The Year 2025 A large audience stood in the ancient stone antechamber below the old mansion in Rome, the stronghold of the Association's enemies, the Church. But this was not the time for insignificant squabbles. Tonight was a special occassion, beyond such petty things as the feud between Mage's Association and the Church.
"Tonight we usher in the new world!" the speaker, standing in the middle of a huge spell circle carved into the stone floor and filled with melted gold, shouted ecstatically. "Tonight, we break the chains of the Crimson Moon and birth a new world for mankind! Out of the ashes of devastation we will rise once more, free from the curses of the Aristoteles that seek our eradication. Death to Brunestud! Life for mankind!"
A girl, hidden in the shadows of a pillar on the outskirts of the room, watched as the audience, who had formed a circle around the spell circle carved into the ground, moved into the boundary as one. There was a flash and screams as it looked like the very life was ripped out of them, a stream of silvery-blue that was pulled into the center of the circle where the speaker stood, faced raised to the ceiling in ecstacy.
"This is man's world, and his fate will be decided by him alone! New life for mankind!" he yelled once more as the spell circle errupted in red light. From that moment, earth would never be the same.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- several months later
The cold, dead air blew harshly through the street, wiping the hair of the lone girl who stood there. She adjusted the glasses on her face, vivid blue eyes gazing up at the lifeless marble facade of the old mansion before her.
"Why am I back here?" she whispered to herself, hugging her sweater closer to her thin body. She'd already looked this place over - once she'd gotten up the courage to go back, that is - and had found no evidence of the ritual other than what she'd found when she first woke up. But the rumors in town, rumors of the curtains moving in the east wing windows and a small boy staring out the windows, brought her footsteps here before she'd made a conscious decision. Now, she was beginning to regret ever having come.
"Well, this was a waste of time," she mumbled, staring up at the windows to the east wing. There hadn't been any movement at all for the full half-hour she'd been standing there. Shaking off the cold, she turned to leave when the smallest of movements caught her out of the corner of her eye.
"Huh?" she wondered, turning to see the curtain drifting lazily back into position. She bit her lip, wondering if it had just been her imagination. There was probably just a draft or something.
But curiosity won out; it always did for Jean Taylor. She slowly pushed the door to the empty mansion aside, stepping cautiously into the foyer. She stood listening for a while, finally moving toward the steps to the east wing after confirming no movement. She ascended the stairs as quietly as possible, her gaze drifting across what must have once been a spectacular room, the ornately carved angel in the middle of the two staircases now a broken set of legs, arm, and part of a torso. She moved left, approaching the door she was sure led to the room where she'd seen the movement. Reaching her pale hand out gingerly, she grasped the doorknob tightly and turned before she lost the nerve.
She was sure she had stepped into some kind of strange void. There was no color to be seen in the room. The walls, floor, ceiling, curtains, and the lone piece of furniture - a slender, elegant chair - were completely white.
"How did you find this place?" came a soft voice. Jean looked, startled, at the boy staring up at her, head tilted slightly in a sort of distant, mild curiosity. She was completely taken aback; she hadn't really expected to find anyone up here.
"I'm sorry. I just.." she tried to say, slowly backing out of the room. He regarded her for a moment before creasing his thin lips.
"You're not one of them, are you?" he asked, his eyes roving around her body for something. Jean flinched under his gaze.
"One of who?" she asked, despite herself. The boy looked like he had received his answer, much to her confusion.
"You wouldn't have had to ask that if you were," he said, more to himself than her. He turned away, moving closer to the window as he grasped the curtain with one small hand, holding the thin fabric as though it were fragile.
"I should leave.." Jean said gently, again thinking of retreat. The boy let go of the curtain, clasping both hands behind his back in an innocently childish way.
"Why did you come here if you're not an Angel Rank?" he asked. Jean was puzzled by the term, making a mental note to find out more about that.
"I'm a journalist," she answered, then swallowed. "Or was. I don't really know what happened to the journal since I couldn't get back to London. I was investigating something here.. a ritual."
To her surprise, the boy didn't seem at all put-off by her answer. Instead, he looked thoughtful.
"The Sortilege of Creation," he murmured, and Jean shook her head.
"I'm sorry?" she said, not understanding. He looked patiently up at her.
"The ritual you are investigating.. that is its name," he answered, and Jean looked thunderstruck by the news. This boy..
"You know about it?" she asked, breathless. The boy turned away, back to the window.
"I wonder.." he said softly, eyes gazing out over city. "Whose ideals will birth a world from the ashes of the old."
He turned to stare at her, his cold blue eyes sending a shiver of mysterious horror down her spine.
"And whose will die beside them."