the visit. His gaze traced Jackyl’s face, finding him unaffected in this moment of tremendous import.

What is wrong with him?

He shook the thoughts from his mind, reminding himself of the Watcher’s Seals. No one deserved such disdain. He swore to control negative thoughts, to prevent such injustices from occurring again.

Jackyl was a good man—terrifying at times, but good, nevertheless.

The room filled with smoke, and thirteen Grims appeared before Jackyl and Mayuri, their cloaks wafting through the air and forming around their colossal skeleton forms. They loomed several heads taller than he or Jackyl, their shining skulls and dark sockets full of mystery and grace.

He admired them more and more every time he saw their display. The magnitude of their life force astounded him. He felt the surge of energy just by standing in the presence of the majestic creatures. They made him miss the Beyond, the Mortal Realms being garish and crude by comparison. He envied the Grims’ decision to separate from those realms, and their ability to remain whole and unscathed. He had been wallowing amongst the Rahma long enough to acquire a stench, which he hadn’t really noticed or cared about until that moment.

Mortals often fancied themselves as the new order. They were full of their own glory in spite of their horrific display of brutality towards the balance, as often happened with newer breeds. They appeared blissfully, grossly unaware of their own shortcomings.

The Council mirrored this most distasteful quality of new breeds.

As he reflected on this, he continued to admire the Grims.

One of them spoke in a deep, hollow rumble. Thank you for heeding our request.

He always found it difficult to tell which Grim was speaking, but in truth, it didn’t really matter since they were of one mind. Mayuri bowed his head again, this time to the Grim. It is my great honor to be summoned. He’d always admired, and tried to emulate, their courteous ways. Ages had passed but his reverence for them remained.

The Grims had caught his attention while he was still in the Beyond, and that attention had blossomed into fascination, which bordered on obsession. Their ways differed from those in the Beyond and it caused a great rift, one so great that it had created the in-between Realm aptly referred to as the Rift. It seemed like fate for the Organization to build their base in such a place.

The Rift held a tremendous curiosity for him. He wondered if they’d named it because of their differences, or if they just didn’t know what else to call a huge tear in space-time. In the end, he owed the Grims much for their knowledge and their willingness to share it. Unfortunate circumstance made it difficult to find the time to ask such questions.

Jackyl patted Mayuri’s chest with the back of his hand. I can see your mind racing, Wiser. Keep your focus.

Easy for you to say.

The Grim resumed, overlooking the interjections. We have called you here for a matter of great importance.

Mayuri thought of the few times the honorable Grims had summoned him. Sadly, the circumstances usually meant something had gone amiss. I did not think you would have called upon me otherwise.

Please follow.

Their ambiguity piqued his curiosity. He thought of two reasons for a summons, the first being a pact, but their power vastly exceeded his own so this seemed illogical. The second reason he thought of seemed too frightening to confront. His stomach churned and his teeth ached merely considering it.

Shehariah had been on his mind of late, more so than usual. The Watchers had broken her completely, and the sound of her anguish reverberated in his mind, bringing tears to his eyes. He needed to keep his emotions together, but his soul wavered. He worked hard to control it, as best he could, to elude the Grims’ concern.

He pushed the memory from his mind and followed the

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