Sacerdos

Sacerdos cover“…the eloquent yet sharp language style of Amisu, and it’s a flair that bleeds into her character development.” – Abigail Maguire, Huffington Post.

Sacerdos (The Sacerdos Mysteries Book  1)
Through a portal in the sea lies a place called Sacerdos, The Citi of the Priest. It is the home of the most powerful judges, lawmakers and soldiers in the world of Terra Magna. At the beginning of its rich history, the High Court in Sacerdos was built to keep secrets, but hundreds of years have passed and a girl called Caelara Teneo finds herself in the middle of a war she knew nothing about. As she traverses the complex world of cultural politics and teenage dramas, she must also learn how to fight, to help the people she loves. Set in a vivid world, richly peopled with exotic characters and places, ‘The Sacerdos Mysteries’ is a unique journey through the imagination.

Digital: April 2012, 251pp
ASIN: B007S8PK4S
Price: £6.93/$9.99 Amazon-UK/Amazon-USA/Amazon-Germany/Amazon-Italy/Amazon-Canada/Amazon-France/Amazon-Spain/Amazon-Italy/Amazon-Japan/Amazon-Mexico/Amazon-India/Amazon-Brazil


FREE PREVIEW OF ‘SACERDOS’ BY ELIZABETH AMISU

(C) 2012 E. Amisu

Epitaph

Sweet passer-by, stay a while.
At your feet proud death quenched
The fiery promise of sparkling years.
Here a score of souls were sundered
From the precious gift of life.
May they rest in peace
As we march our ceaseless footsteps
On their forgotten dreams,
Questioning the towering stars.


Chapter 1

Drama Of The Concealed

“Cara, come inside would you? For god’s sake!” growled a voice from the kitchen.

The voice stole away precious seconds of alone-time. She stared at a fragment of broken mirror in the garden but the reflection felt like it belonged to someone else.

Caelara Teneo’s dark skin was dry in the summer’s heat, her hazel eyes vivid and watery, and her brown hair was curly on her shoulders.

A breeze blew the shiny piece into overgrown bracken. She wished her father would sort out the garden but he hardly moved from his chair.

“What is wrong with you?” She gasped, racing in to find that a war had broken out in the kitchen.

Much of the precious china crockery had been smashed and fragments lay like carcasses on the floor. Her father, Celassis had dark umber skin and strong brown eyes. He held a plate in his hand, raised high above his head, ready to smash.

He was unshaven and sallow and obviously had not slept. Then, without warning he threw the plate with a mighty crash and shards exploded on the kitchen floor. Caelara screamed, once in shock and once her life.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered. “I thought I saw – I saw…” Then he ran out.

Caelara shut her eyes tight. He’s going to come back, she told herself. He’s going to get better. She was fifteen years old. Her mother was gone and her father teetered on an unstable precipice. Once again she was left with the mess while he pulled himself back together. This was their life.

The next day the deceptively soft summer sun gleamed through the windows. Caelara’s existence felt like the morning she had spent sleeping. She had not even bothered to check the post. What hope could it possibly bring? A bank-statement to remind her they had no money. Rising stodgily she left the intense warmth of her covers and assured herself that not even the blazing heat could quell her depression.

She had been alone on her birthday, like on any other day of the holidays. Her father had needed to get out of the house, away from his nightmares. There was no one else she could think of – no one else who cared. No grandparents, no aunts or uncles.

In fact there were no signs that a teenager lived here. No cards on her mantelpiece, no presents or family cheer, no telephone ringing off the hook and certainly no celebratory hugs or kisses. There was, however, an unexpected knock at her bedroom door.

“Yes.”

“It’s me – Dad.”

“Come in,” she unlocked the door.

He ambled in.

“I’m uh,” he rubbed the scratchy stubble around his pink mouth, “sorry about yesterday. Still a bit under the weather. Go to the offy – get me a six-pack?”

He dropped a crisp twenty-pound note and she got up quietly to put on her trainers.

