The Iron-Jawed Boy and the Hand of the Moon (Book 2, Sky Guardian Chronicles)

BOOK: The Iron-Jawed Boy and the Hand of the Moon (Book 2, Sky Guardian Chronicles)
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The Iron-Jawed Boy

and the

Hand of the Moon

 

 

 

The Sky Guardian Chronicles

_____________

Book Two

 

Nikolas Lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents, either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

THE IRON-JAWED BOY AND THE HAND OF THE MOON

All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 by Nikolas Lee

Cover art by
Damonza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Melissa, whose current and future contribution to this series has truly been invaluable.

 

CHAPTER ONE

ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE SUN

With a breath of wind beneath his feet, Ionikus Reaves leapt through the air, landing quietly on a rooftop twenty feet away. He leapt again and again, from rooftop to rooftop, each landing as quiet and graceful as the last. Just as he’d been taught.

Tonight, he patrolled the West Ward of Protea, his eyes and ears on high alert as he bounded through the city. He passed the towering marble walls of the Great Library and weaved through a maze of chimneys. He stopped beside the West Ward’s central bathhouse, where the air smelled of lavender from the steamy pools of the baths below. Ion breathed deep. Knelt. Then watched.

Below, the streets of Protea—capital of the Isle of Eldanar—flickered with the light of their floating torches. The doors to the villas surrounding the bathhouse were forged of gold, as were most doors in the West Ward, and looked to be on fire from the light of the torches dancing upon them. There wasn’t a soul to be found in the streets this night, but that wasn’t surprising. Ion looked up at the sky, drawing his gaze over the blanket of glimmering stars and the few red dots Father had said were distant planets named after the Gods of Old.

The Moon was nowhere to be seen. In fact, it had been a whole month since anyone had seen it at all.

It was up there, somewhere. But at the same time, it was not. The Moon had been forced onto another plane—one even the mighty gods of Illyria couldn’t see or reach. Forced by the loss of its god...
Vinya
, the Illyrian responsible for bringing the Moon into this realm. Her death and the absence of the Moon had disrupted the war between good and evil, the war known as the Balance. And
that
was what brought Ion to the rooftops of Protea.

For the better part of June, he’d been watching over Protea every night. More particularly, the West Ward—the wealthiest part of the city. With the Balance distraught by the loss of the Moon, those who would not ordinarily steal were stealing. Those who would not ordinarily kill were killing. And it was Ion and his three fellow Guardians who’d been tasked with the prevention of such crimes.

Ion had only recently finished his first year of Guardian training at the Achaean Academy—an institute set atop the Acropolis in the heart of Protea—but the first rule he’d learned as a Guardian wasn’t a difficult one to remember: Guardians serve the Illyrians. So when Skylord Othum, the King of the Illyrian gods, orders you to keep watch over the city, you keep watch over the city. Ion owed Othum that much. The Skylord was definitely madder than any god in control of the world’s weather should be. But despite his mild insanity, Ion was thankful for what the Illyrian had taught him.

Ion sat, his fingers tight around the cold iron of the Omnus Staff he’d carried with him every day since it’d become his a month ago. It was a slender staff, crested by a mighty iron griffon with long, pointed wings aimed toward the stars. It brought a special sort of warmth to his hands, and to the equally raw and unpolished metal that swept across Ion’s jaw and chin.

Ion sat still as ever. Waiting, listening.

Ba-bump. Ba-bump
. The heartbeat of the staff throbbed in his hand.

The Omnus Staff was the brother to Ion’s jaw—both filled with the blood of the Triplet Omnus, one of the first three gods, fallen and long forgotten. Ion placed his fingers upon the metal of his chin, where the engraving of a pyramid of eyes awaited—the symbol of being a child of Omnus, of Ion’s Connection Seal being complete. Only, Ion wasn’t a child of Omnus and he wasn’t supposed to have a Seal. They were ancient relics shared by the gods of Illyria and the Old Gods that had come before them. Ancient relics that differed with each bloodline, but that helped to control a god’s mighty powers. Ion was no Illyrian, no child of the Triplet Omnus who’d come long before them. Yet, why he’d been chosen to bear the Seal of such a god still remained a mystery, even to the one who’d given it to him.

