Whooping sounds came through the thin dormitory walls every few moments, a reminder that they alone had not been invited to stare at the sorts of magazines fathers hid from view. Resting between tattered copies of hot rod magazines and gentlemen’s quarterlies were mother’s catalogs and lascivious rags from America, locked away in garages and boxes marked tools. When young men came of age it was the first secret place their fathers let them look at.
It was a thrill that had rarely excited Ethan.
The sorts of pleasures he sought could only be found at the smallest book shops in town, the sorts of places no respectable gentleman would find himself. A place where books marked with the queen’s stamp had no place. Here the books were written in languages lost to all but a handful of men, chosen by the universe to carry on their legacy. They told of magics and gods that were as nameless and faceless to those giddy schoolboys as the scullery maids that looked after them.
But Ethan knew their names. He called out to each of them in turn, waiting for the day one echoed his need.
Until then he sat huddled in a room darkened all but for a few scattered candles casting ghastly orange shadows over the dozen volumes scattered over the floor. Philip sat to his left, rubbing at the beginnings of a beard, insisting Ethan turn the page faster. Giles seemed in his own world at the moment, alternately reading watcher’s diaries and books of darkest magic, equally enthralled by both. Ethan, however, was lost for the moment, eyes fixed on a goddess so vibrant and full of power that he was at a loss to even read the inscription below her image.
Keeper of the armies of Vahla ha’Nesh. Destroyer of universes.
Finally a god worthy of his love, and yet there was something in her that would not allow Ethan to devote himself completely. The order of her reign was stifling to his young soul. He knew Illyria could dominate, rule with iron fist and bloodied sword, but this was an old one. A god with no memory of youthful passions.
At Philip’s prodding, Ethan reluctantly turned the page. No, Illyria was not the sort of god he could worship should she fall to earth and walk amongst them.
He was looking for something a little more…Chaotic, he thought, staring at the two-faced statue of Janus. His heart raced in his chest, sending a smile across his lips that he knew could rival any caused by a pin-up girl on glossy paper.