“Keep the change,” he added meekly.

“You forget everything!” she barked at him, knowing they weren’t going to discuss his most recent failing and stormed out.

“Cara!” He called after her as she sped down the stairs. “I’m sorry – I didn’t forget your birthday! I didn’t-”

She slammed the front door. An envelope was wedged inside. It was addressed to the youngest person living there. Strange. She clutched it and walked into the brightness.

Caelara smiled cynically at the old tramp lazing in the street and wondered if her father would end up like him. It certainly seemed likely. If it wasn’t the vomited contents of his decaying stomach on the couch or the alcoholic stench with which he had infused the house, then it was beer stains and bottles of gin. He barely ate – she could only faintly remember what he looked like dining with a knife and fork.

He had completely lost any meaningful communication with the outside world and try as she might their relationship was in a rut. Both of them had become fragile shells in the past two years. He had started drinking, lost his job and was going through the motions of living but not actually doing it. Caelara couldn’t see a way out.

The twenty pound note looked up at her approvingly and she pushed it into her pocket. That would do for an allowance. She ripped open the unexpected card curiously.

Dearest child,

 This letter comes from someone who knew your mother. Who hopes you are well and that you are happy. You have more family than you know, who have missed and longed for you. I will be waiting at the Leyton Library if you wish to see me.

With Love.

A tingle sped down her spine as if she were being watched. She read it again. This letter was so sudden and so wanted. Her cynicism forced her to assume it was a hoax. What did they mean by ‘real family’? She read the card once more and it suddenly seemed more like fate than a joke.

Who have missed and longed for you? That had to be written by someone from her mother’s family. Her father never spoke about them, not even in passing. In fact he refused to speak about her dead mother at all.

She was determined to get to the library and find some answers but there was a major hindrance: it was far too hot to listlessly trek through Waltham Forest’s busy streets. Then, the glint from a ten pence piece caught her eye. She reached down and picked it up, studying the Queen’s face on its surface.

“How about you decide?” She asked and flipped the coin into the air. “Heads,” she whispered, slapping it onto the back of her other hand. She opened one eye and then the other.

Heads, it was.

She dived into the nearest cab office.

The library was a sea of dusky, dirty books which camouflaged her from the sweltering heat. Many people felt lost in libraries but they usually made her feel at home. Before her father started drinking they used to go to this same library together.

Her every footstep felt like a new beginning, as if she were finally about to get the answers to questions which had roamed around her mind: Who was the shadowy memory that made up her mother? What had happened to her? Why hadn’t her maternal family ever been in contact?

Eventually fatigue and heat convened on her and she stopped looking. She settled for finding a book and reading near the entrance. Every time someone opened the door her head would shoot up suspiciously.

The book she had chosen was about Julius Caesar, a great dictator who was betrayed and assassinated by people he trusted. She imagined her own father reaching towards her, covered in blood. His white toga riddled with burgundy droplets in her overactive imagination.

“Even you, Cara? You would leave me?!” He was saying, his dark eyes holding hers in an accusatory gaze. The Ides of March: that was when Caesar had been brutally betrayed.

All at once she felt very guilty. Coming to the library had been a complete mistake. She jumped up and hurriedly left, ducking into a newsagent’s for sweets before going home. She hoped the sugar might lift her solemn mood.

Caelara managed to relinquish the letter to the back of her mind and cut her losses – home wasn’t so awful. At least her father left her to her own devices. She never wanted for anything, except his affection.

She opened the front door. There was a putrid smell. Her father had thrown up half-a-bottle of gin on the couch and lay passed out on the chair like a diseased starfish. His tongue lolled to one side and she realised he was never going to change and she would never be able to escape.

He hardly seemed to think of how she was affected by his drinking and her mother’s death. She couldn’t even remember the funeral. Perhaps there never was one. There had to have been a burial but she could not remember a graveyard or even a coffin. All she could remember was darkness and being whisked away in it, her father saying mother was gone.