Father had attached it with magic about a year or so ago, when he and the other Callers of the island—humans who could manipulate nature—were drafted into the war outside the Isle of Eldanar. They’d been sent to fight the armies of the Outerworld humans whose forces had been empowered with technology stolen from the gods. Father had been convinced by only a voice to attach the jaw—that it would protect his son from the dangers that were to come. But ever since the draft, Ion had been the Iron-Jawed Boy, and from day one, he’d hated it. It wasn’t until Othum had taught him the power of his difference that Ion realized his jaw wasn’t so horrible after all. If only this discovery hadn’t come at such a horrible cost:

The life of Lady Vinya, Illyrian of the Moon.

After his family was drafted, Ion worked as a slave for the heinous Sir Dread, until one day Ion summoned a blizzard out of nowhere and discovered that he was a reincarnated Guardian. Then off to train at the Achaean Academy he went. Ion hated the Illyrian gods back then. They’d been the ones who’d torn his family apart—the ones who’d ordered the draft that had taken Father and killed Mother. He thought they’d be monsters. But some weren’t who he thought they’d be: Lady Vinya included.

The real monster wasn’t who he expected.

It was a dark, horrible god whom the Illyrians had imprisoned beneath the Academy, and a being Ion had the great displeasure of being tricked by. It seemed like it had happened just yesterday, how this fallen god had used the spirit of Ion’s mother to coerce Ion into freeing him.

K’thas the Fearful was his name.

Ion looked back up at the sky. It was empty without the Moon—as empty as his heart had felt since the fateful day K’thas had tricked him. That was the night the Throne of the Moon had been emptied, the night Lady Vinya had been killed by the enemy. And every time Ion looked up at the empty night sky, he saw her being taken from him again and again. Taken by Solara—that red-haired, green-eyed traitor of a Guardian who’d also had a hand in K’thas’s escape.

Vinya
, Ion thought.
Mother
...

Well,
second
mother. A fact he’d learned only after her death.

“When your mother was pregnant with you,” Father had explained, “something went very wrong, and we...we almost lost you, Ion. It was Vinya who saved you, Vinya who transferred you to her, fusing her life force with yours. Vinya who gave birth to you.”

Ion came from three parents. Yet Mother and Vinya were both gone. He came from three parents, yet he could speak to, listen to, appreciate only one.

He gripped the cold emerald hanging from his silver necklace. But Ion got his revenge. At least the first bit of it. He looked down at the beautiful, glimmering green of the emerald and peered into the face of the frozen goddess within. Illindria, the Illyrian of the Seasons, in all her chubby, red-haired glory, was locked inside. Imprisoned unless Ion said different. The necklace and Illindria’s freedom his to control by decree of the Skylord himself.

Half a heartbeat later, the night air cooled to Ion’s right, and a wave of furious, blue water whirled into existence beside him, churning into itself like a crashing ocean wave. Ion rose, staring, unimpressed. The torrent of churning water collapsed into itself, and in its wake stood a tall, skinny girl with a blue ribbon tying her long, brown hair into a ponytail. Her cheeks were splattered with freckles, a trait Ion too shared, but her eyes were what stood out most. They gleamed a frighteningly icy blue—the same color as the waves of water she’d used to pummel him countless times in training.

“Should I expect this
grand entrance
thing all the time now?” Ion asked her. She’d only just learned how to disappear and reappear via a mess of churning water, but it was high up on the list of Most Annoying Things Oceanus Does.

“Thought you’d at least be used to it by now,” she said.

Oceanus was a Guardian, too. The Guardian of the Sea, to be exact. She reigned over water, ice, and anything else that had a liquid form, which meant you were never safe drinking anything in front of her—a lesson Ion had learned the hard way. She was also a year older than Ion, which made her
much smarter
—her words, not his.

“How’s the West Ward?” Oceanus asked, peering out over the city.

“Quiet,” said Ion. “As usual.”

“Who knew rich people could be so boring,” said Oceanus. “Well, at least you don’t have to watch over Water’s Run. The most dangerous part of the city and it’s only an alley. Poor Theodore.”

Theodore Price was the Sun Guardian. Whatever he lacked in height—he
was
a dwarf, after all—he sure made up for in firepower. So if anyone could shed a little light on a dangerous alley like Water’s Run, it was him. That’s how Othum saw it anyway.