She gazed at the bag on her bed. It hadn’t been there when she left. Was this his attempt at a present? She tore into it and took out the gift; a striking antique made of silver which wouldn’t open. Eventually she lost interest and threw it to one side. After locking the door she poured out the sweets and devoured them.

She was high on sugar. Lying there, mouth full of cola bottles and she thought of how different things could have been. If mother was still alive, they would be happy together. Her sharpest memory was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking orange juice. Just her and her mother. It was a stream of thought she had followed many times. She could not remember what her mother had said that day. There was only a tableau in her mind of what happiness could be.

Then her antique gift caught her eye – she studied the surface, something about the engraving looked very familiar.

Like a flash she reached for the card. The shape, an ‘S’ with two black dots was imprinted on it. They were like eyes staring back at her willing her to understand why.

At the back of the card, in the bottom right-hand corner was a number. A simple series of digits with an area code she couldn’t recognise. Caelara did not know what made her dial it. She just knew that she had questions and wanted answers.

There were four long rings and then:

“Sacerdos Institute, good afternoon. Mabelle speaking.”

She gasped, holding the phone to her chest. Had she dialled the wrong number? She hadn’t expected anyone to answer. There were only two options – put the phone down or respond. She pressed the handset to her ear.

“Hello?”

“How may I help?” The voice was polite and curt.

“I don’t know. I – got this number.”

“Name please?”

“Caelara Teneo,” she whispered.

“You’re on our records. Can I have your address please?”

Without thinking Cara gave out her details.

“You have been confirmed.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your enlistment.” There was an awkward silence after which Mabelle replied. “We look forward to meeting you.”

Then there was just dial-tone.

Caelara jumped when the doorbell rang. She still had the phone in one hand. These were more strange events in one day than she could recall in the past five years. Her father was in no fit state to be seen by strangers and she ran to the door before he could.

When she opened it a man in purple and black stood before her. He carried a large package and a clipboard. He wore the strangest uniform she had ever seen on a postal worker.

“Got a package here for a Mr Celassis Teneo?” He asked with a white smile.

“Thanks,” she took it from him.

“Sign here,” he held out his clipboard and she hurriedly scrawled on its sheet. “Well that’s it then,” he said and she nodded, smiling uneasily as he left.

Her father was leaning against the banister. His dark eyes were bloodshot and a sickly film covered his chocolate skin. She clutched the package close, feeling a confrontation brewing. Her stomach went queasy. He had never hit her but he had threatened to on more than one occasion. She relied on his drunken state to keep him docile and her out of danger.

His smile looked so unusual she took a step back.

“I didn’t forget,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Course it does. Who was that?” He tried to straighten himself up.

“No one,” she lied.

He crossed the corridor in an instant and gripped her throat. She glared at him, terrified.

“Don’t Lie To Me! I know an agent when I see one!” His eyes bulged, so close she could see each pulsating capillary. She couldn’t breathe, fighting the strength of his arm. The rancid alcohol filled her nostrils.

“Let me go!”

“Why was he here?” He held her in a vice-like grip.

Her voice came out in a squeak, “I don’t know!”

He dropped his arm. She coughed and spluttered to get her breath back.

“Then what’s this?” He roared and threw the package in his rage.

The seconds split as it soared through the living room, exploding on contact with the far wall; the searing heat split the bricks like plywood. Celassis shielded Caelara’s body with his own as debris smattered at them in a powerful wave. Then for a second it was silent. For a second.

Her ears were ringing and her eyes were full of smoke and dust; bricks were falling from the ceiling. Caelara held onto her father’s strong arm as they half-stumbled, half-wobbled through the debris. She heard him cry out in desperation before hauling her into the kitchen. The disorientation made her nauseous and dizzy; thick grey smoke was everywhere. It tasted sharp and burnt her eyes, covered her face, filled her lungs.

There was shouting from the street, screaming from next door. She knew there was a baby; all she could think about was the little baby that lived next door. Suddenly she couldn’t breathe. Tears of shock and terror began to drip down her face and she huddled in a corner of the kitchen, under the sink.

Slowly the smoke began to clear and she heard footsteps tearing up the stairs.

“We’re in here!” She shouted.

“Shh,” her father clasped her mouth, “it’s not the police, Cara. They’re here to kill us.”

Who would want to kill them? They hadn’t done anything. She thought of how she was too young to die and about the little toddler that lived next door. A cacophony of screams echoed through the street.

Eventually, her father managed to get the backdoor open. A torrent of fresh air raced in and he tried to help her but couldn’t stand properly. His knees kept giving way and she saw his wounds: ebony skin exposed, crinkly and sore from the blast.

The straggly weeds in the garden gave off a thick scent in the summery evening. Something made a deafening crash upstairs. She couldn’t breathe – she couldn’t think. Everything was starting to go dark.

“Come on,” she felt his arms around her. “Come on – we’re going to get through this.”

“I’m sorry,” she was shaking violently.

“It’s not your fault.”

He lifted her with a grunt and lugged both their tired bodies across the small garden, over the brittle paving and dry soil until they reached the shed. He had to force the door open with his feet and drag her inside by the collar. She lay, unable to move, her limbs frozen, thinking of the baby next door.

The garden shed smelled of compost and rust. At least there was air, air without smoke. A long, monotonous bell rang in her ears as she fought for consciousness. Her father pulled her to himself, one arm around her waist. She could see his lips moving but couldn’t make out any of the words. He seemed fully himself – the man she remembered, who her mother had married.

“I – I – love you,” she stuttered.

“No one’s going to hurt you,” he whispered through gritted teeth as the door flew open.

Four men in black burst through like waters over a battered dam. One of them yanked her away and she saw another repeatedly hit her father over the head with a baton. They were all carrying weapons, shining in the twilight. She couldn’t help holding onto him and a sick tussle began between her and the strong men. Her father’s arms lunged to protect her.

“Just finish him!”

“No!” Celassis shouted. “Not in front of her. In the house. I’ll go with you.”

The killers grunted acknowledgment before hoisting him outside. Caelara remained where she had been left, stiff and curled up on the dirty floor. She wanted to leap up and see what was happening but she wasn’t strong enough. She could only hear blasts and see flashes of light.

There was a long, empty silence. Her blood pounded through her ears as her heart beat so fast it felt like it would burst. Eventually, Caelara managed to make her slow way to the doorframe. The view was terrifying: charred remains of human beings lay scattered around her father’s crouched body.

Another set of men ran into the garden, strangely shaped weapons aimed at him. He raised his hands high, there was a loud whoosh and in a flash, searing hot liquid, like molten fire poured down from an invisible source in the sky. With terrifying aim it consumed all of the men in seconds. Caelara’s mouth gaped in horror and disbelief.

She could not comprehend what had just happened. The only thing she understood was that her father began screaming and groaning, writhing on the ground, his fingers scraping the soil. She struggled shakily to stand and sped to him. His skin was almost too hot to touch and his body was trembling. She wrapped her arms around him, still persuading herself it was just a trick of the light; she had hit her head.

“There are more of them,” he whispered, looking up at her with wild fear. His words threatened to seal their fate. “They’re all armed. I can’t…” His eyes, and then he collapsed.

“Come on, Dad!” she shook his limp body. “Wake up!”

Caelara looked around. Just as he said they were closing in, weapons raised. She knew what they meant to do; they were poised to kill. She held up her hands in surrender. Then, as though she were a stringed puppet, a great force stretched out her arms. Then came the drowning sensation. She was deep in a stormy ocean.

She opened her eyes and stared at her hands; they were scalded badly and on her wrist, where it had never been before, was a black V, etched on her like a tattoo. She looked up: her attackers had crumpled; their skins shone like molten wax in the evening light. It was as though they had been boiled alive. Their bodies were ever so still. Every one of them was lifeless.


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