“Hopefully this won’t go on much longer,” said Oceanus, pushing a strand of hair over her ear. “I’m surprised the Illyrians have let this madness go on for this long. With the Moon gone, the scales of the Balance are tipped toward the Darkness, and with the scales of the Balance tipped toward the Darkness—”

“People will do bad things,” said Ion. “I’m aware.”

Oceanus sighed. “I can’t even imagine what Vinya would think about this.”

Ion looked to his sandaled feet. Even hearing the name hurt.

“I-I’m sorry,” Oceanus said. “I shouldn’t have—”

“No, it’s fine,” said Ion. “I just...I still feel responsible is all.”

Oceanus placed her hand on Ion’s shoulder and looked him in the eye. “Ion, it wasn’t your fault. How many times do I have to tell you that? That night...it was a work of fate...an
unfortunate
work of fate. You’re no more responsible for her death than any of us were.”

If that’s true
, he thought,
why do I see her death every time I look up at the night sky
? But he shrugged in his sister’s clutch, and said, “Maybe you’re right.”

“I
am
right,” Oceanus said. “You know, like usual.”

Ion laughed. “Yes, like usual.”

Then, something caught his eye—a tall man shrouded in a heavy, black cloak, racing down the road. The flames of the floating torches whipping about as he sped by, but his hood was so large that every bit of his face was taken by shadow. Ion recalled Othum’s words.
Pay everything mind
, he’d told the Guardians.
Nothing unusual goes uninvestigated
.

“Strange,” Oceanus noted, watching the man run faster and faster down the street—faster, in fact, than any Eldanarian Ion had ever seen run.

“Too strange.” Ion stood. “I’m going after him.”

Without waiting for his sister, Ion hinged his legs and leapt, a blast of summoned wind launching him through the air, the streets so far away and then so close as he landed on the rooftop beside the running man. Thunder cracked overhead, and a squall of dark clouds drew over the starry night sky.

“Stop where you are!” Ion shouted.

But he didn’t stop.
He sped up
.

Rain fell from the black clouds above as Ion continued the chase. He leapt over the street and landed on the building across the way, wind roaring in his ears, rain soaking his robes.

“In the name of the Skylord, stop running!” Ion shouted.

Still the man refused.

Ion bounded over roof after roof, over shop after shop and bathhouse after bathhouse. His breath came in short now, rain falling all around. Just when Ion was prepared to sling a hissing bolt of lightning at the man, he watched as the cloaked figure came to an intersection of roads and split to the right.
A dead end
.

With a smile, Ion leapt off the roof and touched down upon the street below. He raced over the stone tiles, sandals soaked, heart pounding. And when he’d turned the corner, he saw only a shadow pass over the floor of the alley before he was kicked in the chest and thrown to the ground. The cloaked man landed beside him, plucked Ion from the floor with an otherworldly sort of strength, and threw him into the wall of the alley.

Oceanus appeared before the man and threw a punch, her fist encased in thick, shimmering ice. But the man leaned back, and she missed—and the same went for the next punch and kick after that.

While the man busily dodged Oceanus’ attacks, Ion got to his feet, and when he felt the tingle surge up his arm and the sparks of green electricity bounce off his palms, he snapped his arm forward. But he was too close, and the cloaked man grabbed his wrist, directing his hand at Oceanus as a bolt of lightning erupted out of his palm and blasted her against a nearby wall. She screamed, and the man spun low to the ground, kicking Ion’s feet out from under him.

Ion and Oceanus lay defeated and breathless upon the stone floor of the alley, the man standing over them, his face still shielded by his overly large hood. Ion heard a sound like the sizzle of water on a hot pan, and noticed the rain falling upon the figure’s shoulders was turning to steam in an instant.

“W-who are you?” Ion asked through his pain.

A second of silence passed, then the man grabbed hold of his hood. He lowered it to his shoulders and Ion’s jaw dropped. Suddenly he wished he hadn’t asked the question at all.

The man looked only about twenty summers old, with locks of curly, black hair hanging over his gleaming, golden eyes. From out of his scalp grew seven thin diamond blades, like rays of light radiating off the Sun. Ion could recognize that face and those spikes anywhere. For this man was no man at all.

BOOK: The Iron-Jawed Boy and the Hand of the Moon (Book 2, Sky Guardian Chronicles)
6.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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